On June 13 (just over two weeks ago) Tbilisi experienced a severe flash flood that took the lives of 19 people (and 3 still missing, presumed dead) and destroyed the zoo and a dog shelter, leading to surreal photographs and international attention on our city. The immediate relief effort has been impressive: volunteers swarmed the area as soon as they could, and millions of dollars have been raised to support the victims and rebuild the infrastructure. (If you’d like to be involved in the immediate recovery, I’ve posted a number of suggestions for what you can do and where you can donate here). But what can we do to keep the community momentum, to continue supporting these people and prevent similar disasters in the future? Here are my ideas:
Ask Questions. Ask questions of politicians when they announce new infrastructure projects. (What will be the environmental impact? What building safety codes apply?) Ask similar questions of the journalists who cover those topics. Ask questions of the builders when you buy property. Ask questions of the landlord when you rent. If you don’t like the answers, or can’t get any answers, don’t support the project. Talk about the flood and recovery with your friends, and see if they have other ideas. Don’t forget the tragedy.
Support (with your wallet or with your activism) groups advocating for disaster risk reduction and reduced environmental impact: I know that Save the Children, the Red Cross (the Austrian Red Cross in particular), Tbilisi Guerrilla Gardeners, and Iare Pekhit (Pedestrian Rights’ Organization) have done projects in the past on these topics, and will very likely continue to do so in the future.
Donate money to relief organizations so they can have well-trained professional staff and resources ready to respond immediately when a disaster occurs. The Georgian Red Cross are the major players in this field here in Georgia.
Adopt an animal and/or support the animal shelters and rights organizations in their efforts to reduce the number of animals on the street and in shelters. If there had been fewer street animals and animals in shelters, fewer animals would have been in danger during the flood. Dog Organization of Georgia is one of these organizations, but I know there are others. (Last I heard, the Elizbarashvili Shelter that was destroyed in the flood is currently unable to give animals for adoption, but they should be up and running again soon)
Support civil society organizations Identoba, the Women’s Fund in Georgia, and wehelp.ge are all organizations with a different focus who stepped up in the aftermath of the flood and helped to mobilize volunteers and donations. But supporting civil society organizations in general is important so that citizens’ concerns are listened to. I try to keep track of new organizations and projects and/or their fundraisers on my links page. I keep that frequently updated based on what’s going on at the moment, so check back frequently! There’s a good chance that organizations and projects unrelated to the flood will now have a much harder time getting donors to support them, but that doesn’t mean that other projects become unimportant. Try to support them, too!
Support local businesses (or international companies contributing to the Georgian economy by providing jobs and paying taxes) so that the economy can expand and money will become less of a limiting factor in Georgia.
Make sure you are familiar with how to respond in a disaster. Here’s a cute video on what to do in a (non-flash) flood:
I’m interested to hear what other suggestions readers may have for long-term support in reaction to the flood. What other actions can we take? Have I missed any other, particularly lesser-known, organizations doing great work here?