The FINANCIAL — Over USD 110,000 was collected during the charity gala event held in Tbilisi by non-profit organization American Friends of Georgia (AFG). The Dzegvi asylum and palliative care service are to be the beneficiaries of the charity campaign. Despite certain economic difficulties the activity of Georgian businesses has been unprecedentedly high this year.
“This year’s event was exceptionally successful and interesting. Many more people attended the event. The number reached over 300. We appreciate that awareness of corporate social responsibility and the involvement of businesses in charity activities is rising from year to year. We feel a sense of responsibility for all of the existing problems in our country that need to be solved by each of us. So, the involvement of each person is important,” Lena Kiladze, Head of the American Friends of Georgia, told The FINANCIAL.
The annual charity gala carried a pre-Christmas mood. In such an environment the AFG team gathered to support its two main projects: children and adults that live in the Dzegvi asylum, with over 70 inhabitants; and the second – Hospice and palliative home care service. “These are people who require help most of all. We are trying in some part to improve the quality of their lives,” said Kiladze.
American Friends of Georgia (AFG) was founded in 1994 by an American born Georgian aristocrat, lawyer and an environmental advocate Constantine Sidamon-Eristoff. The fund is run in the US by Marusya Chavchavadze. Georgian migrants, ethnic Georgians, grown up in the US, as well as Americans who have never even visited Georgia, have gathered around this fund. The organization’s mission is to provide practical humanitarian assistance to most vulnerable populations in Georgia in order to improve educational, economic, social, medical and environmental conditions. AFG also supports efforts to preserve and promote Georgian art and culture.
In Kiladze’s words, one of the missions of the establishment of this organization was the revival of philanthropy in Georgia. “Around the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century philanthropy was a natural part of Georgian society. It was a kind of tradition for families to take their children to hospitals at weekends to teach them nursing.”
“This organization carries the role of being a kind of missionary that promotes Georgia and its culture in the US. We annually try to arrange cultural events, like exhibitions, concerts or charity events,” she added.
The annual charity gala was special because of the unique works that were presented at the auction. “We are proud to have friends and supporters from business, art and different fields. The organization has existed for 21 years already. During that time we have accumulated quite a large number of people. Charity events have become like a tradition since 2006. Gia Gugushvili, David Sulakauri, Gogi Aleksi-Meskhishvili (our advisory board member) donated their art works, as well as former US Ambassador to Georgia Richard Miles and his spouse Sharon (AFG’s board members)-donated work by Levan Lagidze and Papuna Papaskiri. We had the unprecedented opportunity to sell at auction two statues – ‘Blue and Red’, made by a prominent Georgian sculptor Tamar Kvesitadze. Ms. Kvesitadze sculpted them exclusively for us. Photos by Gia Chkhatarashvili were presented at the auction. We also had unique photos of the Kazbegi landscape, family archives dated from the beginning of the 20th century. They were provided by individuals from their own family albums. Ceramic works presented by Nato Eristavi and her team were also presented at the auction. They are annually producing works specifically for our charity event. One of our benefactors working at the Peristsvaleba Monastery workshop restored the tradition of Georgian apparel and made ‘kabalaki’ for men and women. We had a unique scarf presented by the French gallery Maquette. Since the end of the 19th century they have been cooperating with prominent painters and are creating scarves with their works incorporated in the design. It was the first time that the gallery has made scarf with the work of Georgian painter Gela Tsuladze’s work,” said Kiladze.
The Patron of event was Petrocas Energy Group. The group has being sponsoring the activities of AFG for years. They became co-partners of their charity initiatives. Vano Nakaidze, Founding partner of Petrocas Energy Group, is also a member of the Georgian advisory board of AFG. His brother Sergi is present in the US as a member of the US board. In addition to the sponsorship of the event, the group donated GEL 100,000 to support two charity projects of AFG. Accordingly, the organization collected a record sum in comparison with the previous year. Over USD 110,000 was collected during the event. This fact assures the team of AFG that further development of these two projects will strengthen and advance.
“When our organization was established in 1994 and Marusya Chavchavadze came to Georgia for finding out the main concerns, the overall conditions in the country were quite difficult. Accordingly, the first years mostly involved humanitarian activities. From 2001 the company switched to raising awareness of philanthropy. We are witnessing big changes in our society. Whereas previously the main share of participants at gala events was foreign citizens, currently Georgians have started dominating. The majority of Georgian companies have tried to get involved in our activity. More and more people realize that social responsibility needs to be taken on by them. We managed to build successful cooperation with our sponsor companies like BDO, Delloite, DLA Piper, BLC, EY, Radisson, TBC Bank, Adjara Hospitality Group, Borjomi and others. So they also provide their professional service to our organization free of charge. I am optimistic that the number of our partner companies will continue to rise,” Kiladze said.
As Kiladze said, the main difference of AFG is that it has been working on concrete development projects for years. “One of our main goals is to build cooperation with partners and work on a regular basis. It is not easy to achieve. However, we are working hard to transfer these relations into a daily or monthly regime. We are trying to distinguish a working plan between our partner companies.”
The team of AFG sees its role in advocating the problems. “We do not think that the Government is the only body that is responsible for problems. In cooperation with business society, to support them in solving these problems we consider it a partnership and cooperation for problem solving. I consider public society a group of individuals where each carries some responsibility.”
In Kiladze’s words, the palliative care project requires broadening. “We have American and Swiss friends who come to Georgia and arrange trainings. We want to develop this work further in order to improve the quality of life for terminally ill people. As for the Dzegvi asylum, we want to repair it. The renewed space will then allow us to build a workshop where we can support homeless children in better adapting to society,” Kiladze told The FINANCIAL.