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Read the article on why people become volunteers, how the pandemic affected the development of volunteering, and how to start doing good deeds.

Resource Center “Mosvolonter”February 21 is seven years old. During this time, tens of thousands of Muscovites joined the volunteer movement, but volunteering became truly massive during the pandemic. Since the beginning of 2020, participants in the “We Are Together” campaign have completed 46 thousand applications: volunteers have delivered food and medicine to the citizens, observing the home regime, and helped with walking pets.

On the walls of the organization’s central office are portraits of smiling people. Teachers, managers, students, academics, senior executives, even retirees have all become part of the volunteer movement.

How Mosvolonter is developing today, said the director of the resource center Dmitry Pokrovsky.

To make the world kinder

– The Mosvolonter Center is seven years old. How has the volunteer movement changed over the years?

“When the Mosvolonter resource center was just being created, it was an initiative group of like-minded people who wanted to develop volunteering. At that time, the Olympic Games were held in Sochi, then it was possible to talk about event-driven volunteering tied to large-scale events.

Today Mosvolonter has become the flagship not only for Moscow, but also for Russia. It is the largest resource center in the country. We are not just recruiting people, Mosvolonter as a whole coordinates volunteer activities in the community. Our main task is to help develop local volunteer centers. We develop a culture of good deeds in the country. The more people are immersed in this culture, the more we influence society and, as in our motto, “make the world kinder.”

– It turns out that you form a way of thinking?

– We form the way of thinking and the right habits. We help to develop volunteer centers in universities, colleges, schools, volunteer corps of non-profit organizations. We are building a complete system of volunteer work. Our task is to help organize training processes, find experts, partners and those who need help. It turns out that globally we connect everyone who in one way or another is involved in helping people in Moscow.

– Has the coronavirus become a catalyst for the development of volunteering?

– Let me give you an illustrative example. If five thousand volunteers took part in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and they were collected from all over Moscow, then in 2020 the mutual assistance campaign “We are Together” during the pandemic attracted 23 thousand people. And many of them had never volunteered before.

According to our data, in Moscow by the end of 2020, 560 thousand people are associated with volunteering. More than 120 thousand people are registered on our website alone.

Volunteers without borders

– Are there any restrictions on becoming a volunteer?

– Absolutely none, we have volunteers without borders. The youngest is 14, the oldest is 83. By the way, the concept of “silver volunteer” has become very relevant. These are older people, active Muscovites who no longer work and who have a lot of free time. They do not want to stay at home and are ready to help others.

We also have inclusive volunteers. People with disabilities can also help others and participate in activities. We have a vivid example – a volunteer Alexander, a wheelchair user. He himself does not fulfill the delivery requests, but he helps the volunteer girl, whom he takes on assignments.

– How are volunteers trained?

– We have many programs that are logically connected. There is a basic program for those who have never encountered volunteering. It is important to understand that volunteering is not just about catching someone and doing him good, the most important thing is not to harm. You need to know the specifics, especially when working with certain categories of people.

There are programs for organizers of volunteer centers, for leaders, a program for schoolchildren “First Step” – on interaction and development of volunteer teams in schools. We are developing it together with the Department of Education. Programs for colleges and universities will appear this year.

– Can a volunteer “burn out”?

– Of course, you can get tired of everything, be disappointed in everything. It happens that a volunteer provides assistance, and in response receives an aggressive reaction. The most important thing is to give yourself some rest. Volunteering is not a job, there is no place for perfectionism or pursuit of achievements. Taking a break, changing the field of activity is normal. Today, not a single volunteer is tied to a specific direction.

When there are no unimportant tasks

– Who does Mosvolonter help, what tasks does it solve?

– Help is needed on all fronts, so we do not have a question “Who?” Volunteers help not only people, but also animals, actively interact with shelters. So, in 2020, within the framework of only one action, more than two tons of feed were collected.

If at the start we had about five areas of activity, today there are more than 10. We help nature – this is environmental volunteering. There is media volunteering, when people are engaged in social media promotion, photography and video filming, and writing texts.

Media volunteers have implemented the “Good Badges” campaign. They made 6,000 personal badges with photographs of doctors who work in the “red” zones, because patients cannot see their faces.

Another new direction – auto volunteering – has also become relevant during the pandemic. Car volunteers help doctors get to the hospital or other volunteers who deliver groceries. This area has enormous potential: during the coronavirus, about two thousand people expressed their readiness to help regularly.

Family volunteering began to develop. People are joining our movement with whole families.

– Moscow volunteers have participated in many major events. In your opinion, what was the main challenge for the volunteers?

– For us, any business is a challenge. Wherever there are difficulties, volunteers are ready to help. So new directions appear and whole projects are born. For example, when elderly Muscovites went into self-isolation, the yard cats were left without food. The animals were starving because people stopped leaving their homes. This is how the “Feed” project was born. The volunteers saw the problem, gathered an initiative group, found partners, started collecting food and began to rescue the animals.

Recently, our volunteers went to the cultural heritage site – the Yusupov Palace. They cleared it of snow that could have damaged the historic building. There are no unimportant tasks for us.

– How is targeted assistance organized?

– We have a large partner base of Moscow NGOs – about 1.5 thousand organizations. On the one hand, there are those who need volunteers. These are non-profit organizations, business, executive power, social institutions. On the other hand, there are volunteer centers that are ready to help. Our task is to coordinate them.

Mosvolonter also has experts – they are engaged in training, help to develop social projects. Non-profit organizations seek daily advice, help in organizing volunteer corps, and in training. More than 35 thousand people have already been trained in various fields. We plan to do more of this work this year.

– Are there any plans to spread the experience outside of Moscow?

– We are always open to cooperation. Just a few minutes before the interview, my colleagues wrote to me that another region is asking about an agreement on interaction. We already have this experience, we are actively helping the country, giving advice on how to develop.

We hope that our mobility program will be launched this year – an interesting project for Moscow volunteers. We will be able to direct them to large events of any format outside the region.

Sergei Sobyanin thanked volunteers for their work during the pandemicSergei Sobyanin thanked volunteers and social workers for their help during the pandemic

City help

– How are volunteers supported by the city authorities?

– From the very beginning of the pandemic, all parking lots for car volunteers of the We Are Together campaign were free. This is a lot of support, especially for those completing applications. All walking volunteers receive from the Moscow Department of Transport and Road Infrastructure Development free travel passes. At the moment, more than 24 thousand of them have been issued. Our volunteers receive free tickets to theaters, exhibitions and excursions.

We provide a comfortable and beautiful shape that people often wear in everyday life. Volunteers must receive meals during their shifts. Volunteers receive letters of thanks, which especially helps schoolchildren: most universities in Moscow give additional points upon admission for having a certain number of hours of volunteering.

– Is it realistic to ensure that volunteering becomes an integral part of the life of every Muscovite?

– Definitely yes. More generally, we realized that the main idea is not just to create a culture of good deeds. It is important to create a volunteer environment. It captures more and more Muscovites every day. Our global task is to immerse all Muscovites in it. To find yourself in the midst of good deeds, it is enough to reason and act correctly. For example, if I see a person lying on the ground, I will not pass by. I’ll go over and see if I can be of help. Seven years ago, we would not have seen what we saw after the recent snowfall – Muscovites helped each other, the whole yard went out to dig out other people’s cars. People are ready to do good deeds.

Volunteering is the way to go. Someone comes to this at eight years old, someone at fifty. There is no need to wait for something or hope for a miracle. Just go out and help the neighbors, and tomorrow they will help you.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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