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Peace Corps Volunteer
2 years, 3 months
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Up to 12 months
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Virtual Service Pilot
3-6 months
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Featured Participant Profile

Sara F.

“We worked together as a tight team to develop a national strategy for virtual volunteerism for youth in Georgia.”

Sara F Headshot

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps, specifically the VSP program?

My initial on-the-ground Peace Corps service in Georgia was very meaningful. I fell in love with the country and stayed there for several years after my service. I have maintained my relationships there, both personal and professional, and continue to care very much about Georgia’s future. During my service, and afterwards, I worked with many different NGOs and various projects, including Let’s Play Together, a project for disabled children that still runs in Georgia and utilizes high school student volunteers. Through my work on Let’s Play Together and other projects, I became familiar with the challenge of recruiting, utilizing, and retaining volunteers. For these reasons, when I saw the opportunity to work on a subject I care about and have some expertise in, I jumped at the opportunity.

2. What projects did you work on?

I worked on one singular, large project with two Georgian partners. The first was an NGO called Helping Hand, which focuses on volunteerism for youth. The second was the LEPL Youth Agency, which supports service activities for the government as a whole. We worked together as a tight team to develop a national strategy for virtual volunteerism for youth in Georgia. We developed a plan that included the following components: research, focus groups, training (for employers and volunteers), and development of a set of detailed volunteer guidelines, culminating in a virtual conference attended by a wide range of Georgian business and government leaders.

The outcome of our project was that (a) a guideline was developed that can be used by a wide range of organizations, governmental agencies and employers; and (b) the concept of virtual volunteerism was widely promoted and materials disseminated.

Sara's prior service helped prepare her to work effectively with NGOs in Georgia as a VSP Participant. Together they developed a national strategy to promote youth virtual volunteerism.

3. What was a highlight of your VSP experience?

There were two highlights for me. First, I got to work with people who I either knew, or knew of, in Georgia. I have mutual friends in the civil sector with the organizational leaders I collaborated with. It was a pleasure to work with them and create a meaningful project together. Second, I am proud of the material we created and disseminated, and the major conference we put together to share this material with the government, NGO, and educational leadership.

4. What strategies did you use to meet the challenges of a short-term, remote experience?

I think the biggest challenge was the need to meet solely on Zoom or similar platforms. There were multiple internet connectivity problems and challenges in transmitting images for the texts we were preparing. Scheduling was sometimes difficult; since I live in Europe, the time difference was not as extreme as it is in the U.S., but it still sometimes posed barriers. We all tried to be flexible, to communicate as thoroughly as possible, and to be prepared. We weren't always successful but, based on my prior experience of working in Georgia, we succeeded far beyond the norm.

5. What benefits did you gain from your participation?

Since I am retired, I cannot say I gained a professional benefit; however, I did gain a strong sense of personal satisfaction and pride in our team’s work, which is quite valuable to me. I hope to participate in other VSP projects in the future.

6. How did your previous Peace Corps and/or professional experience influence your VSP experience?

Working in Georgia as a Volunteer and, later, as a grant writer working with NGOs, I learned a great deal about the issue our project was addressing and how to work effectively with Georgia organizations. To work successfully with Georgia organizations, an understanding of culture is essential. Qualities that must be cultivated include patience and flexibility.

7. What did you bring away from your experience as a VSP Participant?

I feel a lot of pride in our VSP work, and a lot of pleasure in working with Georgia colleagues again.