Mariam grew up in Ponichala, a settlement for the blind that was first set up by the Soviets in the 1930s. She lives with her parents, her sister and nephew in a two-room apartment, said photographer Marcel Maffei. She is pursuing her dream to become a classical singer.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the infrastructure of Ponichala began to crumble. Many residents lost their jobs.
Zurab lost his sight when he was 2 years. In his teenage years, he moved with his parents to Georgia and started to attend a school for the blind.
Maffei said many blind people he met in Ponichala avoided using white canes because of the stigma attached to them there.
Natali is part of Ponichala's newer generation. She was born with a heavy visual impairment to parents who are both blind. Natali's parents used to work in Ponichala's community facilities, but the definition of work has since changed for them. Now work is what Natali's mother calls going to the train station to beg for money.
These are Natali's birds, and Maffei thought the cage was sort of a metaphor for the whole settlement.
Niko manufactured tools for nearly two decades until the factory was shut down in the early 1990s. He hasn't found work since, and today he lives with his two daughters in a studio.
Nino, a Ponichala resident, and her two daughters. "Most of the people never leave Ponichala," Maffei said. "From what I could see, it felt like the community is still closed off and society in general is still not ready to handle people who are different."
Many of the settlement's buildings have been torn down since the Soviet Union collapsed.
Sauri still yearns for the Soviet era. He says it was the best time of his life and he would never be able to have that kind of lifestyle again. He misses the work.