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September Spotlight on Service – Sasha, Grade 11

For the inaugural Spotlight on Service of the 2021-22 academic year, we feature the outstanding service of Sasha (Grade 11) in the Democratic Republic of Georgia. During the summer, Sasha volunteered at a dog shelter in Tbilisi and worked on archaeological excavations at Samshvilde. Here, Sasha shares his experiences at both of these fascinating service sites.

What led you to volunteer at the dog shelter?

Having lived in Georgia for quite some time now, I’ve become increasingly aware of the unfortunate stray dog situation that the country continues to deal with, especially in cities like Tbilisi. For me, a dog lover, seeing the animals on the streets every day broke my heart. I had been looking for opportunities to volunteer, and a chance to work at a shelter for rescued street dogs immediately caught my attention.

Had you worked with animals in the past or was this a new service experience for you?

While I had considered the concept of volunteering at an animal shelter for a long time, the opportunity I had this summer was my first serious time working with dogs. Nonetheless, I was excited to help care for all kinds of canines, and I took comfort in knowing that I was helping Tbilisi’s more unfortunate dogs have better lives.

 What were your primary responsibilities at the dog shelter?

I was handed a variety of tasks during my service at DOG Georgia. While I fed, played with, and poured water for the dogs at the shelter, I most often found myself either going on long walks with dogs or teaching a group of three young puppies how to walk normally on a leash. I took great pride and pleasure in both activities, as the shelter was in desperate need of volunteers, and the dogs seemed to greatly appreciate every walk I took them on.

 Did you face any challenges in your work?

Overall, I believe that I faced rather few challenges during this line of work. I found walking and taking care of dogs to be very calming and rewarding tasks and took great pleasure in helping out at DOG Georgia.

What was most rewarding about working at the shelter?

I believe that the most rewarding part of working at the shelter was the satisfaction that came alongside my service to the dogs there. As a massive lover of dogs, I was extremely happy to spend time with the shelter’s occupants as it helped me calm both myself and the dogs I was working with. Seeing the dogs flock to me whenever I arrived truly warmed my heart, and made me feel that I truly helped out.

How did you come to volunteer with the archaeological excavations at Samshvilde?

Thanks to the suggestions of a teacher from my previous school who I knew very well, I had been on a similar expedition one year earlier, though for a week-long period. Because of this, I had already developed connections with several members of the archaeological team from the University of Georgia. While looking for service opportunities this summer,  I figured that doing archaeological work would be a great way to take advantage of and learn about Georgia’s rich and untouched history.

What kind of work are archaeologists undertaking there?

Currently, the University’s archaeological team is working on excavating the ruins of a fortress that likely defended the settlement’s nobles and royalty from attacks due to Samshvilde’s location on a plateau only accessible from one side. Recently, the excavations have focused around a large palace located inside the fortress. Next to it, the discovery of a bakery alongside a set of milling stones has also captivated the researchers.

What was a typical day on site like?

A typical day would start around 7:00 in the morning, shortly after which breakfast would be served. Once situated, the team and I would begin the 45-minute trek uphill to the top of the plateau, where the fortress was located. When all the equipment had been unloaded, usually around 9:00, we began work. Each day, I would sift through the dirt I dug up at my designated site, which happened to be a dumping ground located near the ruins of an old church. We ate lunch at another nearby church around 12:00, and normally began heading back to our lodge at 4:00.

What new skills did you learn?

In all, I learned a lot about the processes involved in excavating sites from various time periods due to Samshvilde’s continuous use as a settlement over time. While digging, I became acquainted with the techniques used by the university when uncovering finds and artifacts. Apart from these skills, however, I also certainly learned to appreciate the value of sunscreen, as it saved many of us from burning due to being in the sun all day.

What contributions did you make to the project?

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make any groundbreaking discoveries during my time at Samshvilde. However, I did end up finding many smaller items, such as large pottery shards and pieces of glazed pottery. At my site, we were also able to uncover what looked to be a storage stash, which was unfortunately empty.

Overall, I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering this summer. Working at DOG Georgia and at the University of Georgia’s site in Samshvilde has helped me pass through my summer productively. Volunteering is just one of many things people my age can do to make a difference in their communities, and it is something that I suggest everyone looks into, regardless of age.