Does a volunteer need a passport?
A report by Marina Vasilyeva, chief coordinator of the Miloserdie volunteer service, to the Russian Orthodox Church Inter-Council Presence's commission for social service and church charity, which met on April 30.
Traditions of the volunteer movement
In all times people would help each other. By the time of the 1917 Revolution in Russia, many traditions of such help had developed within every estate and in society as a whole. For instance, when in a peasant community the parents died in a family, neighbors would take their children in their own families. Or, it was a matter of honor to host a stranger; even the poorest people would give them shelter and share with them their last slice of bread. What we take as a feat today was an ordinary affair before, taken for granted.
Merchants and well-off people of other estates founded soup kitchens, asylums, maternity houses and hospices, and it was also an affair of honor.
Every person felt personally responsible for others, the unprivileged, the sick, the poor and orphans. Especially widespread was this support at times of social disasters, such as wars, famines and epidemics. Aid to the wounded, donations for famine-stricken people, founding hospitals and other kinds of free aid - all this was believed to be a nation-wide task.
Various forms of free aid to the neighbor was so widespread that even the czar's family members from their childhood took for granted their participation in nursing the sick in hospitals.
Though these traditions discontinued, people felt and will always feel the need to help others. It is true not only for believers but for all people whose conscience and soul are alive, because help to those who are unwell, lonely and miserable is one of people's basic needs.
A study made in the Johns Hopkins University in 1997 identified the motives that lead people to volunteer service. The prevailing one was this: 'I want to help the needy' (61%). The rest were as follows:
In Russia, such answers as 'I hope to learn something new' and 'I would like to do something' are not as relevant as they are in the USA where the study was made. With us the motive of loneliness is stronger, as volunteers are often those who wish to find like-minded people. This is also true for those who begin their path in Orthodoxy. The prevailing motive however is the desire to help.
Volunteer movement in the world
In order to give you an idea of the scale the volunteer movement has reached in the world, I will cite some figures.
In the USA, almost half of the population was involved in the volunteer work in 1998, with 48,8% of the adults devoting on average 4,2 hours a week to free work in addition to their primary employment and 79% in total, taking into account teenagers over 14.
In Great Britain, the volunteer work takes approximately 2,5 hours a day. The most popular volunteer activities are fund-raising, work in commissions and committees, teaching and training.
A prominent motive for young people is a desire to acquire new knowledge, skills and experience because in Great Britain the volunteer work is seen as a direct path to a permanent work. In searching for a job or entering a university, it is helpful to an applicant to state that he or she have worked in a respective field as a volunteer. It is an established order to state in one's employment papers the duration and type of one's voluntary work, which is seen as an experience of practical work.
In France, 19% of the adult population participated in volunteer activities at least once. Out of this proportion 60% participate in the volunteer work on a regular basis, devoting over 20 hours a month to it. Some 46% of those polled said they became volunteers because they felt a great desire to help others.
In Germany, 34% of the population, that is, every third German is a volunteer devoting over 15 hours a month to this work.
In Japan, 26% of people have an experience of volunteer work. 48% out of them are convinced that the volunteer work is very useful for one's personal growth and for the society as a whole.
About 33% of the adult population in Ireland are volunteers. The total time given to the volunteer work is 96454 working hours a year. 72% of the population believe that volunteers do what can never be done by paid workers.
In countries where religious tradition has not been interrupted, Christian communities and brotherhoods are most active in social service. The most well-know among them are Caritas, which work in 198 countries, Italian Catholic Community of St. Egidio and others.
Situation in Russia
In Russia, according to the official statistics, only 1% of the citizens are engaged in the volunteer service. According to a VTsIOM study however, 32% of those polled have worked voluntarily and gratuitously for the benefit of people other than their relatives and friends in the last 3 years; 9% of the Russians do it constantly and 7% have done it only once. The difference in figures can be also accounted for by the fact that more often than not Russians do it alone, which is confirmed by 37% of those polled.
These are modest figures compared to other countries. The reasons for it are believed to be as follows:
Nevertheless, judging by the practice rather than official statistics, the idea of voluntary work is clearly very popular, especially among believers. True, most of the Orthodox volunteer organizations do not have any official structures. It is still extremely difficult to estimate how many people in parishes are engaged in this activity.
Among well-known organized Orthodox services is the Miloserdie (Charity) volunteer service uniting some 1000 people. Similar Orthodox services have been set up at churches and monasteries in Nizhny Novgorod, Kaluga and Sergiev Posad. An Orthodox Miloserdie Service has been founded in Yekaterinburg.
The Moscow service was established only 4 years ago. The number of people coming for an interview has sometimes reached 30 a day. Some 45% of them find out about it from the Internet, 25% from acquaintances, friends and priests, the rest from publications and announcements in churches, etc. Their ages are as follows: 43% are people from 21 to 30; 25% from 31 to 40, 13% from 41 to 50, the rest are beyond these age limits. The youngest volunteer is 14, the oldest is 77.
No serious work has been undertaken as yet to found volunteer services at parishes. It is very important, though, that a volunteer service for neighbors should be guided by priests who can explain the importance of this help, support it and teach people the Christian attitude to misfortune, diseases and death. The task of the clergy is not to be organizers of the service but to be inspirers and spiritual guides for volunteers.
Prospects for and problems of the development of the volunteer movement
At present there is a state-run program for developing the volunteer movement. It has been elaborated in accordance with the Presidential Messages to the Federal Assembly and has been implemented by state-run structures.
This program is aimed at setting up 'resource centers' to coordinate volunteer activities on a particular territory, to train volunteers and to give them methodological and advisory support. These centers are expected to be financed from public funds.
In addition, the Russian Ministry for Sports, Tourism and Youth Policy developed in 2009 a mechanism for the registration of volunteers, which is new for Russia. It is the so-called 'the volunteer's personal book' for recording his work experience, rewards and special training. The record is to be signed and stamped by the organizations in which a volunteer worked.
The volunteer's personal book, also known as 'the volunteer's passport', is now issued in several regions. This paper has provoked an ambiguous reaction among volunteers beginning from resolute support to complete rejection.
In our view, this paper is inacceptable for an Orthodox believer. The very idea of recording one's own good works calculated in hours and certified by signatures and stamps is contrary to the Gospel's principle: 'Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing' (Mt. 6:3). It means that the state's initiative may lead to a certain marginalization of the Orthodox people who would not want to 'expose' their works or to an inflow of those who would seek after privileges granted to holders of the volunteer's passport. The very system of filling in the 'passport' may discredit not only the paper itself but also the very idea of volunteer movement by discarding a person's sincere and very personal desire to do good.
There is another danger of the state's involvement in the development of volunteer movement, lying in the formal and bureaucratic methods it uses, such as instructions issued from above, reports sent up about fulfillment or over-fulfillment… There have already been cases where local authorities have been given instructions from above on how many volunteers they must have in their region, depending on the number of young people living in it.
At present, all the state-organized volunteers are involved in either cleaning streets and natural preserves or maintaining the public order or holding one-time actions including political ones. But one-time actions even the most notable, popular and cost-based have little sense for the volunteer movement which values regularity in the first place. The elderly and disabled live every day, not only on the Victory Day or the Day of the Elderly. They need food, medicines, hygienic procedures and communication every day. Even small but regular help is more important for them than an expensive food package given once a year by another parliamentary candidate.
Participation of the Church
Certainly, for the volunteer movement to develop it has to be properly organized. However, excessive organization just as too much freedom will be equally dangerous. In the first case, the very spirit of voluntary service for the neighbor will disappear to leave only political motives and career ambitions, while with too much freedom turning into anarchy, the service will disintegrate before doing anything worthwhile.
Therefore, it is important for the volunteer movement to have its work properly organized. But no less important is also the spiritual contents of this work.
While for a state-run social service it is important to settle a social problem, for instance, to decrease the number of beggars in streets, to reduce mortality by giving aid to the sick, etc., for people united for the service of their neighbors, the basic aim is the neighbor himself. It is love of the neighbor and God that will give spiritual contents to this work.
The state in principle cannot help each particular person because it builds its work on standard instructions and rules. But a living suffering person with his vital collisions do not always fit a standard framework and his problems cannot be settled through a routine approach. Here a volunteer has to gain an insight into this particular person and come to love him, and it is the Church and faith that help him to learn to love.
From the very beginning the Church has been engaged in what we call social service today but not to solve social problems! Christ who is the head of our Church told us that He Himself comes to us as one of the poor, sick, homeless and hungry. Therefore in serving the miserable we serve Him. Christ has given the whole law of spiritual life in the two commandments: you shall love God and your neighbor. Neighbors are not only our relatives and acquaintances. From the parable about the Good Samaritan we see that our neighbor can be a very remote stranger who is unlike us and even alien to us. He can be of a different faith, nationality, views and habits but if he suffers and needs help he is our neighbor.
This is very important for volunteers to remember. Indeed, people whom they help are not always pleasant to deal with or nice to look at or even grateful. For this reason one needs spiritual strength to do this work, which can be given only by God. A volunteer needs to pray, to participate in church sacraments, to live a spiritual life so that he may not sink in emotions and anxieties. Without turning to God it is impossible to 'burn' with a desire to help others because one can burn out before one can help the other. However good the training given by a 'resource center' may be, however useful the information it provides may be, it is not sufficient to help a volunteer find out a way out of a crisis situation in which he may be caught and find strength to continue his volunteer work.
We happened to talk to volunteers who stopped helping children in the Russian Children's Clinic because they could not accept children's death. In secular volunteer organizations there are no priests, nor those who can explain to a volunteer the profundity and meaning of what is going on. For this reason, the turnover of volunteers in these organizations will always be higher because the work stressful for them will make them leave much sooner than they would had they worked in a church service.
The Church should become a uniting source for the development of a healthy volunteer service. We do not insist that state-run initiatives should be disregarded but rather propose to set up the same resource centers in cooperation with the Church. The Church does not seek to impose her participation but offers her support.
Let us have a look at how things are organized at the Miloserdie volunteer service. The service was initiated by the Church and through the efforts of Orthodox believers. The first meeting with volunteers was conducted by a priest, and every volunteer had an opportunity to participate in divine services, to learn about the sacraments and to take the path of church initiation. But nobody imposes any further contacts with priests or holds any 'compulsory spiritual talks' or obliges one to come to church. The only restriction is to restrain oneself from preaching one's faith. So, even in our own Orthodox service we impose nothing on volunteers. But we believe it to be very important to give an impulse, to tell them about the spiritual contents of the service and about the Church's readiness to come to a volunteer' aid at a moment of crisis, if he wishes. Our aim is to teach those who wish to be taught and to love and sympathize with a suffering person, to sacrifice our time and energy for his sake. And there is nobody but the Church and God who can teach it.Top of the page
Volunteer movement and charity in the USA
E. Karuikhin, Dobroye Delo regional public foundation for aid to the elderly
O. Yegorova, St. Dimitry's Sisterhood
N. Piminov, Miloserdie volunteer service
In May 2010, representatives of 10 non-commercial organizations came to the USA for internship. Its aim was to become familiar with various aspects of the volunteer movement and charity in the social sphere. The trip was organized and supported by USAID under the program for cooperation between professional associations/Russia - the professional group on the Role of Volunteer Movement in Settling Social Problems: Volunteer Projects in Healthcare and Social Service of the Population. This educational program, run by the Council for International Exchange in Kansas City, offered an opportunity to study the experience of over 20 American NGOs involving volunteers and donations for settling urgent problems of the local community. The participants in this trip speak in the article below about their impressions and a possibility for using the American experience in the Russian situation.
First of all, let us look at some statistics about the volunteer movement in the USA. Over 26, 4% of the adult population or 61, 8 millions work as volunteers. Most of the American charities, 89%, involve volunteers. Even in the situation of an economic crisis in the period from 2007 to 2008, the percentage of volunteers increased from 26, 1% to 26, 4%. In 2008, 62, 1 million volunteers made a contribution of 8 million working hours of their services. Volunteers work in very diverse NGOs including national bodies, such as AmeriCorps. Since the spirit of volunteerism is inculcated since childhood, there are special children-youth programs in schools, children and youth clubs, youth associations including religious and residential ones.
An interesting question is: Why do American NGOs seek to involve volunteers? The participation of volunteers saves the budget of an organization, improves the quality of its programs and enhances its publicity. What does motivate the volunteers who come to work for an organization? There are various motives. Most of the volunteers state that they would like to help others. Coming next is an interest in a new work. They are also attracted by team work. Many volunteers feel it is the best work they have had.
Among the volunteers there are all kinds of specialists - lawyers, physicians, nurses, administrators, etc. They give free aid precisely in those fields where their professional experience is needed. For instance, charity leaders are members of other NGOs' boards of directors as unpaid workers.
Now let us look at the volunteer work in Kansas City itself. The city is the fifth largest volunteer force in the USA (2008). Volunteer services in the city are offered by 466 thousand adults, which amount to 32, 7% of their total number. The volume of work carried out by volunteers makes up 45,2 million working hours.
It is interesting that senior citizens make up 24,5% of all the volunteers in Kansas City. The considerable role they play in the volunteer movement was mentioned by all the NGO leaders during our visit. The involvement of young people from 16 to 24 amounts to 30,5%. There are 8000 NGOs operating in the city. Only 3000 of them have paid staff, the rest having only volunteers.
Here are examples of some charities and the role volunteers play in their work.
The United Way of Greater Kansas City
The United Way foundation (UW) is one of the oldest American NGOs. It has worked in charity since the last century 30s. In Kansas City, it raises from 35 to 40 million dollars a year to use this money for various charitable purposes under 30 special programs for giving aid to children from troubled families and to the most vulnerable families, improving healthcare and giving more financial stability to local NGOs through distribution of grants.
The UW/Kansas City has made a great contribution to the social life of the city by setting up a 2-1-1 call center. It is a free information service for those who need advice concerning healthcare and medicine. There are 20 telephone operators trained for diverse areas. The call center receives at average 400 calls a day, sometimes up to 1000. Among all the calls concerning medical problems, the prevailing questions are about the need for dental care and treatment of various illnesses, about payment for medicines, use of medical devices and need for transportation. The calls concerning social problems are about communal and housing services and the ways to receive food. One can call 2-1-1 if one wishes to become a volunteer. The 2-1-1 also responds to questions about natural disasters. Thus, there were two tornadoes in the State of Kansas on April 10, 2010, during our internship. Many people called 2-1-1, and even calls to emergency services were re-directed to 2-1-1.
Charitable programs of the Catholic Charities organization
The Catholic Charities has been engaged for over 275 years now in social work, medical services and work to defend the interests of the poor in the USA. At present, the Catholic Charities is the largest network to offer social service in the country through the work of volunteers. They seek social justices by providing such services as first aid, educational programs, home education and adoption of children, as well as services for re-settlers and immigrants. The hospice service seeks to support the quality of life for terminal patients by eNCOuraging their feeling of dignity and to restore their right to choose and control their own life. Care and support are offered to patients with any incurable diseases including HIV/AIDS, cardiac diseases, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and neurological disorders. Nursing can be both at home and in a hospital for an extended stay. A medical nurse can be summoned by phone operating round the clock. The nursing section has on its staff medical doctors, nurses, social workers, priests, volunteers, therapists and home aids.
Hospice service. The hospice is located at the Catholic Charity Center which runs, among others, a medical program. The hospice is financed from the national Medicaid program, which defines in every particular case the number and type of services to be provided by a given institution and the contribution to be made to these services by volunteers. This hospice provides 11% of its services through volunteers. One of the forms of the hospice's work is the Hospice at Home program.
The hospice volunteers provide psychological support for patients at home, giving their families domestic and, if necessary, legal assistance and repair service. They also help to run the office of the organization. Once or twice a month, special trainings are organized for them. Under the educational program, they are taught to work with dying patients and to train patients for self-sufficiency. In case of a patient's death, a postcard is sent to the volunteer thanking him or her for the efforts and nursing aid. The volunteer is relieved of active work for a time. This time is called 'a time of grief' for prayer and recreation. Its duration is set by the volunteer himself. According to the organization's statistics, a patient sustained by the Hospice at Home system lives 18 months longer. Annually the center observes a volunteer appreciation week with dinners and gifts given to activists. Anniversary celebrations are held to mark 5, 10 or 15 years of one's volunteer work. To avoid the emotional burnout, meetings are held in volunteers' behalf to discuss their problems rather than the problems of their patients. There are altogether 2000 volunteers working for the center. In 2009 they contributed 102 thousand hours, which is equivalent to over 2 million dollars or the work of 44 permanent staff members (one hour of a volunteer's work is worth 20 dollars).
Friendly visits program for senior citizens over 60. Its aim is to help elderly people to stay at home as long as possible rather than to move to old peoples' homes. It operates in the following four areas:
Family fostering program works with pregnant teenage girls or those of them who already have a child. It helps girls to attend university while their children are taken care of by the program's women staff. In Kansas City there are 15 centers which look after children while their mothers study. This program also runs a center for adoption and prevention of abortion.
According to Mary Kay Dreze, director of the volunteer service, most of the center's volunteers are elderly and retired people. They have observed that volunteers' help prolong the life of the charges by one year and a half.
The Children's Center for the Visually Impaired (CCVI)
One third of this NGO's budget comes from public funds, the rest sought by the organization itself. Its annual budget is 2,5 million dollars. An essential share in its fund-raising structure belongs to project work bringing grants and individual and corporate donations. To raise funds for its needs the Center holds annual Trolley Runs for Sabates Eye Centers - the largest event in the USA to attract both adults and children who run or walk 4 miles. Over 600 volunteers are working during this run. Since 1989, the Trolley Run has helped to earn over 2,5 million dollars for the CCVI. The Center provides paid services but the payment varies depending on the living standards (the poverty level). Sometimes the payment amounts to only to 25 dollars a month. In addition to specialists, there are 25 volunteers for looking after children. They change diapers, carry children, etc. There is also a Center's Friends organization which is engaged in informing civil and public organizations about the work of the center and attracting new volunteers.
The Mid-America Regional Council for aid to senior citizens
The Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) is a non-profit association of public institutions in the city and the region. It is directed by a council consisting of elected representatives of the local authorities. It serves 9 counties and 120 cities.
It is generally a typical non-commercial organization providing all kinds of services for seniors in the city. The center runs several basic programs:
MARC has 21 offices operating as daytime centers. They all work 5 days a week. The offices provide food for senior clients and run programs for socialization including physical and various recreational activities.
The center makes a broad use of the volunteer work. The center's grant projects often prescribe that 50% of the project staff should consist of volunteers. Generally, volunteers participate in the work of the organization on all levels beginning from the Board of Directors to nursing. Normally, volunteers are recruited from the county where the organization operates. They are first trained and then assigned to work places.
The center participates in a project important for senior citizens. A group of them has organized a 'parliament' of their own and drafted a list of issues critical for seniors in the city. The group sits in sessions like a parliament, considering the list of problems. Then the parliament chooses lobbyists from their midst to speak in the real parliament of the state on behalf of all the city's senior citizens, representing their interests.
Concerning the question of representing the interests of senior citizens in the USA, our colleagues told us that these efforts are based on the 1965 Federal Older Americans Act. This law provides for a federal structure - the USA Administration on Ageing.
On the legislation level, the two chambers of the US Congress have Committees for Ageing. There is also a Congress Healthcare Committee responsible for, among other things, houses for the elderly. Two major federal programs, Medicaid and Medicare take part in financing various services for senior citizens. For instance, Medicaid provides various services for children and the elderly in general. Each state chooses an appropriate structure for itself. In Kansas City it is the Department on Ageing. It establishes respective institutions in the state's counties. In addition to Department on Ageing in the state, the problems of senior citizens are also taken care of by the Social Security Department. For war veterans there is a separate system of hospitals, out-patient clinics, nursing houses and home aid services.
On the non-governmental level, the interests of seniors are represented by AARP, the largest nonprofit organization uniting 53 million retired people of 50 year of age and over. Characteristically, there are only volunteers working for it.
Churches have played an active role in social support for older people in the USA. Many of them run volunteer programs involving senior citizens. Our American colleagues noted that in the country in general and Kansas City in particular, there are popular Senior Education courses, with senior activists themselves doing the teaching. Most of the structures reflecting the interests of the elderly in the country are united in a National Council on Ageing consisting of a great number of public organizations working on various levels.
According to the above-mentioned Federal Older Americans Act, each state has an Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly. Similar structures are established on other, lower levels. In case a local complaint is rejected, it is referred to court.
Kansas City Homeless Shelters
In total there are four centers for the homeless in Kansas City. They all are nonprofit organizations. The center we visited is a typical one. It has sections for lonely men and women. There are 8 bedrooms for two persons in each section. Each bedroom has a bed, a bed table, a couple of chairs and an armchair, a small TV set and a refrigerator. One is allowed to stay in this room for up to 6 months. There is a shower room and toilets at the end of the corridor. Not being wholly cozy, it is much more livable than a railway station or a dark corner. These sections occupy four floors. There is also a family section intended for families with one or two children. The period of stay in it is longer - up to two years. There is a canteen on the ground floor. Meals are serves three times a day and, judging by the smell and appearance, they are not unlike those served in a good Russian cafeteria. The food is supplied by another NGO which collects and distributes free foodstuff in the city.
There is a large hall in the other wing of the ground floor with 70 beds for overnight stay. These are double-deck beds with disposable bed sheets. A homeless can stay there from 6 p.m. till 6 a.m.
All the basic work in the center is done by volunteers. The funds for essential supplies come from donations by other NGOs, both individual and corporate. Counseling in the center is provided by psychologists, social workers and a general practitioner.
American Red Cross/Kansas City
A representative of this major national public organization told us that the Red Cross in the USA was founded in 1881. In fact, its basic functions have remained the same: giving aid to victims of war and disasters, warning the population about natural disasters and emergencies. It has also facilities for blood donation and vaccination. Traditionally, the Red Cross distributes humanitarian aid, foodstuffs and clothes, to the homeless and victims of disasters.
This organization is a favorite place for volunteers. They all wear a special uniform and attend special trainings and seminars. Most of the volunteers, we are told, are people over 50. The Red Cross is actively involved in fund-raising, one of its forms being an annual ball for donors. The funds raised make it possible, among other things, to hold humanitarian aid actions for those whose income is on the poverty level or lower. We, too, took part in one of the actions, distributing together with our American colleagues free smoke signal devices in a problem-stricken district of the city.
The Women's Foundation
This foundation was organized by a group of women 20 years ago. It is sustained by an endowment. One of the major missions of the foundation is to support the NGOs which help girls and women with grants which may amount to as much as 25 thousand dollars. In total, the foundation helps 92 NGOs. The foundation staff trains the personnel it sponsors for the skills of writing grant applications and identifies those who need individual support or internship. In the area of healthcare, the foundation helps women to get a better access to mammography and other important diagnostic procedures. According to a study made by the foundation staff, the primary target groups for the NGOs who are supported by the foundation are lonely women with children, with 90% of them being poor. As for elderly women, many of them also belong, in the staff's view, to the category of poor, and some grants of the foundation are directed to the support of this age group.
Kansas City Free Health Clinic
This clinic in Kansas City is one of the largest of this kind in the country. It was founded in 1971. No one of its patients pay for treatment and checkup. In general in the USA, as we were told, people over 60 as well as those who work and pay their medical insurance receive public health services. But most of those who have a small salary and those engaged in small business have no medical insurance. Accordingly, this category of the population either does not seek medical aid or, in case of an illness, go tick. That is why the establishment of such a clinic is very relevant to the situation.
The clinic is financed by grants from public funds, especially for HIV treatment, and through individual donations. The governmental support is expressed in the personnel salary and payment for a number of services. The clinic receives up to 50 various grants annually and the two thirds of them are given by federal sources such as the Department of Health, Center for Disease Control, Center for Mental Diseases, Center for Mental Health Services, etc.
Many people in the city give away their furniture, tools and some equipment to the clinic. The clinic personnel also include volunteers - physicians, nurses, social workers. They can be mothers looking after small children, retired medical doctors and interns. They work half time but without payment.
The clinic provides first aid services including prescriptions and sometimes prescribed drugs and laboratory analysis. More detailed consultations are given in other clinics. In the clinic there is a Day Center. Drug-addicts can receive in it syringes in exchange for used ones. It also provides counseling on violence and dependences. People from HIV/AIDS high-risk group are observed and treated here. It also runs an observation and treatment program for mental diseases. The clinic attends to up to 6000 patients a year.
Safe Home organization
The task of this NGO is to provide various kinds of aid to victims of domestic violence. If necessary, it offers asylum to children and women and labor and health advocacy. Counseling is given to anyone who needs it. The Safe Home runs an educational program for preventing domestic violence, with lectures given both inside and outside the organization. Each program uses the contribution of volunteers who receive telephone calls including in foreign languages and represent clients at court. There are also volunteer medics to come to the Safe Home to give professional aid. Among the Home's clients are elderly people, victims of financial exploitation and other forms of abuse, such as refusal to deliver the necessary drugs.
The Safe Home is financed through federal and state grants and individual and corporate donations. Its board of trustees consists of only volunteers. All the funds raised are spent only for the needs of clients. In addition, the Home carries out campaigns for collecting clothes and other items. Great attention is given to the training of volunteers, their ability to work in a responsible way and to observe the strict confidentiality rules. The Home's database contains 800 names of volunteers. Some 70 new volunteers apply for work monthly. The Safe Home's own staff consists of 55 members.
Coalition for Independence
The aim of this nonprofit organization is to provide services to people with disabilities for their independent life at home. The Coalition is led by the Board of Directors made up of volunteers. The Coalition is 21 years old. It runs several basic programs but the most important one is advocacy of the civil rights of the disabled. The organization provides services to people of all ages with any disabilities.
The philosophy confessed by the Coalition is that the state has a system of its own specialized institutions to which people with disabilities are often sent without any strict necessity. This often leads to an aggravation in these people's quality of life. People with disabilities sometimes have no alternative to being placed in such institutions. Actually, the disabled come to such specialized institutions to die, not to live. According to the Coalition's data, up to 50% of the disabled or the elderly who are placed in nursing homes die there in the first 6 months.
The Coalition has shown that 'now there is a choice as we help ensure an independent life at home for people with disabilities'. In its opinion, public funds had better be sent not to special inpatient institutions but to local services at places where people live, and it would be even better to pay directly for all the services provided to the people in need who stay at home. In specialists' estimations, it is much cheaper to pay for nursing services provided to people with disabilities locally then to run social inpatient institutions. At present, the Coalition staff believes, there is a tendency for a gradual withdrawal of the government from the institutialization strategy towards the development of community services.
This approach defines the contents of the Coalition's work as the staff train people with disabilities for living at home with their limitations and getting adapted to their shortcomings with the help of special equipment. The Coalition provides its clients with orthopedic devices and helps them to improve their homes. Volunteers come very handy here. They repair people's houses, arrange the space around houses, mend disability devices, etc. The Coalition represents disabled people's interests in the state's parliament and local government bodies and has lobbyists and advisers among state deputies.
Local Investment Commission (LINC)
This volunteer NGO was founded by Mr. Bert Berkley, one of the most prominent and authoritative philanthropists and businessmen in Kansas, who is also its president. Given his 85 years, he is very energetic. Speaking to us, he revealed many secrets of volunteer organization and charity. In conclusion of his talk, he signed and gave each of us a copy of his new book Giving Back devoted wholly to his rich experience in philanthropy. According to Mr. Berkley, 'Volunteerism in the USA is part of our DNA. It is easy for us to get volunteers here. There are 2100 of them. Our motto is to change life for the better'.
LINC works in close cooperation with the Kansas Health Foundation consisting of local administration officials and public organizations. An example of this cooperation is a Children's Clinic for the vulnerable built by the Health Foundation with LINC's participation. Another beneficial LINC's project is the use of empty schools in summer for people's needs such as libraries, computer classes, etc.
Another LINC's brainchild is a clinic for people who have no medical insurance. It is the largest clinic of this kind in the state. It has 5 branches and serves up to 70 000 people a year. The clinic was founded in 1969 and began its work in the crypt of a small church. Today the clinic (without an inpatient ward) has departments for ophthalmology, mammography, radiology, dentistry, pharmacology, orthopedic equipment, a laboratory and an optician's. Counseling is provided for problem children and victims of domestic and other violence. In the clinic, one can get information about various medical and social problems including financial ones.
In LINC we were given valuable advice about how to recruit and retain volunteers, especially about the need to train a volunteer by practice and to attach an instructor to him or her.
Habitat of Humanity ministry
This ministry is a nonprofit international inter-confessional (but not religious) organization. Its aim is to provide low-income families with decent and affordable houses. Since its inception in 1976, the Habitat has built and repaired over 200 000 houses and thus helped over one million people. It has built 220 new houses in Kansas City, not counting those rebuilt and rehabilitated. The ministry has successfully extended its activity to other countries, having 1700 branches all over the world.
Its principle is low mortgage affordable for low-income families included in the ministry's program. The mortgage rate is twice as low as the ordinary one, with no interest charged. Thus, the average monthly mortgage payment may amount to 450$, while the ordinary payment reaches 800$. Another governing principle is broad involvement of volunteers and family members themselves in all the stages of construction. There are some 5000 volunteers working in the ministry. Some of them are members of the Council of Directors, participating in work planning, working in the office or maintaining contacts with the families waiting for a new house to be built. However, the most important part of work for volunteers is construction itself. The age of volunteers vary from 16 to 80. Among those who come to construction sites are groups of schoolchildren, parishioners of churches and university students. The volunteer work is organized by managers. Serious attention is given to instruction, including on safety requirements. To this end, special trainings are held both in the beginning of volunteers' work and during it. After the initial training is completed, volunteers conclude a Security and Personal Responsibility Contract. Then they are given an individual first aid kit, a helmet, glasses and ear plugs. In the end of a working day, each volunteer is to fill in a Form in which he can assess his working conditions and make proposals for possible changes.
A considerable help in building houses for the needy is given by various churches which make monetary donations and/or send volunteers to construction sites. For instance, aid to the ministry can be given in this form: a 100-member group of volunteers, who are going to a construction site, contribute 1500$ to the house construction fund for the poor. The ministry also conducts special fund-raising campaigns. Another important source of financing its programs is grants from philanthropic foundations. However, 75% of the ministry budget consists of private donations.
The ministry staff told us that they focus primarily on aid to families, with house construction being a means for achieving this goal. Their target groups are families whose income makes up 50% or less of the average level and families who were refused bank credits for purchasing homes. Before including a particular family in its program, the ministry examines its credit history and organizes special training for its members. The waiting period for a family in need is 1 or 2 years. The ministry staff made no secret of the fact that there are more people in need than those who receive the necessary housing. Nevertheless, Habitat in Humanity fulfills an important social task of improving the quality of life for the most vulnerable categories of the population.
How can the American experience be used in Russia?
Using the above material, we would like to make a summary and compare what we saw in the USA with the current situation and prospects for the development of voluntary movement in Russia.
Volunteerism in the USA is a firmly established tradition formed from an early age and supported in schools and universities.
In Russia, this tradition, if it existed at all in the form of 'Young Pioneers' units, has now been completely lost. While in the USA volunteers make up 24% of the adults, in Russia they make up about 5%. The number of people involved in social and socio-medical work is very limited.
According to David Renz, director of the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, volunteers cannot constitute an independent organization but can and must be an essential and integral part of a non-commercial organization. This is to say, an organization comes first, while volunteers in it second.
In Russia we have often seen the emergence of volunteer organizations or rather volunteer movements lacking in trained professionals, leaders, trainers and managers. If a leader does not have the necessary experience he does not know how to work with a volunteer. Therefore it is necessary to hold regular trainings and seminars both for volunteers and leaders themselves. The Russian NGOs need a system of training and advanced professional training for specialists working in the management of the volunteer work on local, regional and national levels. The leadership of volunteer work should be seen as a profession.
The organization and motivation of the volunteer work should also be considered.
In the USA, a person entering on the path of volunteerism has to subscribe to the rules and obligations he should fulfill. These rules are definite and strict. For instance, if a volunteer does not respond to three calls from his leader he will no longer work for the organization. If he is late for his work he is also dismissed. If a volunteer states that he is ready to work for 1 or 2 or 3 hours he is obliged to work off the stated time.
On the other hand, it is important to retain a volunteer. To this effect, his assignment should be clear and feasible. His work load should be adequate, not too heavy but not too easy either. Volunteers are ones who appreciate the competence and self-discipline of their leader. It is important for them to understand what their leaders and coordinators expect from them. The organization should give an appraisal of a volunteer's work. In the USA, various forms of incentives are used. These are certificates of a person's participation in the volunteers work for a particular number of years and post cards received from the leader expressing gratitude for the participation in an action as well as gifts and banquets.
In the USA, along with the incentive system, there is also a volunteer protection system, providing, for instance, legal protection of a volunteer working in a difficult situation with problem groups of the population. In Russia, few NGOs can ensure this kind of protection to their volunteers.
During their internship, the participants had an opportunity to meet their colleagues, to learn from each other, to exchange opinions, to support each other - which certainly contributes to the personal, professional and organizational renewal of the work and helps to enhance its effectiveness. For the leaders and representatives of ten non-commercial organizations in Moscow, who took an internship in the USA, many techniques and programs they were introduced to have become a basis for strategic planning to ensure a further development of their organizations.Top of the page
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