Anna Astakhishvili
“I volunteer because
it is all about others,
and doing something
for others enriches me
personally and professionally,”
says Anna Astakhishvili.

Anna Astakhishvili
“I volunteer because
it is all about others,
and doing something
for others enriches me
personally and professionally,”
says Anna Astakhishvili.

Part three in a series. “Voices of IBM Volunteers” is part of the SkillsBuild program to reach one million young people through STEM-related volunteering in 2018, and five million young people over the next five years. Watch the video (YouTube, 04:20)

The drive to close the global skills gap is among IBM’s most important initiatives. SkillsBuild will call on IBM volunteers to promote activities that enable digital literacy with young people, introduce them to hands-on problem solving, and spark their interest in STEM learning—using resources and support on the IBM Volunteers web site.


IBM volunteer: Anna Astakhishvili

I was born in the Republic of Georgia during the last days of the Soviet Union.

Georgian culture is very closely knit, and since the country was in deep economic crisis we all helped each other. You volunteer because everyone is your family. Helping others was a big part of my upbringing, so when I came to the US for university, and then joined IBM in Austin three years ago, it was natural for me to get involved in volunteering my skills to the community.

When I volunteer for IBM Volunteers, I feel joyful, I feel empowered and I feel gratitude. I feel empowered because the power of such a large company is behind my efforts –allowing me the time, and giving me the resources and support, to serve.

I raise and train puppies to become guide dogs for the blind, and IBM Community Grants (login required), which I apply for every year, have been enormously helpful to the Austin Chapter of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

I volunteer because volunteering is all about others, and doing something for others enriches me personally and professionally. The reason I work with Guide Dogs for the Blind is that I am able to recognize the impact of my work right away. I see how the guide dogs make an immediate difference in peoples’ lives. I get to meet those people, and to hear their stories.

Sometimes I say that when I train guide dogs, I also train my friends by helping them to understand the tremendous value that these helpers provide. My friends and family may see a cute little dog as a furry friend or a pet. But the mission of these highly trained animals is much greater. They give people independence.

I train a dog for 13 to 18 months before handing them off to a professional trainer who prepares the dogs to serve the blind. Then I wait for each dog to be paired with an owner. That process can take a long time, and there may not always be a good fit between the person and the dog. But in the end, helping arrange a beneficial match –and seeing the tangible benefit it brings to the blind person –is incredibly fulfilling.

Thanks to IBM Community Grants, we have been able to expand our volunteer base from 23 to 45 people, and the number of dogs we raise and train from seven to 12. That means that 12 people in Austin will get a highly trained guide dog to transform their lives – giving them (and the family members who otherwise would care for them) the independence that each of us craves.

What’s more, my experience as an IBM volunteer has motivated me to want to establish a guide dog program in Georgia one day. I can’t think of a better way for me to contribute, and I urge all IBMers to find a way to serve their communities based on their interests and skills. Like me, they will realize that the impact on their communities is profound, and that the reward to them is inspiring.


For over 100 years, IBMers have created positive change in the world through their day-to-day work and their service in local communities. Since 2004, nearly 300,000 IBM employees and retirees have contributed more than 20 million hours of volunteer service.


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