Alyona Sergeyeva on developing volunteering in the region
18 october 2021
What does drive people to get into volunteering? To help others, to be a part of positive change. One can either become a volunteer supporting an existing project, or come up with an idea of one’s own and see it through to fruition.
How can one traverse the distance between having an idea and making it a reality? Does one need to possess special skills and knowledge? What needs to be done to make a project work? Alyona Sergeyeva, an employee of SiburTyumenGaz, a chief specialist with the Regional Center, and an ambassador of the Formula for Good Deeds program in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug – Yugra, shared her insights into what it takes to implement a volunteering project.
How did I become a volunteer?
I have always tried to be helpful. In 2017, I became a volunteer at my employer’s company and started taking part in corporate contests of volunteering projects with my creative ideas. Any willing employee can enter an application for a contest and, should they win, they will get a grant to implement their project and will be entitled to attending an educational program for volunteers.
My very first winning project, the Flower World, won in the 2018 contest. It laid the ground to my subsequent cooperation with a social shelter previously known as the Aistenok orphanage that is home to children aged 3 to 18 left without parental care. As part of our project, we did several things: we planted flower seedlings together with the children, we gave several lessons where we discussed various types of plants, how to care for them, talked about flower-growing professions, and we organized crafts and cooking classes. We also arranged a trip to a resort where we had fun races and played board games together.
Why do I do it?
All my projects are aimed at children who find themselves in a difficult situation in their lives. I am very fond of children and I want to work with them. My occupation has nothing to do with children and yet volunteering gives me an opportunity to help make people’s dreams come true, do something good for these kids, make their lives a little bit happier.
Everything I do comes from the bottom of my heart and my soul. I never think about prizes or letters of appreciation, and I don't expect to be thanked for what I do. I just do what I find important. Over the time that I have been working with children, I have grown very attached to them. People often ask me why I like working with children that much and my answer to that is: because they are sincere, they smile at you, they look forward to seeing you. You always get a boost of positive emotions from interacting with them.
The 2021 theme of the volunteering projects’ contest is ecology, and so I came up with an idea of holding eco-workshops for our children. These include six workshops covering a variety of topics and helping to instill an interest in and a responsible attitude toward one’s environment, teaching children about the contribution they can make to conserving nature.
The very first eco-workshop is designed as a class-taught lesson. The kids will be learning about the importance of addressing environmental challenges and we will try to get them involved in environmental research. The second stage is the workshop per se where they’ll be learning to make the world an eco-friendlier place, for example, by reducing waste, or by showing them how to give a new lease of life to old things by making a toy or converting them into a useful household item. This will be followed by an eco-game designed to familiarize its participants with how ecosystems function. We also intend to make a bulletin board dedicated to environmental protection and to build a bird or a squirrel feeder. And, finally, there will be a tour of Metallobaza, a facility where recyclable materials get converted into interesting and useful item such as sculptures or benches.
Our project team
Our team consists of three people, my two coworkers Yana and Maria, and myself. But our team also includes our children and our loved ones. Without the support of our families, it would have been very difficult to implement everything that we plan to do. We are often joined by "outside" volunteers. For example, we may be in the middle of a discussion talking about organizing a master class and someone would say: "I know someone who is good at drawing or taking photographs, someone who is creative and wants to share their skills with children," and so later on that person becomes one of our volunteers.
At the planning stage, we discuss who can lead which master class and what its tentative dates would be, we assign responsibilities and, if necessary, we buy consumables. We try to involve professionals in our projects to ensure that the children do not only enjoy the class but they can also learn something new, get acquainted with new professions and possibly pick them as their future occupations. Sometimes we may have trouble agreeing on the time of the event right away so that it's convenient for everyone. Some people, for example, can only do volunteer work on weekends or in the morning because they all have job commitments and families. We have had to postpone our environmental workshops by a month because the children we’re doing them for are leaving for a camp, and, as a result, the first lesson of our workshop will not be held until October.
How to come up with an idea of one’s own project
It is very important to understand the difference between charity and volunteering. Volunteering is not about providing financial support, rather it is one’s personal contribution to dealing with a problem. A volunteer is a person who spends his own time, energy, and resources. You need to think about how you can contribute to the effort, what you can take part in, what you can make with your own hands. For example, one can organize a game or a master class, arrange a course, clean up an animal cage, play with children, help them with their homework.
In my opinion, it is important to make sure that the project is not a one-off occasion, but an ongoing effort, especially so if it involves children. Only then can one count on reaching a result, having an effect.
I can no longer imagine that I will not be visiting with these children. I know for a fact that even if there are no more grants or there is no team, I will still be there continuing to help children grow and develop.