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Joshua F.

“I am hoping to see how our work further develops the organization I am aiding and nurtures the interests of the youth I am working with.”

Person smiling at the camera.

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps?

There is no easy answer to this question. My interest in service stemmed from various opportunities I’ve had throughout life and my professional career. Coming from a bicultural family, being introduced, and living with international cultures in D.C. and volunteering in Hawaii geared me into applying and built my confidence to committing two years of service in the Peace Corps

Specifically, in D.C., when I was living in an international crowd, I realized that I was not as familiar with international cultures and perspectives as I thought I was. This was a strange concept to me as an American, whose country celebrates international cultures. I reflected and found that I really wanted to push myself to learn more about the world.

2. What projects are you working on?

I work as an Individual and Organizational Development (IOD) Volunteer and am placed with an NGO in a rural area addressing a diverse array of topics, including economic development, gender equality, political activism, and youth development. IOD can be one of the most unstructured sectors in the Peace Corps because your work really depends on the needs of your host. As such, I tend to wear many hats. Some days of the week, depending on timing or season, you can find me out in communities acting as a photographer or summer camp/project coordinator. Sometimes I give presentations to youth about American culture/climate change; other times you can find me acting as IT, developing organizational processes, or being a social media/organization marketer building up our website and social media. The projects I am currently working on are a Youth Community Mapping Project, an organizations database, dashboard and social media marketing.

Volunteer sitting at a desk with papers and a laptop working with his counterparts.
Joshua and his counterpart at work.

3. What strategies have you used to integrate into your community?

Engaging in community meetings and fostering casual conversations with community members is my approach to integration. Another avenue is my hobby of cooking, where I share American, Mexican, and Filipino cuisines as a means of connection. Cooking is a reminder of home, and I tend to cook way more than I can eat myself, so I use the opportunity to share my culture with my community members. This hobby also serves as an ongoing reminder of the importance of self-sufficiency in the kitchen. Witnessing the joy of community members trying cheesecake for the first time or expressing curiosity about Filipino soups has been particularly rewarding for me.

4. What is a highlight of your time in service so far?

Meeting enthusiastic youth and individuals committed to community development stands out. Exploring my community’s history and its ongoing transformation. On a personal level, delving into Georgian culture, understanding its heritage, and learning about regional differences have been enriching experiences. I've come to appreciate the pride and hospitality of Georgian people. You can see their pride and excitement when sharing their music, dance and food. Sharing these things is like sharing a bit of each other's soul, an experience I had not ever thought about when a language barrier wasn’t present. Without knowing Georgian (or any) language, sharing culture takes on new meaning. As we Volunteers are immersing ourselves in their world, we also give them a taste of our world. Another highlight has been local people's delighted and surprised reactions when I speak Georgian. One time in a bookstore my ability to speak Georgian sparked curiosity and excitement, leading to engaging conversations with the store owner and customers. Such moments underscore the power of language in fostering connection and breaking down cultural barriers.

5. What have you enjoyed most about the community where you are serving?

The tight-knit community, where everyone knows each other within a 2-degree social circle, is a unique and enjoyable aspect. It mirrors the close community life I experienced in Hawaii.

6. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from your community?

One of the most important lessons I've learned in Georgia is the significance of the ritualistic ways of eating with others. Engaging in one of the oldest cultures globally, breaking bread with Georgians has deepened my appreciation for culturally significant practices. A poignant example is the supra, a communal feast where numerous toasts are made, giving thanks. Participants gather around the table, leaving negativity at the door. At the supra, we celebrate diverse topics, including religion, family, children, peace, and friendship.

7. How do you spend time when you are not working on a project?

When I am not working on a project, I immerse myself in hobbies such as analog photography, cooking/baking and playing the guitar. I am slowly picking up writing and sketching again.

8. What are you looking forward to in your remaining time as a Volunteer?

Moreover, as my projects progress, I am looking forward to the receivables we gather and future projects we will be able to develop through it. More specifically, I am hoping to see how our work further develops the organization I am aiding and nurtures the interests of the youth I am working with. I anticipate youth actively contributing points of interest (POIs) to our community map, becoming stakeholders in their community, and exploring their interests through youth-led projects. Additionally, I look forward to delving deeper into my community, exploring its villages, and further immersing myself in Georgian culture.

Volunteer and counterparts around a table of students working on a mapping project.
Youth community mapping project.

9. Once you finish your service, what will you do differently when you return to the U.S.?

Upon returning, I plan to share the recipes I've learned, introducing Georgian cuisine to others. Additionally, I aim to convey Georgian culture through song, playing the guitar and panduri (a traditional Georgian folk instrument), creating a bridge between cultures.