Volunteers helping during this summer’s forest fires…
This summer, during the fires, many volunteers wanted to help others… to clear away the debris, to take on the dirtiest and hardest jobs…
In Russia, in recent years, an increasing number of people are willing to volunteer to help the elderly, aid children in difficult situations or without parental care, participate in disaster relief, and support those facing adversity. They are driven by an internal psychological need to be needed, and a healthy voluntarism can realise this need to feel useful. Worldwide, more than 110 million people are involved in various volunteer projects, programmes, and initiatives. Volunteers are always ready to spend their time and energy for the benefit of society or an individual. The first formal volunteer project was implemented in 1920 in France, near Strasbourg. Its participants were young people from France and Germany, who rebuilt farmsteads destroyed in the First World War.
In Russia, the volunteer movement is quite young and only involves some 3 percent of the population, although more than 40 percent of all Russians are willing to participate according to public opinion polls. Maria Slobodskaya, President of the Institute for Civil Society, pointed up in a VOR interview, “However, traditions of philanthropy, selfless assistance, and charity in Russia have deep roots, so those who do not belong to any organisation, but aren’t indifferent to others’ concerns, who strive to do good, are often self-directed. Despite the fact that we’re clearly moving towards a consumer society, our people won’t spoil as badly as others have, as we’re guided by other imperatives that are traditional in Russian society, such as mutual assistance, mutual aid, cooperation, compassion, and empathy”.
This year’s fires that covered so much of Russia, along with the unbearable heat, brought out these qualities [in many people]. Flames came close to towns and villages, burning down houses and destroying property. Yelena Topoleva-Soldunova, the Head of the Working Group on the Development of Charity of the RF Public Chamber, told VOR, “Whole regiments of volunteers showed up in the wake of these misfortunes. They wanted to take part in everything that they could, they wanted to help put out the fires, they purchased needed equipment, and they were ready to clear away the debris, to take on the dirtiest and hardest jobs. Also, they used their personal cars to transport people from place to place”.
Yekaterina Kuznetsova, a representative of the Volunteer Centre World4U, emphasised, “State support is of vital importance for the development of the volunteer movement in Russia, as well as the participation of Russian volunteers in international projects. At present, many Russians have gone to volunteer centres in Europe, they’ve gained a great deal of experience. Such dialogue, helps change how foreigners view Russia. We’re trying to shape and change for the better Russia’s image abroad, because right now people think we’re very clumsy, very hidebound, very behind-the-times; it’s a mixed-up image of a lumbering bear wearing a fur hat”. Indeed, directors of international volunteer centres have announced projects with the main goal of “strengthening cross-cultural understanding”.
29 September 2010
Voice of Russia World Service
If one reads some of the opinions in the comboxes on Stokoe’s site, it’s a discouraging read. Most of what’s written on Russia is pure and utter rubbish. They quote such nasty neo-con propaganda as Jamestown.org, predict the imminent collapse of the Russian economy, and quote self-promoters such as Pavel Felgenhauer and Gary Kasparov. Kasparov’s following could fit in an old-fashioned phone booth and Felgenhauer is a pro-American joke who predicted a long war against Georgia in ’08 (it ended in five days in a smashing Russian victory). They don’t know or care about the big-hearted Russian people who gave generously to those made homeless by the fires. They don’t know or care that the OMONtsy and army drove the supplies into the affected fire zone. They don’t know or care about the support that the Church and state gave the volunteer aid workers.
They don’t know or care because they’re self-absorbed navel-gazers. All too often they sign their communications as “Reader” (a title that’s never supposed to be used outside of services, by the way), put bishop’s names in ALL CAPS, or repeat the stale old hoary tales of the Patriarch reaping billions from the sales of illicit cigarettes. I have no doubt that His Nibs wouldn’t mind having those billions… he doesn’t… if he did, the guys from KP or NG would expose it, and they haven’t… because it’s not true.
This voluntarism shows that the revival in Russia is having positive effects in people’s lives… and that’s where it’s at, kids. Hey… it’s only a beginning… but it’s a GOOD start! You can stand with the Russian volunteers who helped fight the fires or you can stand with the loudmouths in Stokoe’s comboxes. I know where I stand! What about you?