Summer Internship with the McLain Association for Children (MAC) in the Republic of Georgia

We are interning with the McLain Association for Children (MAC) in the Republic of Georgia.

feast table

We enjoyed many a Georgian feast while we were recovering from Jetlag in the village of Dzevry.

While we both have international policy interests, neither of us has regional expertise in the Caucuses. We chose this internship due to the importance of disability as a development issue in the region and the lack of prior research on this subject. This internship will give us an opportunity to learn, share our knowledge and contribute to the development of disability policy in the region.

We began work on this as part of our semester-long project in the Program Evaluation class with Dr. Carolyn Heinrich. Our four-person team designed an evaluation for one component of MAC’s work. We traveled to Georgia to refine the design, to expand the scope to other components, and to begin implementation.

During our first week here we first spent time recovering from jetlag and observing Georgian culture in a laid-back manner. We spent four days in a village 3 hours from Tbilisi, toured a facility that will soon begin working with MAC, and ate, and ate, and ate.

We are interviewing the director of one of the institutions MAC has trained.  Nino Lomidze (right), a psychologist with MAC, translates the interview.

We are interviewing the director of one of the institutions MAC has trained. Nino Lomidze (right), a psychologist with MAC, translates the interview.

As we begin our formal workdays, we have outlined our goals for the summer. We will be producing an evaluation report by the time we leave. Our focus will be on process evaluation of the implementation of MAC’s trainings at the different institutions they work with. Of the 27 locations where they have conducted trainings, our goal is to conduct in-depth evaluation of nine. We will be conducting focus groups and key informant interviews in order to obtain the opinions of trainees as to what has been most useful for them. We will also be able to get a better picture of what elements of training they are implementing on a regular basis. In addition, we will administer a second round of the post-tests that MAC uses to test the participants’ knowledge at the end of training. We want to see how much knowledge they are retaining. Moreover, we plan to gather information from the rest of the institutions through survey questionnaires.  We will also run some basic descriptive statistics of the results of the original post-tests for all 27 institutions.

Jenny and Bilal with MAC co-founder Roy Southworth (left),  fellow intern Margo Poda (center) and English teacher Ernest (right). In the background are cave dwellings from centuries ago.

Jenny and Bilal with MAC co-founder Roy Southworth (left), fellow intern Margo Poda (center) and English teacher Ernest (right). In the background are cave dwellings from centuries ago.

Professionally, we are most looking forward to seeing how our theoretical evaluation design from class works when we implement it in the actual situation it was designed for. We are also very excited to have an active part in MAC’s work to bring best practices to Georgia in education and care for individuals with disabilities. This evaluation study is going to serve as an important resource for other institutions in the region with similar programs. The results of this evaluation study can be used for enriching the educational policy discourse in the region and developing evidence-based educational and health intervention programs for community members with disabilities.

Neither of us had much experience with education of children with disabilities in our own countries. We have learned much already about this important sector of education. It is also fascinating to learn about Georgian culture in the context of education for children with disabilities.

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