American Businessman Offers the “Chance” to Georgian Youth
12 December, 2013
John Merlin Simmons is the director and one of the founders of the Ele Lembra Foundation, which runs the project Chance – a program assisting underprivileged children in Tbilisi. Last May he decided to spend all of his time on his family’s charity endeavors and support of disadvantaged children. He and his wife had three biological sons, and in 1995 they adopted a boy with the Down’s syndrome. In 2005-2006 they adopted another 5 children from Russia: 4 girls and a
Diana Revutsky, born in Tbilisi, helped Simmons establish the Chance. Their foundation is an NGO, with its branch of the Chance program in Georgia and a local office. The Georgian director of the program is Marina Basilashvili.
In December 2012, the pilot program of Chance was launched. It covered eight students who were under state care. The program provides young people with spiritual and cultural education. Certified teachers and professors with scientific degrees, who are employed by the Chance, train students in the eleventh and twelfth grades in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and the Georgian and English languages.
The Chance also provides free meals and transportation. Instructors take the young people to excursions, theaters and other cultural events. The program has proven to be very successful with five students, who were accepted to institutions of higher education, while three young people still go to school. This year the Chance is granting stipends to help those students with living expenses while they are getting their education.
In an interview Simmons told me: “Everyone wants to help these kids; they need a little bit of money to do what they want to achieve. And we’re able to give that money to improve the situation.” Or as John F. Kennedy said, “Only one person can make a difference. And everyone should try.” And more good deeds for the benefit and wellbeing of impoverished people will do good for Georgia.