Stories of Change

Top: Rostom and Jemal (beekeping program participant), Middle: Rostom and chicken from giving machine, Bottom: Rostom and renewable energy technology program participant

The Unstoppable Rostom Gamisonia

The meaning of life is something we all question at some point, but to our colleague and partner, Rostom Gamisonia, the answer is clear:

“This is the meaning of my life: To do and to help people get out of their sufferings and to share what we have. We have a great poet, Shota Rustaveli, who says, ‘What you give is yours, what you hide is lost.’ We come into this world to share what we have…. This is the meaning of life: giving. If you give, you receive. What do I receive? Spiritual health and the power to make changes in my own life.”

Giving to others has always been a familiar theme in Rostom’s life who first came to Western Georgia as a refugee from the self-declared state of Abkhazia. “I had to leave my home and move to Western Georgia. There, not only did I have to look after my family, but also all my community members who were living with no food, no shelter, no access to resources,” Rostom explained. He added, “It’s difficult for me to be fed when I know someone else is hungry.”

In the village he grew up in, Rostom developed a deep respect for nature and the forest that surrounded his home. He recalls that his grandmother would collect plants and berries from the forest to create medicines and stated, “Everything in the forest became a precious thing for me.”

As he got older, Rostom would often gather a group of friends to go into the forest to clean up any trash they could find. He soon realized that the responsibility to care for the environment and those affected by it was massive. With this in mind, in 1997 Rostom and his friends established the Rural Communities Development Agency.

Since its creation, RCDA has worked to protect the environment while helping rural communities combat issues like energy poverty, eco-migration and climate change. In every community we visited with our RCDA partners, Rostom displayed profound care and friendship with the community members. It was not uncommon to see him linked arm in arm with them and in every home we entered, we were welcomed with profound gratitude and kindness. 

Over the years, Rostom’s commitment to his work has grown along with the noticeable effects of climate change. He said, “Look around. Look at nature and how the forests are degraded, how the frost is increasing, how the winds are blowing, how the plants are less. Stop for a little and look around.”

Rostom believes that educating people on climate change is just as important as combatting it. “We want people to know and feel that they are part of the environment and the nature around them,” he said. To achieve this, RCDA has developed school curriculums and summer camps to teach children, “how to live in harmony with nature.”

Since I first met Rostom during our program visit in Georgia, there has been one question that I’ve been meaning to ask him: how do you do it? From fighting climate change to rallying worldwide support to developing meaningful relationships with everyone he serves, it’s easy to understand why Rostom limits his sleep to only four hours a night.

When I asked him, he told me, “I get my energy from nature but the greatest energy I and my team receive is from the gratitude of the people. This makes me want to continue.” He explained, “The show we talk about when we say ‘the show must go on’ is our lives. You should never stop. This is the most important thing, you should always believe in tomorrow. ” Rostom will not be stopping any time soon and neither will we.

Rostom Gamisonia is the director of the Rural Communities Development Agency which is CWS’ local partner in the Republic of Georgia. You can help us support local organizations like RCDA by donating here.

Mariana Gama is CWS’ Program Communications Specialist.