Volunteering: Best Buddies at HSE
Students at HSE work with the international voluntary organisation “Best buddies”, an NGO, which facilitates socialising and friendships with people who have learning difficulties. HSE student Maria Koisina told us about it.
|Ksenia and Natasha|
Kseniya Lyubimova, a third year student at the HSE Faculty of History, is friends with Natasha Shikunova, who has learning difficulties. “We have a great time together,” says Kseniya, “We take photos of each other, mess about being silly, and dance. Natasha is very energetic and optimistic, she can’t stop for a minute. She is so active that sometimes I can’t keep up with her! Natasha is older than me, she’s a grown up and behaves like one. Sometimes she fusses over me as if I were a child. Every time, after we’ve been together, I tell myself I going to look at life as positively as she does.
Elza Yamaltdinova, third year student at the HSE Faculty of Business Informatics and president of the student club, “Best buddies at HSE” is friends with Kristina Litvinova who has been at a school for children with special needs. Elsa told us about taking part in the programme; “We’ve been friends for more than two years and each time we see each other, I’m more convinced that Kristina is a remarkable friend. We usually just go out. Kristina loves learning about Moscow, discovering new little streets and she often takes me to the sites and nice places around the capital. As I’ve only lived here for a couple of years, I love these trips and I’m finding a whole new world. We also love shopping and Kristina always picks out something very tasteful for me. She loves giving presents and at any moment, quite unexpectedly, I will get a nice surprise from her. Kristina is constantly trying to learn new things, she goes on lots of courses, and works in several different places at the same time. A lot of people would envy her lust for life.”
“How did I get to know the charity “Best buddies”? Well, first I went to one of its events, just as a volunteer and I didn’t even realise what kind of organisation it was. It was the first of what has become an annual dance festival and is probably the largest and most fun event for everyone involved in the project. After that I decided to join the organisation and become part of the international movement. All the people who are part of the project, the volunteers and the kids with disabilities are all so sunny and positive and socialising with them makes ordinary life seem much brighter. In spite of barriers that arise in trying to communicate with some of the kids, I’ve never had to convince myself that it is a real pleasure being with these people.”
Elza and Kristina
“The “Best buddies” programmes have helped me to see that only by paying attention to other people’s problems can we change things for the better. It is so rewarding to see that the young people who, a year ago were closed and unsociable, now when they meet us, they can’t wait to tell us about their lives and they always tell us how glad they are to have us as friends. We have lots of events during the year, from the dance festival with master classes from famous Russian dancers and huge New Year’s Eve and Christmas parties, when we bake Christmas cookies, to Halloween with its traditional contests and a summer holiday camp in a hotel outside Moscow.”
“Last summer, in a small delegation from the “Best buddies, Russia” fund, I went to an international conference in the home of “Best buddies” - the US. The work “Best buddies” have been doing in the USA and Canada is amazing; in each state, many schools and colleges have their own clubs where school children and students enjoy making friends with kids with learning difficulties. Every university there has its own “Best buddies” club. After our trip we are determined to bring western experience to Russia and set up our own “Best buddies” club at HSE. We’re always glad when new people want to join our project. You can join or ask us any questions by phoning Elza on 8-916-490-63-99 or you can find us on the social networking site V Kontakte.
Maria Koisina, fourth year student at the HSE Faculty of Politics, especially for the HSE news portal.
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