The main aim of the “Our People” program is to expand the network of student volunteer centers, increase their effectiveness, support and promote their best initiatives. The universities participating in the program will be provided with methodic, consultation and organizational support. It will be proffered by the staff of educational organizations, heads of volunteer centers and leaders of the volunteer movement: they will conduct the development of educational programs for the advancement of volunteering.
The necessity for such a program to be created manifested itself in the wake of several major events organized in Russia: the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2018 World Cup. After the completion of their volunteer programs, a chunk of volunteer organizations were faced with potential closures because their heads didn’t see any reason in continuing the centers’ activities. The organizations that succeeded in proving their relevance and attracted funding are now hard at work implementing socially significant initiatives. Some of them transformed into volunteering resource centers responsible for the development of the movement in Russia’s regions.
The representatives of the universities and vocational education organizations with strong volunteer communities note that their work comes with a number of significant advantages. For one, participation in the volunteering effort allows students to boost their professional competencies and soft skills. At the same time, the educational organization in question enjoys an increased quality of pastoral work and an enhanced reputation among the local community. What is more, having a volunteering community gives an organization the opportunity to take part in local and federal projects, as well as develop collaboration with a wide range of partners, both in the state and nonprofit sector. Despite this, many educational organizations today still don’t support the creation of volunteer groups on their basis as they fail to see the advantages of integrating the movement into their educational and educative processes.
This is the reason why AVC, an organization with a wealth of experience of working with educational organizations, is now creating a community of volunteer groups of universities and vocational education institutions. To that end, the Association plans to propose work practices on the formation and operation of such groups. Some of these have already been set forth in a guideline prepared by AVC together with prominent experts. Having formed a community, the organizations will be able to exchange their knowledge and experience, as well as initiate the development of joint social projects to be supported by the Association going forward.
With the support of AVC, the educational organizations will also have the opportunity to propose their initiatives and solutions to current issues in the field of student volunteering on the federal level, highlights Alexander Teterko, head of the “Our People” program.
“The identification of issues in the field of student volunteering is one of the key goals we aspire to achieve with our program. Throughout our interactions with the participants, we will seek to conduct ongoing monitoring which will allow us to learn about the problems that aren’t really thought nor talked of today. Volunteer centers of universities and vocational colleges are now, for the most part, isolated from one another; they don’t interact with their external environment, are fixated on a limited number of quite basic projects and formats such as ad hoc, episodic volunteering. All too often, administrations of the organizations they belong to neither listen to them nor support their projects, failing to see the value of the latter. Our main long-term goal, our mission is to make volunteering an integral part of any educational organization,” says Alexander Teterko.
It is planned that by the end of 2019, 250 universities and vocational education organizations will have joined the program, with 150 of them forming their own volunteering communities. Over 10,000 volunteers will take part in the program’s events and projects. In October of 2019, 200 representatives of universities and vocational education organizations will gather at the All-Russian Forum of Student Volunteer Organizations, partaking in an educational program by federal experts. The forum is planned to result in suggestions on the further development of volunteering in educational organizations.
ITMO University is already known to join the “Our People” community. According to Alyona Stepanishcheva, manager at the university’s Student Initiatives Support Department, participation in the project will be directed at increasing the integration of volunteering into educational processes. ITMO’s Volunteering Initiatives Center has planned a students-and-staff joint strategic session on next steps in the development of volunteering movement in the university to take place in September of 2019.
For several years already, the team of Student Volunteering Center has been offering training on solving social issues present in the city, implementing its own ideas and projects in parallel to that. Among the already implemented projects is a support group for animal shelters “Helping Paws”. The volunteers taking part in the group hold regular collections of medications, food and other necessary objects for the shelters. Their other line of activity is helping the animals to find homes.
Another project of the Center that is almost complete is the ITMO.GREEN club, whose members are now setting up containers for paper waste and plastic bottles all over the university’s campuses. The participants of the project plan to fully launch the project in partnership with the company POLYARUS which produces designer accessories from recycled banners and tire covers.