Volunteers' support

by Shag Navstrechu, St. Petersburg Public Charity Organization for Disabled Children and Adults
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support
Volunteers' support

We always like to think about the motivation. Why people choose working in a charitable organization? Why does our team take everyday train to the orphanage, tolerate the system and its difficulties? We thought that the best way to find out - is to ask our collegues and volunteers to find out. Here's the interview of Marat - our volunteer.

Why did you become a volunteer?

I wished to do something useful for people. Volunteering in «Shag Navstrechu» is my first experience.

What is your first experience of visiting PNI (psychoneurological orphanage)?

My first visit to PNI was quite emotional. Talking about interior, in my opinion, there was quite a presentable atmosphere. It was slightly unusual to communicate with guys from PNI but I became used to it quickly.

What is the aim of your work?

Usually, I take care of Misha S. He is a young man, who left an orphaned home for PNI. I try to support him while walking (usually they don’t walk with him often), speak, do some easy activities (coloring books and other). He is a quiet guy who likes to color books, walk in the streets. Unfortunately, due to problems with health, our communication is quite limited; however, I like how the progress is going.

How did you choose «Shag Navstrechu»?

When I looked for those whom I could help as a volunteer, I was attracted by the possibility to help children and location as well. Unfortunately, due to my work schedule I could not visit the orphan home; however, they offered me the variant with PNI.

How long have you been volunteering for «Shag Navstrechu»?

Since February 2019.

 What do you think are there any gaps in “Shag Navstrechu” activity? What are the “Shag Navstrechu” achievements, what could we be proud of?

 Concerning gaps – I can say nothing.

Concerning achievements – I like several projects, which «Shag Navstrechu» organizes, or participates in: master-classes, visits to festivals, etc. As well, in comparison with my start, cooperation with PNI has been improved. There were cases, when we were not allowed to enter PNI, etc. Nowadays everything is so much easier.

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We continue to tell you about our volunteers - people who come everyday to care about our children. People whose work is possible thanks to you. Here's a story of Liza who came to Shag Navstrechu long ago and now is a head of the department. 

"I came to the organization so long ago that the volunteering leaflets were hanging on the noticebord. It was one of the days in February when I saw that an orphanage was seeking volunteers.

When I arrived at the orphanage for the first time, I sensed a slightly foul smell (by the way, now it’s almost gone). I was taken to see the groups: 15 children in each, there was no school at all (now there are 5 children in each group, and most of them attend to school or kindergarten part-time). But back then, when kids were sitting there…I wanted to leave and take a shower as soon as possible just to wash that foul smell off.

At that time there were a lot of children living in the building, who could speak, and I will never forget Madina’s eyes, when she looked at me and asked if I would come again. At home I was in the shower for 40 minutes thinking what I could give those children. I finished with a clear understanding that I was ready to and wanted to go back.

The second shocking thing was that I was “assigned” to a group of boys (although I wanted and asked for girls). 15 boys who got sick all together at once and were blowing their noses while sneezing at me. It was crazy. Sometimes I thought I wasn’t made for it. But then there came the ordinary day, when I realized that everything inside me turned upside down: it was raining outside; Lyosha and I were playing in the group. Lyosha didn’t really like talking to people and wasn’t attached to anyone. But that time he was sitting on a windowsill, looking at raindrops, and suddenly said “I love Liza”. I asked him to repeat, and he did. I couldn’t hold my tears as I realized that it all was worth it".


Liza Z.

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We asked one of our volunteers to tell us more about  her work in the orphanage. And here's a lillte interview we've got:)

"This isn't your first volunteer year – you're sort of a 'veteran' of this project. What makes you come back again and again?"

“Of course, it's love. Love for my children, love for my team. Every morning, when I step onto the territory of the orphanage, I hear merry children shouts who, by seeing me, race towards me to hug me first. This is the happiness and the best morning for me. At this moment I get overflown with all kinds of emotions realizing that they miss me so much, that they need. When you communicate with such children, like ours, you understand that the life is something very simple and light. There seem to be so many problems, but you start looking differently when you communicate with people with disabilities at least for one day. Something triggers, you quit complaining and realize you have to appreciate what you have”.

"How much have been changed since you appeared both in the organization and the orphanage itself?”

When I returned for my second volunteer year, it was very noticeable that the staff realized the necessity and importance of volunteers for children, for themselves. Personally, I feel appreciated when someone comes to me and asks if they can help me in lots of different situations. And in those groups, which, sadly, have no volunteers, wait for new helpers. In “Shag Navstrechu” all the changes are only for the best. These people are my second family/ They are helping me to make my dream of working with children come true”.

“After working here for so many years you have a huge amount of experience. What advice would you give now to you, who has just come to the orphanage to work?”

“I'll never forget my first day in the orphanage. Most of the people come into “Shag” by learning about it from the internet, but I've got here because of the working in the orphanage neighbor. She has seen my love for children and realized that they need me here a lot. I've come, looked and stayed under the great impression, withdrew in myself for several days. I've got myself on the
thought that I can't stop thinking about children. I've been seeing them even in my dreams. My husband has noticed that and said:”Perhaps that's not for you”. Then I thought:”Why not for me? I'm strong, I can handle that.”So nowadays I'd say to myself to not be afraid, to throw aside fear and doubts and go ahead bravely.”

“Your family and friends know what you're doing. What's the most frequent question about your work you hear from them?”

“They frequently ask me:”Aren't you afraid of going there? Those children aren't usual after all”. Or “Aren't you afraid of this king of communication? You never know what to expect”. I try to explain that our children live in their own world, our world is unknown and strange for them. We try to tell and show some children how we live. We try to explain that you have to pay for food when you go into a store, after all, they are used to having already prepared food. Also, I tell that everyone has their individual approach, and with love and support everything will be fine. But the most important for me is the support of my family. My husband has instantly approved my decision, and recently in one conversation said that he is very glad for me, for me doing that I love. He feels that, because for all these years he doesn't remember a single day when I would've waken up and said:”This work again. I don't want to go”. Yet he said it'd be nice if everyone could find such work to which they would go, feeling only positive emotions.”

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We wanted to share with you a little interview of one  of our volunteers Dora, who came to Russia couple months ago. We asked her about her life, decision to come to Russia and her work with kids with disabilities.

 Here it is:

—Tell a little bit about yourself. 

—My name is Dora, I’m 21, I’m from Hungary. I study at university with a system of special education. After graduation I’ll become a speech therapist for kids with disabilities and mental disorder.

 —Where did you learn about our organization and why did you actually decide to come to Russia not some other country?

—I decided to have a gap year to get some practical experience and test myself at work. That’s why I was looking for an EVS project, that would correspond to my specialty. There were a lot of them. Even though I was approved for a few of them I chose Saint Petersburg anyway, because it’s a big city with lots of opportunities.

 —Have you already worked with kids who has disabilities or mental disorder?

—Yes, I have. At university practice where I also worked as a volunteer. In addition, I used to be a horse rider and helped at the horse club every summer. There was a hippotherapy. Probably at that moment I realized that’s what I want to do.

 —How much does the job here differ from what you did before?

—In Hungary I mostly worked with children with autism and Down syndrome. Here’re different children, and there’re more other diagnoses. Moreover, besides mental disorder the majority of children has physical disabilities.

 —What do you like the most in working with children and Shag navstrechu foundation?

—I love walking with kids, because I can speak Russian with them and even learn some new words if it’s necessary. Sometimes I don’t speak at all if it’s more convenient for a child. I also love painting with children, watch them drawing, and analyze why he chose an exact color, an exact form, why he tore a sheet or why he wants me to paint for him. It’s very exciting.

 In Shag navstrechu I love a friendly environment and a feeling of mutual help. This is very important—volunteers see they aren’t alone in a new place where they don’t even know what to do. Here they’re among friends, I would say—in a family. I remember my first week at the foundation: my coordinator Natalya guided me, showed me around, explained everything. It’s amazing how everybody support each other here.

 —What stories and myths about Russia did you hear before coming here? Did they come true?

—About bears, of course! But actually nobody said anything bad. Although, when I said I was going to Russia for 10 months, some people, just in case, specified if I was sure and all. There were people who said that Russians are not very friendly, but I think such people are everywhere, that’s not the point. Yes, some people here are not very frank with me, but that’s because I don’t speak much Russian.

 —The last question: what Russian word is the most difficult for you to pronounce?

—All of them! To talk seriously the most difficult one is zdravstvujte (hello). That’s the first word you say to a person when you see him. It creates the first impression of you, so you’d better pronounce it correctly. But this word scares me every time when I have to say hello to someone! And yet prepodavatel (teacher, professor) is hard, too. I don’t even try to pronounce it.


Dear friends, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thank you for supporting our kids, we hope that you'll consider donating again.

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Today we asked our volunteer Julian who came from Austria to share impressions on his voluntary year within Erasmus + Youth program in our organization (sic):

«My name is Julian Flandorfer and by the end of September this year my first year of European Voluntary Service in the charitable organization Shag Navstrechu (Step Forward) will have finished.

The hardest period of my stay in Russia mentally were the first couple of weeks. Moreover, I have never been to Russia before and I have stayed without my parents for the first time and had to care about my daily routine myself. Also this was the first time I’ve worked in summer not being on a summer internship.

Before joining EVS I was doing aikido and I decided to continue doing dojo not to stop developing myself. As I have already been familiar with aikido, this helped a lot understand what people were talking about, thus these classes became useful also in terms of learning Russian language.

Children and teens living in an orphanage understand the world in a different way, and this is what I am interested in. They often make me think about what is considered to be common and how behavior of people who have unfortunately grown up in partial isolation from the rest of the world and society is different.

After a few months and especially after summer camps new jokes appeared between kids and volunteers, as well as common interests and a relaxed atmosphere that allowed everybody to develop.

In conclusion I advise those who haven’t done it yet to live longterm in another country: it gives amazing opportunities for developing oneself, your linguistic and social skills, self-sufficiency and a lot more!»

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Project Leader:
Leila Ismailova
St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Russia

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