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Online Courses and Psychological Assistance: How HSE Volunteers Are Working During the Pandemic

Online Courses and Psychological Assistance: How HSE Volunteers Are Working During the Pandemic

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On March 18, the Older Generation Support Centre opened at HSE University. HSE News Service continues to interview students and employees of the university who are helping senior citizens through the difficulties of self-isolation by delivering medicine and food, sharing useful information, and holding online classes. Today, volunteers who teach foreign languages to pensioners speak about how they have become volunteers.

Arina Fedorova, first-year master’s student, Faculty of Humanities

I began volunteering when I was a first-year bachelor’s student, so I’ve had a solid five-years of experience. I taught English to children of refugees, then I was involved in deciphering manuscripts in the archives of the Tretyakov Gallery. I am currently a volunteer of both the Memorial Human Right Centre and the HSE Older Generation Support Center.

I try to help people whenever I can. I submitted an application to participate when I saw the email newsletter saying that volunteers are needed to support older people. Moreover, I told my younger sister (she is an HSE student, too) about the project, and she is going to join it.

Arina Fedorova

I mainly teach French. There aren’t many volunteers who can teach this language, so I decided to give it a try. All university studies have been suspended, but students of the HSE Moscow Longevity project want to continue their courses online. Currently, I’ve got three female students. I have one-on-one online classes with each of them twice a week. We discuss things, study new words, and analyze grammar.

All the women I’m teaching live very active lives. They have hobbies: they are keen on sports, they adore going to the theatre and art galleries, and they study foreign languages. It is not easy for them (as for all of us) to stay at home, being trapped between four walls. So I believe simple human communication is vital in this time.

It is important to be able to distract people from coronavirus concerns and help them focus on positive things and normal, everyday news

Teaching is quite helpful for me too, as it gives me a good opportunity to improve my language skills. Besides, each of my students is an interesting person to talk to. Each of them has a lot of fascinating stories to tell me about her life, so I love chatting with them. I would like to continue teaching them when the pandemic is over. I will be happy if any of them would like to go on with the classes.

Yelena Plotnikova, 63 years old, Arina’s student

Arina teaches me twice a week. Each online class lasts 15-20 minutes. We discuss various topics in French. We have talked about Paris and we’ve learned something about each other (first Arina answered my questions about herself, then it was my turn to answer her questions). Next class, we will be talking about professions. We both want to continue our sessions.

It is great when volunteers can help older people. I have classes with Arina and I’m supported by volunteers of the Moscow Longevity project: the students share videos on gymnastics and yoga, telling me about other useful things I can find on YouTube. HSE offered me some help too, but I declined because I didn’t need anything else.

Victoria Popova, third-year student, Faculty of Social Sciences

The pandemic has affected almost everyone in the world. Now we realize that we are all hostages of the same problem and that we can only solve it together. Not only heads of states, but also medical workers and ordinary people should stand together to fight the virus. Unfortunately, older people appear to be the most vulnerable group of the population. Many of them are staying at home all alone, and they are being bombarded with sad and scary news. This can’t help but affect their emotional state. Foreign language classes are a wonderful opportunity to forget about one’s problems—at least for the time being—and to relieve psychological stress. 

Victoria Popova

I teach English to some elderly people who live in Moscow. We meet online twice a week using either Skype or a messenger. My students have different levels of English proficiency, which I always bear in mind, and I try to meet their needs: some of them would like to brush up on grammar, while others just want to have some speaking practice.

Online learning is our future. It is good that older people in Moscow have sufficient levels of information literacy skills, and they feel pretty comfortable using special programmes and messengers.

I like working as a volunteer. I’ve made friends with some very interesting people. This has been a valuable experience volunteering, communicating in a foreign language, and helping others learn English. Today everyone has a wonderful opportunity to do something useful to others.

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