Of one’s own will: Volunteer movement in Moscow

Of one’s own will: Volunteer movement in Moscow
Moscow is hosting the Creative Forum, a major event for the city volunteer movement. This year, it coincides with Volunteer Day established by the Russian President.

They visit seniors in nursing homes, donate blood, look for mission people, offer invaluable help to the organisers of large sporting and other events. And they do it all for free, and of their own will. The word “volunteer” is self-explanatory; it stems from the Latin voluntarius which means “of free will.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared 2018 the Year of the Volunteer in Russia. And on 27 November, he established Volunteer Day to be held on 5 December. Today, on 14 December, the Russian capital is hosting the Creative Forum, the main event of the year for the Moscow volunteer community. Mos.ru is looking into the work of volunteers in Moscow, why you should try it too at least once, and how volunteers will be used during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

What is Mosvolonter?

The Mosvolonter Resource Centre of the Moscow Public Relations Committee is the biggest volunteer organisation in the capital. It was set up in 2014 to promote and develop the volunteer movement. It currently has around 400 socially-oriented NGOs as partners and has opened volunteer centres in 45 universities and institutions across the city.

The volunteer movement in Moscow includes about 50,000 people, with 8,000 being the core of the community. More than a thousand volunteers participate in ten or more large evens every year.

Volunteers take part in all kinds of projects and engage in many different ways. They work with seriously ill children and adults in hospitals and hospices; help the elderly who need assistance or just someone to talk to; and participate in environmental protection campaigns. Also, members of the volunteer movement are of great help during major events like the Olympic Games, the Confederations Cup or the forthcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Moscow volunteers have set ten priority areas of work for themselves: participating in large city events, public safety, and donation as well as social, medical, business, environmental, patriotic and art volunteering. Art volunteering, probably, sounds like the oddest of them. It is about helping within city cultural formats: in parks, museums and theatres.

Who is a Mosvolonter?

The desire to help brings people of all ages, genders, confessions and ethnicities together, without restriction. But a typical Moscow volunteer is a woman under 30 with a college degree.

Some statistical details:

— 75 percent of the Moscow volunteer movement are people between 14 and 30; 14 percent are between 30 to 45; and 11 percent are older than 45

— 75 percent are women, and 25 percent are men

— more than 63 percent are with  higher education

— 85 percent use the internet on a daily basis

Main question: Why?

What prompts people to help strangers for free? Many volunteers simply want to make things better for someone else. Some try to improve their neighbourhood, city or country (depending on one’s ambitions). Others want to share their experience and repay good with good (perhaps, at some point they, too, got help from volunteers). There are other, less poetic, reasons: volunteers may want to network, spend some free time or just talk to people if this is what they lack in their daily life. But this in no way devalues the results.

By the way, different age groups tend to have different motivations. Young people appreciate the opportunity to acquire useful skills, spend time with peers and have some fun, while for older people altruism is among the key reasons.

Give it a try—you might like it

If you still wonder about volunteering, there is a simple trick. Imagine a situation or an issue that you have never really cared about and ask yourself: how does this concern me personally? It usually turns out that the seemingly irrelevant problems of strangers concern everybody in one way or another.

It is easy to become a volunteer. Simply go to the websites of the Mosvolonter or the Dushevnaya Moskva (Kindhearted Moscow) project, choose a preferred area of work, sign up and start doing some good.

World Cup around the corner

Volunteering is not always about looking for missing people or helping the elderly or those with serious illnesses. A helping hand is needed in all kinds of areas—a wide range to choose from. International sporting events are, probably, the most emotionally rewarding.

Moscow volunteers are about to start preparing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup that will run from 14 June through 15 July 2018.

They will deal with many different issues. For example, volunteers that signed up for the City Events category will help with cultural programmes in the city centre and in parks. Volunteers for the Tourist Routes group will tell guests about the sights and interesting walking routes. The Medical Service group will be helping medical workers, while the Transport volunteers will be meeting football fans at airports and railway stations. There will also be the Information Centres, Media Relations, and Last Mile groups. And on top of that — Fan Fest — a huge venue at Vorobyovy Gory with all matches broadcast live.