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Newsletter, July 2016

Round Table on Church Volunteer Service

On July 30, a Round Table on Church Volunteer Service was held at the Ss Martha and Mary Convent in Moscow. It was held by the Inter-Council Presence's commission for organizing social work and charity. The commission is headed by Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk, chairman of the Publishing Council.

The round table was chaired by Bishop Panteleimon of Orekhovo-Zuevo, member of the Inter-Council Presence's commission for organizing social work and charity and head of the Synodal Department for Charity. It was held in the context of preparing a concept of volunteer diaconia service in the Russian Orthodox Church, which is drafted by the social commission of the Inter-Council Presence.

The term 'volunteer service' can be understood in a broad sense not only as an association or an organization or a group since a volunteer is any person who does a good work', said the spiritual director of the Miloserdie volunteer service, Bishop Panteleimon, after a thanksgiving which preceded the work of the Round Table.

As was pointed out during the meeting, it is necessary to respect the personal space and time of a person who carries out volunteer service. 'It is important to understand that a volunteer has some personal and no less important things to do, such as work, family and other obligations', said Yuri Belanovsky, leader of the interregional youth volunteer movement 'Danilovtsy', 'In organizing the work, we should help a volunteer to show his or her talents as a volunteer is not an unpaid laborer but a partner who realizes his or her dream together with you'.

If a person has an inner motivation for work, he or she 'blossoms', ready to implement long-term projects, Yuri Belanovsky believes. He also said that it is important that coordinators should accompany a volunteer at every stage of the work. Today, the Danilovtsy's database includes 1200 volunteers, with about 300 people taking an active part in social work. The major area of their work is aid to their charges in hospitals and orphanages.

The basic principles of a priest's work with volunteers should include personal commitment and involvement in social work and communication with people on equal terms, said Archpriest Yevgeny Popichenko, chairman of the Yekaterinburg diocesan social department and rector of the Cathedral of the Dormition in Yekaterinburg. 'Each volunteer chooses a task to his or her liking and comes to help in a spare time', Father Yevgeny said, 'And my primary service is communication with people, pastoral care and prayerful concern for them and the formation of a community. Indeed, the principal task is not to do as many good works as possible but to preserve God in one's soul, to make one's soul a place of God's presence'. One of the problems of voluntary service, according to Father Yevgeny, is that it is often unsystematic. For this reason, it is necessary to build up responsibility and conscientious attitude to the service, the priest believes. At present, there are 500 volunteers engaged in the diocesan social projects, Father Yevgeny reported.

The Charitable Foundation 'Perspektivy' (Prospects) has been functioning in Petersburg for 20 year now. Participating in its work are about 300 active volunteers. 'We distribute advertisements in public transportation about the foundation and post announcements in lifts, but only 10% of volunteers have come to us through advertising, the rest have come on their friends' advice, that is, through the grapevine', the leader of the foundation, Maria Ostrovskaya, said, 'Some 30 people go through our program 'Volunteers Social Year' annually. These are young people who have finished school but have not yet made a vocational choice, or yesterday's students who have graduated from universities but have not yet chosen their further way. For them this year of volunteer work is a special experience and immersion in a different reality.

In other countries, such volunteer programs for youth is a usual practice giving young people privileges for entering a university, reminded Margarita Nelyubova, secretary of the Inter-Council Presence's commission and a staff member of the Department for External Church Relations. She said there are also volunteer programs in which whole families are engaged, which helps to unite people going through a relationships crisis. Participants noted that such experience needed to be developed in the Russian situation.

According to Maria Ostrovskaya, aid should be given not only at the call of the soul, from heart to heart, but also in close cooperation with professionals, doctors and social workers. 'Volunteer work is a competent aid supported by professionals. Indeed, non-professionalism is a primary motive in objecting to volunteer work', she pointed out. Archpriest Yevgeny Popichenko agreed with her, indicating the problem: 'In the Church, there are enthusiasts who do not have professional skills required in social work, but there are professionals without church outlook, and the question is how to introduce professionals to the faith and make them church people?'

Marina Vasilyeva, deputy chair of the Synodal Department for Charity, introduced the meeting to the experience of the work of the Moscow-based volunteer service 'Miloserdie' (Charity) as its organizer. She reported that 1,5 thousand volunteers take an active part in this Orthodox service's social projects. Volunteers attend to children including disabled ones in orphanages, boarding schools and hospitals and help extended families, lonely elderly people, the homeless, disabled and people living with HIV. Besides, they help the service to conduct charitable events and concerts.

From www.diaconia.ru

Seminar on the Living Water program

A seminar on the Living Water program was held from June 27 to July 2 at the Ugresh Monastery of St. Nicholas at the town of Dzerzhinsky, Moscow Region. It was attended by teachers from the municipal Center for Social and Psychological Aid to Children and Teenagers 'Sunny Circle' and guests from Moscow, Moscow Region, Nizhny Novgorod, Maloyaroslavets and Yerevan. It was for the second time that specialists from various regions of the country and from abroad came for training at this monastery.

The Living Water program is aimed at the prevention of HIV/AIDS and dependences on drugs and other substances among children of junior school age. It is one of the three parts of a complex project uniting three independent areas - 'Living Water' for junior teenagers, 'Ladya' for senior teenagers and 'A Way to Home' for young people not far off the creation of their own family. Organized for specialists of educational organizations who work in the area of primary prevention of risk behaviours among children, the seminar was conducted by Victoria Afonina, chair of the Bryansk regional public organization 'Blago', psychologist and trainer for prevention of risk behaviors among youth and teenagers and art therapist, and Irina Demyanova, director of the Center for Psychological, Medical and Social Support at Seltso, Bryansk Region, trainer for prevention of risk behaviours among youth and teenagers and family counsellor.

Training seminars are very relevant in our days. Despite the work carried out in Russian regions, the number of HIV-infected people and children in trouble is steadily growing. There is a constant need for specialists who have tested on themselves the playing method of psychological adaptation of a child. In classes normally they don't speak directly about particular dependencies or diseases, but ways how to help towards formation in a child of such values as family, trust, love, Motherland, harmony, parents, generosity, care, self-sacrifice, charity and the like. The junior school age is precisely the period when children learn the rule of life in a society and the moral and spiritual norms adopted in it. Unfortunately, not every family can develop the necessary values; there are parents who do not care for the good breeding of their children at all. Therefore, it is important that the participants in training seminars should go after the training to kindergartens, schools, orphanages and parish Sunday schools. According to the organizers of the seminar, children very much like these programs and are delighted to participate in them.

The trainees that worked in the Ugresh Monastery of St. Nicholas, were a remarkable group in that there were two specialists from Armenia who were trained in it. The project has gone beyond the Russian Federation and people from other countries who share the concern for the growing problem of children's dependence are joining it.

The participants expressed special gratitude to the father superior of the monastery for the generous hospitality. 'We are always welcome here' Irina Demyanova said, 'All the necessary conditions are created for a comfortable stay and fruitful work. We are delighted to come to the Ugresh monastery whenever there is an opportunity'.

From ugresha.org

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