Peace Corps Volunteer in Georgia (2020) | Peace Corps Virtual Service Pilot Program (2020–21)
As told to Sarah Steindl
Illustration courtesy Work by For Better Future, a Georgian NGO, whose projects include supporting women entrepreneurs.
I had a friend in Ukraine who was a two-year Volunteer, and seeing all he was doing there inspired me. One day, I was browsing and saw Peace Corps Response Service. I took a one-year leave of absence from my job in New York, and I arrived in Georgia in February 2020. I went through orientation, then headed to work with the Khashuri Municipality, about 80 miles west of Tbilisi. I fell in love with the country — so much to explore and learn.
I worked as an organizational development and capacity building specialist, creating and executing training sessions. I focused on business acumen, public speaking, credit proposal writing, public relations, and some technologies that could help drive efficiency. I spent that first month mostly scoping out a baseline; a big part of capacity building is understanding where everyone is, their skill sets, and what we need to bring forward. After one month we were evacuated.
My Georgian family tried to do so much to help me get plugged in to the community. On International Women’s Day, my host mom took me to a supra, a traditional Georgian dinner filled with food, wine, and dancing. Almost every woman from the community was there. That was a week before we had to leave.
When Peace Corps launched the Virtual Service Pilot last fall, I saw it as an innovative way to continue doing what I hope to do: creating a bridge between communities. I worked with For Better Future, a Georgian NGO focused on supporting internally displaced person settlements. We worked on content and public relations strategies across different platforms. This kind of work is especially important now, because the world is rapidly evolving into something more global and intertwined; having a level of understanding across different cultures is crucial. I’m volunteering in the VSP program again, working with the Tkibuli District Development Fund on community engagement strategy and initiatives. We’re all continuing to learn. And, as the pandemic and evacuation reminds us, you can never be fully prepared for things that come your way.
This is part of a series of stories from Crisis Corps and Peace Corps Response Volunteers and staff who have served in the past 25 years.