Diaries of a Volunteer. Five Petals of Kindness

28 october 2021

Help others by perfecting oneself. This motto is what Olga Bondareva, a student of Amur State University and a curator of the "Ya Dobrotvorets” (I am a creator of good) volunteering project in Amur Oblast, views as the project’s ultimate goal. The project brings together younger people who are ready to share their talent, creativity and warmth with others. In her volunteer’s diary, Olga discusses how one can come up with and implement a volunteering project.

Who are these creators of good?

The idea behind the project can be derived from its name. We do good through our creativity, by helping children. Our volunteers are mostly college and university students. Our team is made up of interesting and versatile people: musicians, artists, animators, presenters, athletes who are united by their love of art, fondness of children, and desire to help people. Our volunteers do what they have an inclination for and interest in: artists deliver drawing master classes whereas dancers teach choreography.

One could say that a creator of good acts as a bridge between the beneficiaries and their benefactors, they are young people who can and want to do good through various creative activities. By helping others, these young people get a chance to fulfill themselves, to develop their creative abilities, and to understand what they are capable of. That is why their motivation never ebbs. On the contrary, they have an even greater incentive to invent things and do something new.

Five petals. Who do we help?

"Ya Dobrotvorets” was established in 2015 in Kazan, inspired and initiated by Gulfiya Mutugullina. Today the project is being implemented in many regions, including Amur Oblast, covering 33 cities. The core of our team here in the region was formed last year. We invited future volunteers using various channels, including Amur Oblast’s Movement of Culture Volunteers.

The project's logo is a flower with five petals symbolizing the five foci of our work. These are: orphanages and social shelters; nursing homes for the elderly and for veterans; rehabilitation centers; foster and substitute families; families in distress. In order to be included in the scope of our project, an institution would need to leave an application on our website. We would then review it, check the details, age and other special characteristics of our future charges with the applicant, and then we will discuss with our volunteers the format and content of the upcoming activities. They can be anything: from quests to fun races, to master classes. The ultimate choice depends on the needs, age and abilities of those we visit. Our volunteers work with children of different ages - from 4 to 18.

How do we operate?

We prepare for each event very thoroughly trying to anticipate all potential contingencies. We determine who is going to be responsible for what, we buy necessary props, costumes, etc. When we are about to visit with small children we put on special kugurumi onesies, as children seem to like them very much.

When you work with children, you need to find a unique way to interact with each of them. Hence, the need to have professional teachers and psychologists involved. I am myself a psychologist and a teacher by background and I understand very well that when you conduct master classes you have to be mindful of the children’s age and state of health. If we need to do something for children with special developmental needs, we always invite a specialist from a specialized organization. He or she would tell our volunteers how to behave around such children, what to look out for, how long to have them engaged for, what is okay to be done and what is not.

Contests, grants and plans

We already have had some experience participating in grant contests, and we have received grant support from the Progressiya Volunteering Resource Center, Open World Charity, and the Regional Government’s Resource Center. 2021 was the first year when we took part in SIBUR's social investment program’s grant contest, and we won it. We had decided to submit our application because this year we want to extend our coverage beyond the boundaries of Blagoveshchensk and reach out to more cities, and this would require financial support. Our winning in SIBUR's contest means that we are now able to fulfil our plans. We intend to hold 15 creative events this autumn including master classes, concerts, contests, athletic competitions and visits of public welfare institutions in Svobodny, Ivanovka, and Belogorsk. We already conducted a preparatory stage in August involving volunteer training. We are now thinking about further activities, for example, we are working on a project to teach children a foreign language through singing. We are really eager to create and share our creativity.