After graduating from Deerfield High School in 2005, Michael Shvartsman attended Ohio University and earned a bachelor's degree in finance. He holds a certificate from the school's Global Leadership Center, which he says has been valuable during his Peace Corps service. He is now working in the country of Georgia.
Name: Michael Shvartsman
Name of organization: Peace Corps/Ninotsminda Community Radio Nor and Ninotsminda Youth Center.
Describe what the organization does: Radio Nor is a registered NGO that exists to provide residents of Ninotsminda and Akhalkalaki with local and regional news over Internet radio while decreasing their dependence on foreign news outlets.
The Ninotsminda Youth Center is a registered NGO existing to empower young people of Ninotsminda and surrounding villages to actively participate in political, social and economic life of the region and the whole country as full-fledged and accountable members of civil society.
What role does it serve in the community?
Radio Nor: The availability of complete and accurate news occurring in Georgia is rare for the ethnic Armenian areas of Ninotsminda and Akhalkalaki. Therefore, Radio Nor seeks to fill this gap with its reliable news service.
Youth Center: The Ninotsminda Youth Center works to integrate the young population (mostly Armenian) of this region with other regions of Georgia. They are able to do this by hosting training within professional areas, including environment, health, exercise, education/careers and more.
What made you want to get involved in this type of volunteer work?
I joined the Peace Corps to travel, meet new people and broaden my cultural horizons. Peace Corps Georgia has given me all of this, plus the opportunity to help professionally train and strengthen residents in my community.
What surprised you about the work once you started?
I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly I was able to begin work in my community. Most volunteers have to spend their first few months adjusting to local culture and language. However, my Russian language skills and comfort with the Ninotsminda culture allowed me to dive in immediately.
If you could offer local officials a piece of advice about how they could help the community you serve, what would it be?
Try to pay a little more attention to the NGOs of your community. There are truly some well-equipped and competent organizations that are trying to make a positive difference, but continue to rely on grants for funding. Local government help could go a long way in helping decrease grant dependency.
What mistakes did you make as a volunteer?
Although I have adapted very well at work and within the community, I did not spend as much effort or time adapting with my host family. As a result, I am not as close with the host family as I would have liked to be.
What did you do right?
Almost immediately, I became a valuable and resourceful asset to my respective organizations. Very few Peace Corps volunteers have the opportunity to make a difference in their local communities from the start, however, my language and cultural adaptation skills enabled me to begin project work right away.
What advice would you give to someone else looking to volunteer?
Think carefully about your goals for life, and whether or not they correspond with your motives for wanting to volunteer. Also, keep in mind that although you may have a regional preference on where to serve, ultimately, Peace Corps decides; and based on this decision, your service can have vast differences from other volunteers.
What is the website of you organization?
Radio Nor: nor.ge
Peace Corps Partnership Program: donate.peacecorps.gov