Yekaterina Shevyakova: Ask yourself about all the good things that you can do in your lifetime

18 july 2022

Our July "About people and good deeds" column commemorating Corporate Volunteering Day celebrated on July 17, features an interview with Yekaterina Shevyakova, a technician with SIBUR-Neftekhim, discussing the contest of SIBUR employees’ volunteering projects and strategies for homing in on the right idea for a volunteering project.

Yekaterina, in keeping with the long-standing tradition of our interviews, let us start with how it all began. How did you become involved in volunteering?

It all started when I attended the Rhythm Territory, a forum for entrepreneurs in Nizhegorodskaya Oblast organized by Roman Ponomarenko. As I am myself a disabled person, assessed to suffer from of a disability of the second degree of severity, I was keen to learn what else I could dedicate myself to apart from my day job. At the forum, I got to meet some interesting people who presented several of their social entrepreneurship projects. I particularly liked one of those ideas but I needed financial resources to get the project off the ground. A colleague of mine suggested that I could try and accomplish that by taking part in a contest of SIBUR’s employees’ volunteering projects. We put together an application and ended up getting a grant. That's how I got into volunteering.

Why do you continue being a volunteer? What drives Yekaterina Shevyakova, the volunteer?

I like to do good and be kind to those around me. I enjoy seeing smiles on people's happy faces after I see my projects through to completion. It is people’s gratitude that gives me additional strength and motivation to want to do more.

You have quite a few successful initiatives under your belt. Let's look at them one by one. Together with Maria Halak, you implemented your Zateynitsa project, and then you did a follow-on to this activity with your Workshop of Miracles project this year. What are these projects about?

The main objective of these projects is to help people with disabilities with their socialization and integration into society. Although our region (Ed. Note: Nizhegorodskaya Oblast) has been paying a lot of attention to assisting people with disabilities in dealing with their problems, we decided that these efforts could still be dovetailed with activities meant to help them unleash their creative potential. That’s how we started teaching disabled individuals to do clay modeling and to operate a potter's wheel. People are very eager to attend these classes; none of the participants has yet missed a single class.

This year, the Formula for Good Deeds program has been expanded to include one more focus area, Inclusivity. Why in your opinion is it important to implement inclusive projects? What do they provide to society?

Our society needs to be made aware that all people are different and that there are people with special needs among them. It seems to me that inclusivity is a way to help society acknowledge and get comfortable with this idea.

Is it possible to make any project inclusive? If so, how would you go about making this happen?

I’d say, yes, it probably is. You could accomplish this by, say, getting people with disabilities involved as volunteers and utilizing to the full the potential people with special needs have, so that everyone could find an activity that suits him or her best.

Do volunteers who help people with disabilities need to have any special training?

It seems to me that no such kind of training would be necessary. The main thing is to be able to accept the other person the way he or she is and to interact with people without focusing one’s negative attention on their counterparts’ individual traits and abilities.

In 2020, your project Keeping the Memory of a Hero Alive took part in the Marathon of Good Deeds, a special grant contest for volunteers dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Victory Day. What did you manage to accomplish by implementing this project?

I had always wanted to contribute personally to helping keep alive the memory of our country’s victory in the Great Patriotic War. I had learned about the existence of a neglected grave of Yefreitor (PFC) Alexander Merkeyev, a Great Patriotic War hero and a sniper who killed 39 enemy troops on the border with the Baltic republics and during the battle to liberate the Crimea, for which he was awarded 2nd and 3rd class orders. We cleared his overgrown tomb off of grass and shrubbery, erected a monument with Alexander Merkeyev’s portrait and installed a tombstone detailing his military feats, built a new fence around the grave, and planted perennial flowers. Following that, we found and contacted his relatives and held a vigil in memory of the fallen hero next to the restored tomb. We also attended a homeroom period in a Dzerzhinsk secondary school using this as an opportunity to present the first-graders in attendance with information about World War Two and specifically about Alexander Merkeyev.

One of your initiatives is called We’ll never leave one in the lurch. Please tell us more about it.

A friend of a friend of mine suffered a terrible misfortune: her house burned down. She is disabled and she raises two children. Knowing about my volunteer work, she contacted me and asked for help. And I thought of an idea of turning this into a volunteering project. We sent an application to a contest of volunteering projects for SIBUR’s employees, and eventually found ourselves among the contest’s winners again. Using the grant’s funds, we were able to dismantle the part of the house affected by the fire and transfer a lot of debris to a landfill.

You are a regular participant of training webinars conducted under the auspices of the Formula for Good Deeds. What are some new and useful things that an experienced volunteer such as yourself can learn at these webinars?

Each webinar is interesting in its own way. As an example, I would reference a recent webinar on improving projects’ sustainability. I found this topic to be very relevant because I want all of my implemented initiatives to keep living on.

You have been involved in initiatives spanning a broad range of different topical areas. How do you go about zeroing in on the idea for your next project? Is there some kind of universal algorithm behind it, perhaps?

I try to talk to people whenever I can, attend various fora. My ideas are usually born out of such meetings and discussions. So, there is no universal algorithm, as life itself is capable of providing ideas for one’s next project.

We now turn to the readers of this interview who might be thinking about getting themselves involved in doing good things. Where does one start? What is the first step one needs to take?

The first thing you need to do is to do some reflecting and dreaming about all the good things you could do in your lifetime. And then learn to use the opportunities that present themselves by, say, submitting a grant application to a contest of SIBUR’s employees’ volunteering projects.

How challenging is it to take part in this contest? What can you recommend to your colleagues who have not yet braced themselves to enter the contest?

The Formula for Good Deeds program is run by a really great team. Its experts are always there for you, offering advice and helping with publicity or with looking for volunteers. All SIBUR’s employees who have not yet decided to enter in the contest need to realize that they won’t be left hung out to dry with their project.

And finally, a question about your further plans. What campaigns are you going to carry out?

In the spring, I submitted two more proposals for my volunteering projects. And just the other day I learned that one of these projects, We’ll never leave one in the lurch: Continued, ended up being chosen as one of the contest’s winning projects, something I am very happy about! So, our plans for August and September are all set: we will continue helping the young family whose house burned down last year remove the remaining burnt-down parts of the house so they can proceed with building a new house. We also intend to make an instructional video on preventing house fires.

Dear readers! Should you have any questions about participating in SIBUR’s volunteering campaigns and initiatives, including providing assistance to the young Dzerzhinsk family whose house burned down and whom Yekaterina Shevyakova has been helping, contact SIBUR’s volunteering program’s coordinators at: +7 (963) 641-39-68,