Painting the World, from Georgia to Malaysia and Beyond

Lika Torikashvili, an undergraduate student of UWC Atlantic College, has been working to change the world along with her foreign and native friends since the age of 14. From an early age, she has felt an ardent wish to help children who needed it most and accomplished her dream by starting the venture ‘Paint the World’ which soon took on a global dimension. GEORGIA TODAY met up with Lika and spoke to her about her aims.

Lika, when and why did you start your initiative? Does your work focus on children with cancer or others in need?

I always wanted to do something for the local community in Tbilisi, but didn’t know how I could be useful, how I could contribute. I saw a lot of poverty and sadness around me, and at some point I thought “instead of waiting for the government to deal with everything, why don’t we, young Georgians, unite and start something useful together?”

The first event was in Iashvili Hospital in Tbilisi, Georgia, on the 12th of September 2012, with only 10 participants. The idea was very simple – I gathered my friends and asked if they would like to go to Iashvili hospital with me, to amuse and entertain the patients. We tried do bring “colors” to their lives by dancing, singing, playing games and painting. Everyone could contribute, no matter what talents they had. It was easy and fun, and so effective that, by the end of the session, I knew that we had to continue”painting the world” of not only children with cancer, but of everyone who needs those colors. Orphanages, retirement homes, hospitals… we made a movement which aimed to connect young Georgians with the idea that everyone can make a change and do something good.

You were chosen to attend UWC Atlantic College. What are you studying there?

Getting a scholarship and going to UWC Atlantic College was the biggest success I’ve had so far. This college unites motivated and passionate students from all over the world. We study the IB (international baccalaureate) but alongside that, we learn how to be the change-makers and future leaders of our countries. It’s a very special place.

Do your foreign classmates work with you in the NGO?

After meeting people from all around the globe and telling the story of “Paint the World”, many got excited and decided to join and soon the idea of making Paint the World a global NGO began to come true. The second Paint the World branch was created by my best friend Aziza Aznizan in Miri, Malaysia and was very successful – all her friends joined, and just like Georgia, soon the number of members expanded to hundreds!

Last summer the Paint the World project got a GoMAD grant, and our team organized events in France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Malaysia. This year we plan to extend to India, Hong Kong and Pakistan.

What are your plans after graduation?

Georgia is my home, and a part of me will always be in Tbilisi, where I grew up and where Paint the World started. I want to give back to my country, to come back a better person, who will be able to make a change and support people here.

I always feel that I have to give back to my country, so even when I am far away, I try to do something that makes me feel like I am a good representative of Georgia. One of the most important projects I organized in our country was a Project Week in Georgia, supported and sponsored by the Georgian Government. I wanted to show my foreign friends the roots of the movement. 20 students from more than 15 countries visited Georgia to get to know our culture and work with Paint the World.

We met and got support from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Diaspora, the Vice Speaker of Georgia, and had the honor of meeting the Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II, who blessed us and supported our movement. My Georgian friends met my international friends and they exchanged ideas and cultures. I was proud to see how my Georgian friends started seeing the world from a different perspective.

We managed to unite all the painters of the world, Jewish and Muslim, Black and White, all in a tiny country that many people have never heard of. Georgia became the platform for all of these incredible events, which makes me very proud of my country!

After Atlantic College I plan to continue my studies in the US, and come back to Georgia as a young politician. Wish me luck!

Meri Taliashvili

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