USAID/REAP Mourn Tragic Loss of Mariam Kutelia

The USAID/REAP program said it had lost “a valued member of its team” upon learning of the tragic death of its intern Mariam Kutelia, who was killed in the Tbilisi flooding last weekend.

Mariam’s death inspired the project and its grantees to contribute to the relief efforts of the flood and provide aid. USAID’s Restoring Efficiency to Agriculture Production (REAP) united as one to participate in the mass volunteering in Tbilisi, donating hundreds of shovels, dozens of wheelbarrows, gloves, rain boots and hats, the equipment most needed for the thousands of volunteers standing together against the natural catastrophe.

The trucks and equipment were driven to the Office of the Vake District Local Government from Shida Kartli and Kakheti regions.

Some of the volunteers left to join the rescue efforts of the missing persons such as Ivlita Jibuti, a pregnant newlywed, who was due to graduate from the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University this summer with a master’s degree in Economics.

On the night of June 13, flash floods in Tbilisi destroyed the homes of numerous families, caused, at the latest count at time of writing, 18 deaths, and left dozens missing, but the unprecedented volunteer efforts led largely by young people provide hope in a time of great distress.

Due to the largely horizontal organizational structure of the volunteers and the lack of singular leadership, technology and the use of social networks became the key tools to share information and provide updated details on meeting locations, necessary equipment and donation priorities. Some Facebook hashtags are still being used to provide a stream of updates on how many volunteers are needed at specific locations for clean-up efforts, what donations are needed at which local government offices, what medications are urgently needed at the temporary housing locations and so on. The Facebook group “#13 June-Volunteers” counts around 18,000 members, many of whom are actively involved in the disaster relief efforts to this day.

REAP’s team expressed their deep condolences toward Mariam’s family and toward the families of other victims of the flooding.

Steven Jones

18 June 2015 22:45