As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, caring for senior citizens who are particularly vulnerable remains one of our main concerns. The St Petersburg University Volunteer Centre has therefore been extremely busy helping those who are lonely and in need of support.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, student volunteers launched the ‘St Petersburg University Superheroes’ project to provide support to the University staff in need. Student volunteers regularly contact University seniors to find out what they can do to help: to get groceries or medication; or help with other daily tasks, such as taking out the garbage, walking a pet or paying for utilities. More than 80 student volunteers registered for the project. Over a hundred University seniors have received assistance, some of them more than once. The curators of the project note that some academics have developed warm relationships with the volunteers. Often, when applying for assistance, they will request a particular person whom they trust and regard as attentive, responsible and well-organised.

‘During lockdown, we are working with the University seniors according to the following scheme: they call me and make a request for help; then I appoint a volunteer who lives in their neighbourhood; the volunteer informs me after the groceries have been delivered; and finally I call the senior to get feedback,’ explained Olga Noskova, Deputy Head of the Department for Youth Affairs at St Petersburg University.

We hear many words of gratitude and appreciation. In these two months, there has not been a single case when a volunteer has been disliked or complained about. It is not infrequent that the seniors would befriend a volunteer, would send them their regards, invite them in for tea after the pandemic. We have enough volunteers – absolutely all requests for help are answered. None has been rejected.

Olga Noskova, Deputy Head of the Department for Youth Affairs at St Petersburg University

Student volunteers help seniors not only in their daily tasks. For three days prior the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, they were diligent in delivering presents and congratulations to several hundred of St Petersburg University veterans, Leningrad siege survivors, home front workers, and children of the war. In response, the veterans expressed their deepest appreciation for the help and support.

Also, as part of the efforts to support University staff during lockdown, a student call centre was set up at St Petersburg University. The call centre volunteers can advise you on how to use various Internet platforms and online services, as well as help you to tackle issues associated with them. To date, the ten student volunteers, who have been involved in this project, have provided over a hundred consultations in two months.