Georgia on her mind - WJR's work moves Maitlis


Emily Maitlis gave an emotional account of her visit to World Jewish Relief projects in Georgia at WJR's dinner on Monday, recalling the "smiles and hope" that "very tiny, practical gifts" brought to impoverished children.

The journalist and broadcaster had tears in her eyes as she told the 420 guests about the conditions for a family in Rustavi, a south-eastern city which sunk into poverty after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

"There was a little boy called Deema who broke my heart. He was seven years old and wanted to be an engineer like his great-grandfather. He lives in a house with his grandmother that doesn't have a roof over the bedroom.

"I went back home and I shouted at my kids. I didn't shout because my kids had done anything wrong, I shouted because they have so much and Deema has so little and I shouted because with a different passport and birthplace, I'd be visiting them."

Hosting the dinner for the fourth time, Ms Maitlis said that visiting Georgia with her 82-year-old mother had altered her outlook." The things that we saw were genuinely silencing. They stopped me in my tracks and made me rethink a lot of things."

She added: "When you see it for yourself first-hand, it's a real gulp-in-the-throat moment. You realise just how far WJR reaches, the extraordinary corners that they get to. It feels like a very important mission in Georgia and a very well-run charity that I have an awful lot of faith in."

The £1m-plus raised will help to support WJR's tens of thousands of clients, chief executive Paul Anticoni reported. "We will assist over 50,000 elderly Jewish individuals to live out their autumn years with some dignity. We will give them food, shelter and medical care while ensuring that they're better connected to their own Jewish communities. Within this group, we will do even more for those who were the victims of Nazi persecution.

"Secondly, we will take at least 100,000 people out of poverty. We will help them develop new skills, earn a living and even set up a business, until they say to us: 'World Jewish Relief, we no longer need you.' We will also ensure that those who live in disability also have access to such opportunities.

"Lastly, we will continue to be the Jewish international fire brigade, playing our part in saving lives where natural disasters, conflict or pandemics strike."

To rapturous applause, Mr Anticoni continued that "we can no longer be invisible. There will be no camouflage for World Jewish Relief. We will not be bystanders. We will not be silent, nor complacent."

After the screening of WJR's appeal video, focusing on its work with Moldovan children, communications manager Richard Verber observed: "Those people won't be in need next year and that's the best feeling."

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