If a student or a staff member of the University finds themselves in a difficult situation because of coronavirus infection, for example they cannot leave the house to buy essential goods, volunteers will lend them a hand. Aleksandr Babich, Vice-Rector for Student Affairs and Admissions spoke about the work of the University Volunteer Centre during the pandemic.
The University Volunteer Centre started helping veterans and elderly teachers of the University in March. How many people have you helped during the past months?
From March to July 2020 volunteers helped over 100 students and staff members who were self-isolating. Some volunteers have made friends with the people they looked after. They are sometimes asked to pay a visit when the situation returns to normal. There was one special story that I want to share. One of our volunteers brought food to a former teacher of the Faculty of Philology. Then the teacher’s son, an associate professor of the University, was also sent to the hospital with coronavirus infection, and the volunteer went there to deliver parcels from his mother. When the grandson of the teacher got sick, the volunteer helped him too. So the student helped the whole family of our elderly teacher. This is very admirable.
Tell us, please, who can count on the help of volunteers? How to get support?
Volunteers of St Petersburg University help students and staff members in quarantine who cannot buy essential goods.
Volunteer Centre: +7 (812) 324-12-70, extension telephone 5682
A special Help Centre for international students has been established by the University International Students Club.
Although the work at the Centre is totally voluntary, the University tries to encourage students to work there. What is the best motivation in this sphere?
All volunteers receive letters of gratitude. They can use them when applying for an advanced state academic scholarship. However, most of the students support people who really need help, and they do it selflessly.
Students of what specialisation make up the majority of volunteers? And why?
Today, most of the volunteers are students of the programmes ‘International Relations’ and ‘History’. It is very difficult to define any particular pattern, because the desire to help does not depend on the field of interests or on a chosen educational programme.
Does the University provide volunteers with personal protective equipment? Do you monitor their physical condition?
Yes, of course. The University provides volunteers with surgical masks and disposable gloves. The health of all students including volunteers is checked at the entrance of the University. Also, we ask students about their health conditions on a regular basis.
Who is responsible for coordinating volunteers? How are volunteers distributed by addresses?
The work of the Volunteer Centre is coordinated by Deputy Head of Department for Youth Affairs Olga Noskova.
We have created a special online registration form for volunteers to use during the pandemic. They can fill out their personal data and preferred districts. We choose ‘clients’ who live close to volunteers in order to keep them away from public transport to prevent contact with people.
What rules are there for people communicating with volunteers?
Elderly people often want to talk to volunteers: they ask them about the news, about their studies and their leisure time. However, contacts in today’s dangerous epidemiological situation are strictly forbidden. Volunteers leave bags with essential goods at the doorstep and only very rarely carry them into apartments. Their ‘clients’ have to observe safety measures, minimise communication, use personal protective equipment.
If a student wants to take up volunteer work, how can they join the project?
The Volunteer Centre of St Petersburg University receives new volunteers all year round. So those who want to join the volunteer team of the University need to register on the website or contact the administration of the Centre on Vkontakte page.