Wednesday, December 9, 2009


For the final two weeks of our pilot mapping project in Georgia we've moved the CO team to Tbilisi. With the help of some satellite imagery we hope to make the best possible public domain, digital map of the city.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rustavi Mapping Club

The first Rustavi Mapping Club!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Community Organizers (Part 3)

This is the third of a three-part series which gives a little background on our awesome Community Organizer team!
written by Jesse Tatum

Beso Ghoiniashvili
(Born in Gori, 16 July 1988)
Beso is meticulous. He once mapped a park in Kaspi, marking no fewer than 520 points within it, and added them in what appears as a perfect sort of trapezoid on the map. A whiz on the computer, there is nothing Beso cannot do for the Project. He taught himself to use Photoshop and is great at training volunteers to use JOSM. Quiet and modest by nature, his actions have earned him the greatest respect from team members, and he loves working in Gori, his home and favorite city in Georgia.
Beso has a Management degree from Tbilisi State, and he sincerely hopes to extend CaucasusMap’s work to other areas outside Shida Kartli.

Nino Maisuradze
(Born in Gori, 25 October 1986)
Spirited and enthusiastic, Nino knows how to work hard and keep things interesting. She holds a degree in English Language and Literature from Tbilisi State University, and enjoys working on the CaucasusMap Project in order to meet new people. She also excels at teaching volunteers how to use the GPS devices and JOSM. Nino is especially keen to continue with the Project in other areas of the country.
Nino’s interests include playing guitar, dancing and reading. A Farewell to Arms is her favorite book.

Sopo Lomidze
(Born in Gori, 17 February 1984)
Wise beyond her years, Sopo is another natural leader. Her previous experience includes an English Language and Literature degree from Gori University and work with an NGO, where she gave lectures on AIDS prevention in local communities in the region. Working with the CaucasusMap Project has allowed Sopo to continue to learn new skills, travel to different areas around Gori and meet new people.
She enjoys the theater and loves teaching. She currently gives private English lessons to students in Gori and would like to continue teaching in the future. Sopo likes working with an international crowd and hopes the Project will continue after November.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Community Organizers (part 2)

This is the second of a three-part series which gives a little background on our awesome Community Organizer team!
written by Jesse Tatum

Nata Samkharadze
(Born in Tbilisi, 24 February 1986)
Nata exudes a cosmopolitan coolness—but she also shows a great amount of clear dedication. Commuting from Tbilisi to work for CaucasusMap, Nata’s efforts have certainly paid off. Learning how to use the GPS devices and JOSM, Nata also likes to practice her English with the group. She has also worked for the CARE office in Gori, where she was responsible for database management.
Nata holds a degree in Psychology from Tbilisi State and has been a dancer for ten years. She also enjoys jogging, listening to Georgian folk music and reading, with Victor Hugo and “Chabua” Amirejibi as her favorite authors.

Tata Tvauri
(Born in Gori, 21 March 1986)
Fearless and opinionated, Tata is able to get immediately involved in contributing to all aspects of the Project. Tata followed her degree in English Language and Literature from Gori University by teaching English as a volunteer with the Society Biliki. She enjoys working with CaucasusMap for the opportunities to visit new places around Gori and for the camaraderie amongst her co-workers. In fact, she thinks of Project Coordinator Lee Allen more as a “friend” than a boss (but don’t tell him that). Allen, of course, knows he is lucky to count Tata among his staff and friends.
She enjoys reading, hanging out with friends and hopes to begin a Master’s in English at Tbilisi State next year.

Nino Khakhutashvili
(Born in Gori, 21 November 1985)
Being cool, collected and urbane does not stop Nino from getting her hands dirty. She has quickly adapted to working with the team, and her linguistic skills continually come in handy. Nino holds a degree in English Language and Literature from Gori University, and then studied for a year at International House in Tbilisi. She also likes to try on the odd phrase in Spanish or French to keep team members amused.
She enjoys the theater, singing, church and trips to Tbilisi. Currently teaching English to several students in Gori, Nino hopes to continue with this in the future. For now, though, CaucasusMap allows her to use those skills while learning new ones and visiting places she would otherwise not have had a chance to see.

Lika Asanidze
(Born in Tbilisi, 7 November 1986)
Watching Lika in action, the word ‘multi-talented’ comes to mind. Equally adept at leading the group in song (traditional hymns, for starters) and leading them into a new town, she is always headed in the right direction. With a major in Finance from Gori University, Lika returned to Gori after the war to volunteer with the Red Cross, conducting interviews with IDPs and aid workers on the financial situation of the displaced.
In addition to having a great singing voice, Lika loves to travel and discover hidden gems in the areas around Gori. Good with maps, she like the process of using the GPS and JOSM to fill in all the little details that contribute to enhancing the Project’s efforts. She too hopes to extend the work of CaucasusMap, especially to areas like Racha and Svaneti.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Community Organizers (part 1)

This is the first of a three-part series which gives a little background on our awesome Community Organizer team!
written by Jesse Tatum

Beka Managadze
(Born in Lugansk, Ukraine, 30 September 1986)
Do not let the leather jacket and tough exterior fool you: Beka has a heart of gold, and always goes the extra mile to help out his co-workers. Resourceful and committed, Beka knows how to get things done, regardless of the obstacles in the way. A former merchant marine, he has traveled the globe and loves to see a new city for the first time from the sea. Nevertheless, he counts Georgia as his preferred destination, and has lived in Kutaisi, Batumi and Gori. With local contacts across the country and a solid knowledge of several regions, Beka is a key member of CaucasusMap’s team.
In his spare time, Beka likes to play basketball, go swimming and is a member of the Off-Road Club, Georgia. He has mapped numerous areas from the seat of his vehicle, and hopes to be able to continue for several months to come.

Natia Pavliashvili
(Born in Gori, 14 June 1984)
Natia’s dedication to the Project is immediately evident: she is totally in her element leading a group out into the pouring rain to finish those final few roads at the far of a village. Her background includes a stint as a tour guide in Gori, an experience which lends itself perfectly to her current role.
Natia loves getting to see new places through working on the Project, and is adept with the GPS devices and the final editing. She loves to travel, with Svaneti among her favorite destinations. In the future, Natia hopes to work with another NGO to continue to help people in need.

Khatuna Kharkheli
(Born in Gori, 14 May 1984)
A natural leader, Khatuna’s take-charge attitude allows her to get things done efficiently and in a timely manner. Working for ICRC as a field officer-translator, she returned to Gori after the 2008 war to investigate cases of missing soldiers and family members who disappeared during the crisis. She knows the Shida Kartli region intimately, which quickly becomes evident during her mapping excursions for the Project.
Khatuna enjoys dancing, visiting new places and meeting the IDP volunteers and local authorities. She is at ease working with an international crowd and, like her colleagues, would love to continue the CaucasusMap Project in some capacity for the foreseeable future.

Lika Demurishvili
(Born in Gori, 7 January 1986)
Bright-eyed and inquisitive, Lika’s background includes a degree in English Language and Literature from Gori University. Perfectly suited for her role in the CaucasusMap Project, she attained prior experience as a volunteer for Society Biliki, where her work consisted of teaching English and translating articles for Biliki’s magazine. She enjoys working with CaucasusMap because it allows her to meet new people and to continue to learn new things, especially editing the maps using JOSM, in which she now provides training for the volunteers who work with the team.
Her favorite villages are Noste, Bebnisi and Samtsevrisi, in particular because of their churches. She enjoys singing, dancing and reading up on the history of Georgia in her spare time. Lika’s future plans include applying for the Muskie Fellowship to study Special Education in the US, as she envisages a career that involves teaching children with learning disabilities.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


by Jesse Tatum

On Friday, 30 October, the rain showed no signs of stopping in Gori . . . but that did not stop Gori’s team of community organizers from mapping.

After an hour of hopeful glances out the window that were continually dashed, a group of four of the CaucasusMap Project’s team in Gori decided to head out, anyway, to finish the western end of the village of Shavshvebi, a few kilometers northeast of Gori.

Earlier the same morning, Lika Demurshvili, 23, said that one of the team’s biggest challenges is transportation: “Finding a minibus or a city bus that runs more than once a day back from the villages is difficult.”

Standing beneath the archway of a building next to Gori’s bus station to avoid the rain, Lika’s comment was all too clear.

Beka Managadze, 23, was running circles around the station, in a vain attempt to find or negotiate a ride for the team. I offered him my umbrella, but Georgian men do not use them, apparently. None of the minibus drivers would stop for us to disembark at Shavshvebi, even though it is on the Gori-Tbilisi route.

Waiting on Beka, I began to complain about the sudden change in weather (Tbilisi had, after all, just received three sunny weeks in the mid-20s C°) when we noticed some sparrows picking at a few soggy bread crumbs. “I like birds,” Lika D. said, “and these ones never leave—they stay the summer and the winter.”

In the end, after half an hour, a taxi was the last resort. Piling in to the back seat, it was bad disco music and cramped legs for a wet stretch on the Tbilisi-Gori highway, with an extra fifteen minutes stuck behind a nasty accident.

The west end of Shavshvebi was silent. Beka got the taxi driver to wait for us, and we split into two groups—Beka and I as one, and the three girls, Lika D., Lika Asanidze and Nino Khakhutashvili, in the other. I gave up on assimilating and used an umbrella. Beka was kind enough to ignore this.

Away from the village’s only paved road, it was a mix of mud, stones and cow droppings. Beka asked me if we had villages like this in the States. He said Shavshvebi’s school was not functioning due to a lack of funds; the children must go to schools in the neighboring villages. He was thriving in the conditions, marking several points on the GPS, and happy that he did not have to deal with any dogs. “I don’t like dogs,” he said, “especially in the villages.”

At the top of the road we saw the Khurvaleti IDP settlement directly northeast of Shavshvebi, across the highway. Beka mentioned that they will be mapping the settlement and others in the area next month. The team has also been using volunteers from the settlements to help in the process, providing trainings on using the GPS devices and the editing work and lending an ear to all of their stories.

“Of course they all speak of home,” Lika D. had told me earlier, “because right now they just live in temporary housing [provided by the government]. One young boy said to me, ‘It’s like we are living in a dream.’”

Having reached the end of the road and taken a moment of silence in front of the settlement, Beka and I heard the noise from which we thought we were lucky enough to have escaped: frenzied barking. The dog rushed out from behind a house, while his owner looked on. To spare Beka, I feigned picking up a stone, and the dog cowered for a brief moment. We said a quick hello to the owner, who told Beka he would have invited us in for wine, but his windows were broken, and he did not want us to be uncomfortable. We politely thanked him and began walking down the path, back to the taxi and out of the rain. Another dog spotted us, and this time Beka was first to try the stone tactic. It worked once again.

We made it back to the taxi without any more over-curious canines.

The mapping process is an intimate, on-the-ground experience: from feet pounding path or pavement to eyes visually marking specific points, places and roads, recording them on the GPS device to, finally, fingers tapping the keypad of the computer, where the editing process can begin. The result: a map to which one can continually add, tweak for accuracy, and one that provides an incomparable amount of detail.

In fact, aside from the project’s obvious usefulness for foreign residents or tourists, Lee Allen, project coordinator for CaucasusMap, notes that the team will give a symbolic presentation at the end of the project, in November, to the local authorities. The maps’ potential for ameliorating local projects, Allen states, is unlimited: improving opportunities for tourism, being used for urban planning and logistical purposes and any other infrastructure schemes that arise in the future. It is about empowering the local community, according to Allen, and he has promoted this idea by hiring locals, helping to improve their existing abilities and allowing them to play a leading role in local development.

Rain or shine, Allen’s team of local community organizers is out on the street, mapping any and all points of interest, dedicated to finishing the two-month project early and making the case for continuing with similar future endeavors. Before November ends, they will have finished a large part of the Shida Kartli region, even to its northernmost border with South Ossetia where the threats of unexploded ordnance and surly soldiers remain a reality in several villages, notably in Kareli (18 kilometers west of Gori), as Allen and another team member, Khatuna Kharkheli, pointed out. For more information, see HALO’s website.

The team’s efforts have already paid off (see the map), and each member is eager for the project to be extended to other regions in Georgia—even to those villages with bigger, crazier dogs.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Kaspi Team

Volunteer Mappers in Kaspi

Yesterday we returned to Kaspi where a fantastic team of volunteer mappers helped us make a great public domain, digital map of the area. During the brief ceremony the participants took their certificates and gave a couple great speeches. Thanks so much for getting involved in this project!

View Larger Map