Volunteering unites: the story of Yulia and Alexander

14 february 2022

We are often asked if it is appropriate to participate in volunteering initiatives together with one’s family members and friends. Our answer is a resounding yes! We even insist on it as there are never enough helpers with what we do, and anyone can discover something that they’ll enjoy doing.

February 14 is St. Valentine's Day, the day of lovers. We used this occasion to interview the Silchenko family, employed at Tobolsk’s ZapSibNeftekhim. Yulia is a specialist in ordering design documents while Alexander is an expert. This year their family is turning 15. Since 2020, they have been active participants in various charitable and volunteering activities implemented under the auspices of the Formula for Good Deeds.

They told us about their volunteering journey, how they got their own children involved in doing good deeds, why they haul plastics from their native Magnitogorsk to Tobolsk, and what their family volunteering plans are this year.

Yulia, can you tell us a few things about your family? Do you remember who it was in your family who got involved volunteering first?

Our family is turning 15 years old this year. And our principal family treasure is our children: Polina and Semyon who are very involved in all of our family affairs and activities, volunteering included. To us, volunteering is no longer just a hobby or something we do in our spare time. It is already become an integral part of our lives. And I want to thank our own parents for bringing us up compassionate people who want to help those in need.

It's hard to say which one of us was the first one who got into volunteering. It seems to me that, to varying degrees, we have been doing this all our lives. I can remember, for example, helping my classmates at school get good grades in art classes because they were poor draughstsmen, and I also remember visiting war veterans to wish them a happy Victory Day.

Last year, your family was involved in many of the Formula for Good Deeds activities. Is there something you prefer doing? And if so, why?

We started to take part in events such as these back when we still worked at the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works. And then we continued doing that here in Tobolsk deriving great pleasure out of it. Whenever possible we try to help those who really needs help. But we are especially proud to take part in charity activities that are related to children and their needs. Childhood is the happiest time in one’s life, and we want to make sure that not only our own children have a happy childhood, but also those who, for one reason or another, are deprived of that. That is the reason why, having successfully completed all of our projects under the Formula for Good Deeds program, we became volunteers at the Tobolsk orphanage. We try to share our kindness, caring attitude, and warmth with the younger children there while trying to become friends and mentors for the older kids.

We’re also very interested in being involved in eco-volunteering. Generally speaking, the subject of conservation resonates with us very strongly. We believe that we cannot afford to keep taking things from the nature, such as its resources and riches, we need to also give something back. As a result, our friends and acquaintances in Magnitogorsk are no longer surprised when, during our visits there, we start collecting plastic waste to take it home to Tobolsk, because over there are no dedicated containers for separate waste collection.

What is volunteering for you? Why do you do it?

We think that a volunteer is, first and foremost, someone who helps others without expecting or asking for anything in return. It is a voluntary mission you are drawn to with all your heart. It gives us a lot of joy. If we can help someone by offering our advice, or by doing something for them, or in any other way, we do that gladly. Happiness is when each of us can do something good and kind for those around us, make the world a better place, offer our smiles and care to those who need it. We try to instill this attitude in our children as well.

And how did you start to involve your own children in volunteering? Did you follow some kind of a plan?

There is a saying that you don't need to educate your children, all you have to do is educate yourself. That's exactly what we did. Both Polina and Semyon can see what their mother and father do every day as they gather and take things to the
Humanitarian Aid Depot, sort garbage on their balcony, or take part in charity events at stores. Over time, they, too, started to wonder what volunteering was about and how they could participate in all those projects and activities. Through our example we show it to both our children and relatives that volunteering is not a hard thing to do and that anyone can perform good deeds. Polina has grown and has already taken part in a number of projects and activities on her own or by helping us with our projects. And our three-year-old son Semyon already knows that he needs to give his dad some pine nuts to feed squirrels and birds before he leaves for work, or that he has to put his toy wrapping into a "recycling" container.

This year you won a grant to implement your third project, codenamed "Zero Waste!" What is this project about? Do you plan to involve your children or other family members in it?

To be honest, it was Polina who was the mastermind behind this idea for the project. She had taken a part in the marathon event of the
Russian Movement of School Students where she learned about the Zero Waste concept. As it turned out, we had been practicing this concept in our family for a long time without knowing it, and that it was a very easy and simple thing to do.

Polina suggested that we should present it to as many adults and children as possible. And so together we submitted an application to a contest of volunteering projects. Upon learning that we had won, she took on the responsibility for preparing the project for its further implementation. In short, the project will tell the story of conscious consumption in accordance with the 5R principles which are the at heart of the Zero Waste concept:

1.     Rethink

2.     Refuse

3.     Reduce

4.     Reuse

5.     Recycle

All these principles are a means to reducing our harmful impact on the environment. More detailed information will be provided later in the course of the project’s implementation.

And finally, let me ask you about your further plans. What charitable activities do you plan to implement in the near future? And what kinds of volunteering campaigns would you be interested in?

In our family, every single minute of our time counts and is on a schedule. I guess, we just can't sit twiddling our thumbs. This includes taking part in children's and family contests, quests and challenges, making videos and clips, collecting recyclable materials and doing many other things. I am very interested in the topic of healthy eating and nutrition, something I also devote a lot of my free time to (I even signed up for a formal course of study in that field).

But nowadays all of our efforts are focused on opening our own eco workshop that we will use to make beautiful and useful everyday items from recycled materials. This is my pet project I could go on about for hours. Through this project, I want to contribute to solving the environmental problem of plastic pollution, as well as to help the wards of Tobolsk’s orphanage by offering them jobs at our workshop.

Find out more about SIBUR’s volunteers’ good deeds by visiting Instagram at Send your volunteering stories to our email address at and we will be sure to share them with the others!