“My story in Roots started seven years ago. In 2015, I attended a ProFest which still is one of my most beloved YMCA memories. In 2017, I got the honor to join Peace Work Institute, and since then I have been actively involved in different projects and activities within the Roots.
There are things we do because it’s our job, and then there are things that we do because they are part of our lifestyle and a part of who we are. Roots came into my life when I was very young and I was still trying to figure out what my passion was and what I wanted to do in life. It shaped my vision and perception greatly. I have always felt supported here and I thought this was a great place to grow and learn. It stands close to my values and beliefs; therefore, every time I get involved in an activity in the framework of Roots, I feel like I am doing something that matters. This feeling kept me with Roots.
In 2020, together with fellow Roots for Peace alumni and YMCA Georgia members we applied for the YMCA Europe Roots for Peace Award, which enabled us to organize camps for teenagers from different ethnic minorities and offer them a wonderful week at our beloved YMCA Georgia Camp Orange. Despite Covid19 and all the complications it brought, the project was a big success and I am proud of what we accomplished. I am also proud of the fact that the project continues (in a slightly altered form) and we see the result we were striving to achieve while communicating with our participants.
In 2008, my father went to Ukraine and after a few days, the war started in Georgia. His regular visit lasted longer than it was supposed to be. Then I remember the discussions about safety and that it would have been better if we all moved to Ukraine instead of him coming back to Georgia. My father is an ethnic Georgian but a citizen of Ukraine. When he talks, he calls Ukrainians “us” and Georgians “you”. I was concerned that if we all moved there, then there would be no reason to come back home and, I guess, I was afraid that one day I would also consider myself more Ukrainian than Georgian. So, I came up with millions of silly reasons, hoping I would convince my family to stay in Georgia.
In 2014 war started in Ukraine too and we have never discussed living in Mariupol for the sake of safety ever again; however, my attitude towards Ukraine also changed, and soon after getting friends there, I started considering it as my second home.
I did not spend much time in Ukraine but it has a special place in my heart. In my memories, Mariupol is the town that constantly smells like Roshen chocolate and provides safety. I knew how many people found shelter in this town and how its people welcomed everyone.
At the beginning of April, several families arrived in Tbilisi from Mariupol. Of course, they felt lost and confused, unaware of where they were and where they were going. Most of those people did not stay in Georgia for long, we helped them to depart to other European countries. At the moment, only one family remains with us. They have been good friends of my family for years now. It is a family of four people, young parents and two children, 9 and 3 years old.
One evening I was thinking about the current situation and I felt very weak, as I could not help anyone from here. I was thinking about what I could do, and mental health support was the first thing that came to my head.
As a person who has seen war and conflict situations multiple times, I know the war lasts longer than the period when bombs are falling from the sky. It stays in your head for years and takes away the peace and joy. I am aware of how dangerous PTSD can be based on my personal experience and based on multiple studies on this matter. After a conversation with Roots staff, we came up with a plan and aim to provide free mental health support for Ukrainians, in order to prevent PTSD and heal the trauma caused by the war. This will be done with the help of those amazing psychologists who have registered as volunteers.
I understand that thinking about mental health does not make much sense when you are in physical danger; however, this war will be over and we want people to know that we are here for them, and we can heal together and find a reason to smile. Now more than ever, it is crucial to stay emotionally strong and to remember that “Peace starts with a smile”
I’ll be working on “Heal the Smile”, hoping that it will serve its aim and heal as many souls and as many smiles as possible. Also, I’ll be providing proper media support for different projects and activities to the Roots team.
Apart from this, as a media consultant, I will try to promote peace and the values of Roots, and I wish to create visual and written materials presenting stories of peace, hope and life in general. My plan is to visit refugees and tell their stories, as I believe they have a lot to share with the world.”