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Regular version of the site

‘Helping Others Always Means Stepping Beyond Your Comfort Limits’

Six student charity associations are active at HSE University. We have talked to our students and alumni about their experience in charity.

Yana Belyakova, Open Your Eyes

2016 graduate of the Faculty of Communications, Media and Design

My friend Dasha has become my guide in the world of charity. Both of us were born and finished high school in the town of Kolchugino, in the Vladimir region. There was a boarding school for intellectually challenged children in the town, and we grew up knowing that it exists, that some ‘sick kids’ live there, but we had no idea that we can and should communicate and help them.

When Dasha was a university student, she started visiting this school and talked to me a lot about it: about how and what she discussed with the kids, how brought books to some of them, how girls combed her hair, and how her mother even became godmother to one of the boys.

At first, I simply admired her and asked a lot of questions, and then tried to join her. I remember my younger sister and I painting a birthday card for one of the girls there, Angela, and then coming together with Dasha to walk with this girl for the first time.

After that walk I wanted more people to learn how great it is to visit these kids, how great they feel during such visits, and how great I feel after.

During that period of my life, the Open Your Eyes association was formed, and I became a project coordinator. Honestly, at that moment, I was unable to see a clear picture for development, and did not understand what and how much we were going to do. But I was definitely eager to introduce the project’s volunteers to the Kolchugino boarding school and similar institutions, and let them feel the same emotions as I had experienced when first meeting the kids.

I love kids sincerely and in most cases, intuitively find a common language with them. And at boarding schools for mentally challenged children, almost always all activities are games, regardless of what class you are visiting (5-8 year-olds or 17-24), and in all groups, we play fools a lot and give each other a lot of hugs.

I think it feels so great because kids always give you the strongest emotional feedback: they laugh at your jokes out loud; they are not afraid to ask ‘When are you coming next time?’, are not shy to kiss you and hang on you when you are leaving, and they become attached more strongly and faster.

A piece of advice to those who want to start charity work

Start with something that feels comfortable for you.

For example, not everyone who wants to help people with developmental disabilities are ready to visit them: for some people, the emotional shock is too strong, some people are too sad after such trips, whilst others may feel lost and not know what to do with the kids. This is absolutely normal.

Helping others always means stepping outside your comfort zone, but it is important not to go too far, not to be too scared of the first experience, but to step beyond these limits only gradually and step by step.

There are other ways to help these kids: you can develop learning software, invent and organize fundraising events, purchase things they need, attract experts who work with special needs children to the project, and deliver volunteers to the boarding schools (a very important part!) Almost any of your skills or hobbies may be applied here.

If you are still willing to work with kids directly, visit them, make sure you contact us about it. We’ll provide you with all the guidelines and share all our expertise with you. The main thing is to stay natural and calm and enjoy the new friends and new experiences.

Anna Karandashova, former Animal Help HSE, now ‘Hello, Animals!’

3rd-year student at the Faculty of Economic Sciences

I’ve been fond of animals since I was a child, and recently I understood that I live next to dogs who have no care, and most of them die in cages. I knew I could make their lives a little bit better, and I couldn’t ignore such thoughts.

Together with an HSE student association, Animal Help, I went to the Kozhukhovsky animal shelter. They welcome regular visits to the shelter to help walk the dogs.

Then, I found a group of volunteers from another shelter called Pechatniki. Their form of cooperation seemed better to me: on the weekend, you can go there with one of the experienced volunteers, and help them. If you are ready to continue helping, you visit every weekend and learn. In a couple of months, if everything goes well, you can go to the shelter on your own and take care of your charges.

Here, volunteers are involved on a regular basis, which, I believe, is better for the animals, so I chose the second shelter. But, of course, the guys from HSE are doing a great job, because they are introducing a lot of people to what is happening at these shelters.

About our shelter and me personally: we need more helping hands! Some of the dogs do not leave the kennels, since no one has time to walk them. We need information support: publishing ads, and photo and video coverage. This increases the chances of a dog or a cat finding a home. We need wet dog food for puppies and old dogs, equipment, medicines, as well as old mattresses and blankets. We need temporary hosts: after medical treatment, dogs can’t go directly to the shelter, and the price for hospital stays is very high. Financial aid is also essential: to treat something more serious than a scratch, we need to go to a vet.

If you want to help, please contact me or our VK group, which includes all the relevant information.

A piece of advice to those who want to start charity work

Try not to put it off and don’t think that if you walk a dog from time to time or donate 100 roubles for dog treatment (veterinary help at shelters is very poor, and we have to treat the dogs outside it), the situation won’t change.

It’s not true! You’ll improve the life of at least one creature, who, just like us, feels happiness, sadness, and pain. That’s why I urge you to check out one of the resources or ask your volunteer friends what help they need.

Nikita Mazeiko, HSE Outreach

1st-year student of Law

My story of doing charity work started just recently. When we had a Safety of Living course, I went to an event by HSE Outreach. I wasn’t planning to find an association at HSE where I could do charity work and furthermore, I did not have positive views about charity and believed that the state should care about those in need, but eventually I understood that we shouldn’t wait for someone else to help: if you want it to be done well, do it yourself!

During my first trip, I was confused. I was afraid that as soon as I saw the kids I wouldn’t be able to continue working.

We had received detailed guidelines on how to behave, but they were slightly confusing rather than helpful. Then, I managed one of the stations where I had to organize different games. The kids behaved like any other kids of their age and hardly listened to me, but then, all my fears disappeared. I decided to continue these trips, since they have been bringing me positive emotions and giving me a sense of achievement.

After several trips I understood that I want this is where I want to be involved more, and now, I’m a coordinator of one of the projects related to trips to orphanages.

A piece of advice to those who want to start charity work

Don’t think that the chance to help someone will be offered to you on a silver platter. Search for opportunities and remember: by helping others, you’ll also be helping yourself.

Text prepared by Viktoria Voronina

May 30, 2019