It was just before Christmas day last year. Sitting at the kitchen table at the computer, I was looking through the day’s email. One was from Peace Corps and listed some Peace Corps Response (PCR) positions. I had received these before, but this time there was a position in Eastern Europe.
Eastern Europe was my global area of focus as a communication and development studies student. My time in Ukraine had taught me that while some Eastern European countries might be classified as “middle income,” the reality on the ground was that people struggled. There were holes in services that Westerners take for granted. Small things, like paying for heat in winter, became epic struggles for some families. Everyone I met dealt with their problems in their own way as best they were able because they knew that there was little chance of help. I wanted to find some way to give them more control in their lives instead of living the life of a wind sock where you must constantly be prepared to change the entire direction you move because the wind changed.
The PCR program is different from traditional Peace Corps service. For starters, it’s for Peace Corps alumni. It’s a way for volunteers who have already served to drop into a situation where you have a short time to fulfill a specific task. You also know from the beginning where you are applying to go. There is a full job description full of details about what the expectations are of you.
This position was with a women’s health NGO in the Georgian city of Kutaisi. Breast cancer is a leading killer of women in Georgia. This organization has services related to diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. They also tend to other women’s health needs providing screenings for other ailments like cervical cancer. They primary source of funding is in partnership with Susan G Komen for the Cure: The Georgia Race for the Cure. It’s been held annually for the last several years. The last few, it’s been in the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi. The PCR position was for an organizational development and advocacy specialist. They needed someone to help them find ways to expand their services, but to do that, they would need more funding and more partnerships.
As a communication and development practitioner, I was pleased to see that this organization had such a good grasp of what they needed to do to expand their services. The fact that I was on the cusp of graduating from Ohio University meant that I was in the market for a job. The opportunity to work in another Eastern European country meant a chance to observe and learn about Georgia’s culture, history and traditions. I didn’t speak Georgian, but many people speak either Russian or English in addition to the national language.
About two months after applying, I arrived in Georgia. I’m now both a Peace Corps Response volunteer and a development worker. It’s the best of every world as I work with the full support of the US government with an organization that wants to move forward in helping women prevent a disease that is highly treatable if diagnosed early.
Wish me luck!