Volunteer work is becoming more and more popular in the world: people are ready to help others and the planet without getting anything in return. Recently we talked about what you need to be prepared for if you decide to work on a voluntary basis, and today we turn to practice. We asked the girls we know, who worked in different programs and in volunteer organizations, about their experience and what was most memorable.
I have been a volunteer for the Vera Hospice Foundation for a little over a year now: I have been helping the Children's Hospice House with a Lighthouse. Its task is to take care of the quality of life of a terminally ill child and his family. In order to become a volunteer, you need to fill out a questionnaire on the website, pass an interview, briefing and a practical lesson. Any volunteer first helps at outdoor events, and then, if desired and after agreement with the coordinator, can begin to communicate directly with the child and help his family. We also had a very interesting lecture about childhood diseases: they told why the wards look and behave in a certain way, and so on.
The fund's volunteers work in various directions: either you need to take medicines, then get a certificate for the mother in the clinic, because she is alone with the child and cannot leave the house, then be an interpreter for a foreign guest at a medical conference. I mainly help at events. The hospice has a lot of them: for example, excursions for children to the fire department, clubs for moms and dads, trips to the pool and much more. Most often, my task is to look after the ward or his healthy brothers and sisters. The hospice throws something like a party every month. A volunteer is assigned to each child for this day. Everyone is given musical instruments, we swing the children on the bedspread, play with sand or dry beans.
Keeping an eye on the charges is always the hardest part. Due to their illnesses, some children are very lagging behind in development, react poorly to the world around them. Some do not walk at all, cannot pick up objects. Being next to them, you are as concentrated as possible: you follow the child's posture, his movements, facial expressions, trying to catch the mood. And if it seems that something is wrong, you call his mother or the doctor. You get very tired of such constant tension out of habit.
Still, it's nice to know that you can do something really important. I can spend just a couple of hours with the child or take a bouquet to the ward's mother and wish him a happy birthday, but for a family in such a difficult situation, when the child is terminally ill, this means a lot. After all, if a child cannot be cured, this does not mean that he and his family cannot be helped. It is possible and very necessary. And you, as a volunteer, are a little involved in this.
I did a lot of volunteering during the FLEX US student exchange program in 2010-2011. At the end of the year, I was even awarded the Barack Obama Medal for the number of hours worked (over 300 hours in nine months!). I did all sorts of things. I often went with my host family to help at charity marathons. Usually the races start at ten in the morning, it was necessary to be on site a couple of hours in advance to put the equipment, register all the participants, and after the end, collect everything. I had to get up at four in the morning on Sunday and drive for several hours from my small town to the event site. I remember an elderly couple in a half marathon who walked the entire distance - no one left until they were the last to cross the finish line. At such events, a lot of people usually work for free - this helps to save on the organization, so that the money ends up going to those who really need it.
We often helped at school events: we prepared and sold food. There were also many one-time jobs. For example, they helped clean up the local museum, which had only one caretaker. Once we gathered for a big cleanup before City Day, put things in order in the streets - in the United States, in small settlements there is no separate service responsible for cleaning, usually people in correctional labor or volunteers are engaged in this. It is impossible to carry out such small actions if you do not know your neighbors.
I would gladly arrange a clean-up in the park near my house in Moscow, but, unfortunately, I don't even know who might be interested in this in my area. The possible paperwork also completely discourages the desire to do this. Once I took part in the "Bloggers Against Garbage" subbotnik in my native Stavropol - the impressions, to be honest, were not the most pleasant. Activists-students were herded there, who were not very interested in doing this, and besides me, only the organizers knew about the action. I also volunteered for the Sochi Olympics, but eventually changed my mind after the preparatory program - most of the participants just wanted to go to the Olympics for free and did not even think about how to really help somehow.
With FLEX alumni, we sometimes get together, do something together. I love our trips to the Losiny Ostrov nature reserve - we help to put the forester's house in order before the children's summer camp. For me, volunteering, first of all, is helping myself and my environment, and not a way to show everyone how great you are.
A year ago, I came across an article about the volunteer program. Although she was very inspiring, I thought that I would never dare to do that myself. But after six months I was already buying tickets, and in early July I flew to Nepal to teach English to girls in a monastery. It was a very important trip for me: for the first time in my life I flew so far alone and did not know what to expect, what exactly I would have to do. A month before departure, I began to prepare: I read about local traditions, about religion, about the difficulties tourists face, looked for materials for classes with children and watched videos on YouTube about girls traveling alone.
The monastery was located high on a mountain, surrounded by jungle and corn fields - the air there was incredibly clean, despite the proximity of dusty and noisy Kathmandu. There was no internet, no hot water, no dining table, so we ate on the floor of a huge veranda overlooking the city. Every day everyone woke up with the first sounds of the service, at 5:30 in the morning, had breakfast and went to class. In total, there are four classes in the monastery: the first is for girls 5-12 years old, two middle and the older one is for girls 17-19 years old. Most of the lessons consisted of trying to explain new words, noisy games and sometimes stories about life in the monastery. About five of the fifty students understood and could somehow express themselves in it, of which only one knew the language well enough to tell us about some interesting customs and translate the stories of other girls.
Before my trip to Nepal, I had no teaching experience, but I was lucky: for the first ten days I taught lessons in a pair with a German woman who had previously taught in a Chinese school. Every week, new volunteers came and offered new ideas for classes. Usually in the evening, when all the children went to bed, we sat on the veranda for a long time, drinking tea and discussing cultural differences. I miss all the girls, even though they asked me how I survive in the winter and how many glasses of vodka I drink per day.
Working with children when you yourself still feel like a child is not easy. It is even more difficult to work with students who hardly understand you and are not quite ready to learn English. But I never regretted the decision to go and finally felt like I had matured.
I left for a year as a volunteer in England when I was 24, having spent almost a year looking for that very project, all kinds of interviews, collecting the necessary documents and endless waiting. I don’t remember exactly how I found out about EVS (European Voluntary Service), but I realized that this was the best option for me. The good thing about EVS is that all projects are funded by the European Union, and the volunteer is reimbursed for the cost of tickets and visas, insurance and pocket money is paid. There is a huge database of projects in all countries, where a future participant independently searches for a program and contacts the host organization. The choice is simply huge - there is where to roam.
Since at that time I firmly believed that working with children was my vocation, the project was selected accordingly. As a result, I settled on the organization of the UMSA in the city of Bath. There I worked as an assistant in kindergartens and local extended care programs. Later you could try your hand at the UMSA fitness club and in a cafe in neighboring Bristol. I did not dare to go to a fitness club (it was boring there), but I happily tried to work in a cafe - an interesting experience! I was very lucky with the project: I lived in the very center of an incredibly beautiful English city, we had a great team, interesting work and, as it turned out later, I and three other volunteers from my organization had better living and material conditions compared to the conditions, where other EVS volunteers lived in England.
I cannot say that during that year I had to face some kind of global problems. Rather, there were some emotional experiences when the initial euphoria had already passed, friends and family were far away, there was still no snow in winter and I wanted more free time and money to travel around the country. In general, I am incredibly glad that I had the opportunity to get such a colossal experience of life in another culture, meet a bunch of people from all over the world and see what I am really capable of.
Some go to church, some go to the gym, and I go to the shelter to help the dogs. This work combines everything in the world: from hellish torture without sleep for weeks
to immeasurable happiness. I have been involved with orphanages for five years. As a teenager, I brought the kitten to my home, but the allergies and my parents did not have mercy on me, and therefore I had to urgently look for a home for him.
Now I help everyone - from small household overexposures to state nurseries, but I am closely associated with ZooShield. There I cook porridge, clean, walk with the dogs, do them procedures, take sick animals to my home for overexposure, take pictures and attach all the wards, post announcements about them on various sites. Nobody forces me to do it, I really like to do it, although sometimes it can be scary and difficult. Very often there are situations when they call us and say: "Oh, there are several puppies in a box dying, I can't take it for myself, come sooner, take it." You come and pick them out of some trash can, but half are already dead, the other is on its last legs. And you fight for their lives to the last. The chance that someone else will survive is one in a hundred. But where without naive hopes in this matter?
There are a thousand reasons in my life that make other people get rid of their pets: I live in a single room with negligent roommates, I have allergies, I don't have a permanent income, I don't have the time and energy, and in general I want to have an odd-eyed husky! In short, I am really more comfortable with animals than with people. Seeing the grateful eyes of your charges is happiness.
This summer I had the opportunity to participate in organizing one of the most impressive sporting events of this year - the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. I've always wanted to visit Brazil, see the statue of Christ on the mountain and dance salsa. I dreamed of looking at the Olympic Games “from the inside”, to find out how it all looks live, and not on a TV or computer screen.Of course, I was always interested in how such large-scale projects are organized, because not only athletes and organizers work at the Games, but also volunteers, of whom there were more than seventy thousand this year. In general, it would be foolish to miss such an opportunity.
I applied for participation in about a year and a half. You need to go through several stages of selection: first, they consider your application, then you take tests for knowledge of languages, and then an online interview in English. I had never done anything like this before and had very little experience of volunteering. It turned out that volunteering is not troublesome, but very, very interesting.
I got a lot of emotions, met a huge number of new people from different countries and working in completely different fields and really fell in love with sports. I was appointed to the translators department, my job was to translate the speech of athletes for Olympic television right after the competition. In the first days, of course, I was a little worried, I did not immediately remember the right words, I forgot something. But over time, I got used to it and wanted to work more and more, because it became really interesting: I talked with athletes, their coaches, journalists. It was unforgettable!
Volunteering helps to become a more open person - you learn to work in a team, in one team, to help others. She taught me to react quickly in emergency situations, when there is no time to think and you just need to make a decision, right here and now. The main thing that the Olympic Games gave me was communication. Volunteering is a great opportunity to communicate with various interesting people, learn something from them, tell something about us, and at the same time improve your English.
I think these Olympic Games were the starting point for my volunteer work. Having tasted once, you really get a taste. I have already applied for the Winter Olympics in Korea and am looking forward to being invited.
I went to a two-week volunteer program in 2013. I chose the place at random from the base of projects according to three criteria: Italy; so that it would not be exhaustingly hot in early July and sleep so that it was not necessary in tents in the forest. So I ended up in a village in the Alps between Milan and Turin. After the two-week project ended, I lived in the house for another month with long-term volunteers and helped them.
On the first project, we helped residents to improve the town and its surroundings. Places that could attract tourists were tidied up: for example, they cleared mountain paths suitable for trekking, removed huge boulders left over from glaciers several millennia ago. They rebuilt the old road, painted benches and wooden railing of bridges, carved out of wood and nailed notice boards.
Then I took part in two other projects. One was done by volunteers who came for a year. It was necessary to support the newly opened camp site: meet guests, do the cleaning, and prepare breakfast. Another project was cultural and historical: we cleared the paths of partisans who participated in the Italian Resistance, walked along their routes, stopping at monuments. We were shown a small museum of the Resistance, and one evening they invited a 90-year-old former intelligence officer who, with tears in his eyes, told us about his war. Volunteers hosted participants, prepared meals, made programs, and each of the foreign volunteers prepared a report on guerrilla movements in their countries.
Most of all, I remembered my communication with local residents, with whom I became very friends. Here, of course, my knowledge of Italian helped me a lot. It was the very real Italy that no tourist sees. No one speaks English there, and people over forty still speak a dialect among themselves, there is not a single hotel and almost not a single store, they look at unfamiliar faces with surprise.I also remember the atmosphere in the volunteer home: there you feel that you are united with others by a common good deed. All of you are here only because you are interested and need it, you have one goal and absolutely no need to prove or show anything to anyone. You just do as much as you can.
It's hard for me to say about the minuses - there weren't any. From an insignificant one, it was inconvenient to move around, because buses did not go to our villages at all. Every time, to get to a store or station, you had to ask someone to give you a lift. But if everyone was busy, then you had to walk for about two hours or hitchhike. It is important to remember that you choose the annual project from home and you cannot get to know people and the place where you are going to live in advance. I saw the period when the volunteers were there for only the second month, and I saw how psychologically difficult it was for them, despite the fact that the people and the atmosphere were very warm. I don't think I would have dared to go as a volunteer to an unfamiliar place for a year.
Photos: Coprid - stock.adobe.com, zneb076 - stock.adobe.com, Diana Taliun - stock.adobe.com, terex - stock.adobe.com, exopixel - stock.adobe.com