In 2010, Ekaterina Chernyaeva together with like-minded people founded the Russian Volunteering Bureau in London to bring the Russian-speaking community together and support non-profit events, culture and the arts. In addition, the Russian Volunteering Bureau provides free courses for their volunteers such as English language, accounting and job search. Volunteers also benefit from obtaining work experience and, through reference letters provided by the Russian Volunteering Bureau, many have found very good jobs.
Kind Luxury had the pleasure of meeting Ekaterina at the famous Russian Restaurant Mari Vanna in London where she shared the story of how she discovered her passion for volunteering.
Russian language teacher for foreigners
|Director of the Russian Voluntary Bureau, UK|
My parents - Liudmila Chernyaeva and Vladimir Chernyaev
QUOTE YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE BY
|You have to be proud of your shortcomings; it turns them into virtues - Nikolay Gumilev|
Can you give us a bit of background on your professional journey and what you do today?
During my rather long professional journey I have had opportunities to work in many different and completely opposite areas. My initial higher education qualified me for a role as a railway civil engineer and I worked for two years in the design institute which was involved with the design of the high-speed Moscow-Berlin train. Unfortunately, this scheme never came to fruition following the demise of the USSR. I then worked in a number of large Russian banks receiving a financial degree during this time. I completed my banking career as the Head of a Customer Service Department.
After moving to London, I was a housewife and had to start learning English from scratch. I then went on to complete an online course "Russian as a foreigner" at the Russian Language Institute at Moscow University and earned a teaching certificate. So now I teach Russian to foreigners and also make bead decorations for myself and my friends and acquaintances.
And, of course, I head up the Russian Voluntary Bureau in London, which brings a lot of joy to me.
How did you come about working for the Russian Voluntary Bureau in London?
The idea of setting up the Russian Voluntary bureau emerged in May 2010, after the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Victory of the Great Patriotic War (World War II).
This date was very widely celebrated in London, veterans from Russia were invited, a big concert was organised in the Royal Albert Hall, with the participation of Russian and British artists. This event involved a lot of volunteers, who had to meet guests, bring them to hotels and event venues and we had to ask a lot of our friends and colleagues to help out. It was quite a task to organise it. After this event, Olga Balakleets, Aina Mamaeva, Oxana Gulii, Natalia Nikolaeva and myself met in the Pushkin House and decided to set up an organisation which will unite Russian-speaking people in London for joint projects. So the Russian Bureau of Volunteering was established.
Personally, for me, like most people from the post-Soviet space, volunteering was a completely new and unexplored activity. But in the process of creating and forming the Bureau, I realized that this is what I needed; it is interesting and what I wanted to do.
Because when you give back, you will always receive the reward – you meet new people, become a part of interesting events and gain real personal satisfaction.
I am very pleased that our work has been recognised on various levels.
In 2012 we were awarded with the 'Crystal Globe' for our volunteering activities and diplomats from the Russian Embassy in the UK awarded us for our Involvement in bringing the Russian-speaking community together in the UK. What's more, the Government of Tatarstan recognised our work towards strengthening Inter-ethnic Relations.
What is the key aim of the Russian Voluntary Bureau in London?
The main aim for us is to connect the Russian-speaking community. I don’t know why, but this group of people in London and indeed in the rest of Britain is very scattered.
Volunteering has two sides. On the one hand - it is of course help, and being selfless and on the other - it is an amazing opportunity to expand your network, make friends and try out something new.
Many of our volunteers were able to find a good job thanks to volunteering. We provide letters of recommendation to employers for our actively working volunteers. This is especially true for translators.
What is one of your most memorable moments of your philanthropic journey?
It is very difficult to highlight just one. Every event is interesting and memorable.
For me, the ones that stick in my mind are those that we organise for sick children. I am so proud and content to see the happy faces of children and their mothers, because it is especially important to give them an opportunity to forget about their troubles even for a short moment, relax and enjoy a performance or concert.
Of course, a key event that we organise on the 9th of May is at the memorial to Soviet Soldiers at the Imperial War Museum. Every year a remembrance takes place with attendees including the Major of Lambeth plus Ambassadors from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and other countries who come to give their speeches. But the most inspiring thing of all is that hundreds of people turn up to show their respect to their relatives that fell and I am pleased to see that the connection gets stronger and stronger from year to year and it doesn’t depend where people live; they remember their history and roots.
What types of projects do you work on with the Russian Voluntary Bureau?
The main focus of our work is assistance at various events, such as performances, concerts, sports events, festivals, fairs as well as various national holidays.
So, our big events are the May 9th commemoration, the Maslenitsa Festival, an International Music Competition 'The Stars of Albion', and an annual Children's Advanced Education Fair. We also assist with arranging guest performances by Russian actors and musicians. We have played a role too in folk festivals like the Tatar Navruz and Szbaty as well as Ivan Kupala Day - the summer solstice celebrated widely in many Slavic countries plus many other events, both Russian and British. Over the last seven years, I have built a great network with many London-based businesses and charitable organisations.
What does your day look like?
My day is no different from the day of any working person. The only difference is that I'm always in touch with volunteers and partner organisations. Volunteers can be needed at any time, so I always try to stay in touch; the benefit of modern technology allows you to keep an office at your fingertips.