20 years old Taji Budagov meets us on the road to the village of Kosalari of the Tetritskaro Municipality. He apologizes for being late, explaining that he could not leave the work earlier and therefore was not able to catch the minibus on time. Taji explains that he started working on a position of the promo agent in the Europebet Marneuli branch several weeks ago. In Parallel, he studies a bachelor’s program in management at the faculty of Business Administration of the Business and Technology University. He is fascinated by the ancient Greek philosophy, psychology, and oriental culture. Taji is a participant of the fourth phase of the Association Rural Development for Future Georgia’s (RDFG) Employment Shuttle being implemented within the framework of the EU ENPARD Programme.
Taji is Azeri by nationality and follower of Islam by religion. On the road to the village, we are talking about the rules and traditional customs of the Muslim community and the cohabitation of the latter and the Christian one. He tells us that recently a new mosque was built in his village and promises to take us to sight it after the interview. He states that he is a religious person and respects the holdover of ancestors, dislikes when people forget traditions and lead their lives without them.
As soon as we arrive, Taji takes us to his house. Currently, he is based in Tbilisi, so he rarely spares time in Tetritskaro. Though his two grandmothers and uncle are living in the countryhouse. Before getting into the house, according to the custom of his religion, he puts off his shoes. We go after him, leave our boots outside the door and enter the room heated with an old stove. Our host’s grandmother does not speak Georgian, so we express our friendliness by our positive emotions. Taji jokingly warns us that he will not let me start an interview unless we taste Azeri tea and traditional mulberry jam – Bakmazi. We agree instantly.
Sitting around the table, our host tells us that he came across the announcement for the participation in the RDFG Employment Shuttle while seeking financial data about the Tetritskaro Municipality on the internet. As he finds it interesting to cope with new challenges, he filled out the registration form immediately:
“I did not expect this step to be followed by the first meeting with the representatives of the project. At first, I did not know anyone and of course, I was a bit worried. But the first day was so much full of positive emotions that I got engaged in the project and shortly became the active member of the team”.
Taji recalls that prior to joining the project, he had difficulties in communicating with people and thus he found himself very introvert. But the mentors of the Employment Shuttle, who were very open and active, made a positive impact on him:
“They would always advise to take as more information as possible from the training sessions. But once I remember Irma telling us ‘You may learn a lot, but it is important then how you will be able to use this information in your life’. These words affected me too much”.
Taji says that within the project activities, they used to discuss the importance of emotional intelligence and what helps one to better represent personal skills; how to write a good CV and prepare for a job interview. He explains that within the framework of the corporative volunteers, the project participants met with persons working on leading positions sharing the paths of own success:
“It was interesting to get in discussions with people of different opinions, even arguing with them after which we often came up with what is the truth. All these was crucial for me to work out the skills that later helped me to find and get a new job. The relationships between the project participants and the mentors were so much tight that it helped me to overcome lots of difficulties in myself. As I am a representative of the ethnic minority in Georgia, I would like to advise locals to join the Employment Shuttle”.
Taji emphasizes the importance of involving citizens of different nationalities and religions in joint projects and activities as he believes that this foremost will contribute to the development of the region. In addition, he recalls the RDFG VET and Job Fair held in the city of Tetritskaro in October 2019 where he was very pleased to see Azerbaijani applicants.
Tajji says that prior to joining the RDFG Employment Shuttle, he had participated in many projects, but none of them were as emotional as this one. He says that his expectations were not just justified, but the results of the project exceeded them.
At the end of the interview, he expresses his concern that I have not drunk the full cup of Azeri tea and as promised, leads us to the most important building in the village – a mosque. On my request to show me the shrine from the inside, he answers that the prayer has already begun and therefore we are not eligible to go inside. He explains to us the rules of Islam, showing the inscriptions on the mosque wall and translates their meaning.
Before leaving, Taji shares his plans for future:
“I am 20 years old now. In the 5 years perspective, I want to develop inwardly and gain a valuable education. One of the main goals for me is to develop emotional intelligence because I believe that just reading books and getting a higher education is not enough. Such nonformal educational projects as the RDFG Employment Shuttle are the best ways to achieve this. In my opinion, the most important in life is to find yourself and decide what you want to create”.
The Employment Shuttle is being implemented by the RDFG, under the scope of the EU funded project Rural Development for Sustainable Growth in the Tetritskaro Municipality. The project aims to improve the quality of life in the Tetritskaro municipality through the introduction of innovative social-economic models and engagement of local private and public sectors in the decision making. RDFG is partnering with the Agro-Technology Association and the Lithuanian Local Action Groups Network to carry out the action.
The EU is supporting rural development in Georgia through its ENPARD Programme. Implemented since 2013 with a total budget of EUR 179.5 million, the main goal of ENPARD is to reduce rural poverty. The first phase of ENPARD in Georgia focused on developing the potential of agriculture. The second phase focuses on creating economic opportunities for rural populations that go beyond agricultural activities. More information on ENPARD is available at: www.enpard.ge
Nina Kopaleishvili – Communications Officer, RDFG