Sunday, July 22, 2012

Volunteering - From Russia with Love

(please excuse all the hyperlinks, but this is very interesting)

Earlier this month their was a little blip in the news about a flood in Russia that killed over 170 folks .  While that is a terrible event (and I'm not going to get involved in what the government knew/did).  But I do want to say a few things about Russian volunteerism in the wake of this flood.
As I have read the stories over the last week and looked at the pictures, I see the same issues we have here and see encouraging movement from the government to recognize and protect the volunteers.

First the donation management- see here:
Unlike in the US,  the volunteers seem to have a shortage of cars to transport the donations.  they are  staging the donations on the street.  Wow! Just take a stroll through the pictures then come back; I'll wait. In some pictures you see trash bags of clothes? In others neatly wrapped food and items in boxes.  Do I think they ended up with stuff they didn't need ? Yes, its part of the response. Where are the trucks? Why are they talking only about cars? Is there no business involvement?

And now the volunteer response - watch here:
This is a true spontaneous volunteer response, notice the tents in the background set up with care and some thought.  Someone is in charge.  Why have all of these volunteers showed up to help? Remember regardless of what we think Russia is not a totally free country.  But it seems that the internet has given rise to allowing volunteers to coordinate a response.  So things I can't tell from the news clippings; feeding plans?  Latrine facilities ? Fuel for all the vehicles - who paid? Can the volunteers keep their political messages out of it while helping? 
Some volunteers have been jailed for breaking into meetings to charge the government with a cover up (not a good thing to do in Russia).

Help from the Government read here
There is a plan making it through the Federation Council to help volunteers with transport, meals and accommodations; but only if decided in advance.  Sounds like time for some Non Profits to step in and organize.

So what can we learn, or is this just interesting to watch?  Both :)
Even with all the years we have in volunteers in disasters we still have the same problems with donation management and spontaneous volunteers. Wedding dresses and people who show up without any support.

How can he help ourselves? Plan. Read. Learn from others mistakes.

Thanks for reading,keep your eye on this story as it continues to unfold