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Russians Passing the Buck on Charities

Published: June 4, 2014 (Issue # 1814)



  • Russia was ranked 123rd out of 153 countries by the Charities Aid Foundations Giving Index.
    Photo: Igor Tabakov / Fotoimedia

I have around 430 friends on Facebook, and plenty of them respond with like and so forth to the vacation photos or the article links that I post from time to time.

But in early May I used Facebook for something much more important than holiday snaps. I wrote a post to draw attention to the plight of Valeria Olshanskaya, a woman who has spent decades working for a charity raising funds to help hearing-impaired children. Valeria is battling cancer and now needs financial help herself.

Valerias main fundraiser is her daughter, Varvara, who is deaf. And young Varvara, seeing her mothers desperate situation, has started using the Internet to appeal for donations.

When I drew attention to their situation on Facebook, my 430 friends, mostly Russians, responded with what I can only describe as a deafening silence. In fact the only person who reacted at all was an American. I was deeply grateful to her but felt deflated and a bit let down.

Two weeks later, I remembered that disappointment as I listened to a speech about charity at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Andrei Dubovskov, president and chairman of the board at MTS, a major Russian provider of mobile-phone services, was expressing his own frustration over the poor response from the companys 70 million subscribers when it makes charity appeals. He said fewer than 0.1 percent of customers ever participate in charitable projects introduced or supported by MTS.

As the intervention of social networks into our lives has increased dramatically, Dubovskov said, the avalanche of desperate, unsolicited appeals has come to seem to many people like an attack.

As with any attack, people tend to defend to protect themselves from what they see as having to deal with sorrow. Dubovskovs words brought to mind the reaction of a friend, who some time ago received the news that a couple she knew were going through a tragedy. Their daughter had been diagnosed with cancer. Her condition was rapidly getting worse and the outlook was bleak. The girl soon died.

My friend admitted that on first hearing of the situation she had abruptly cut off contact with the family.

I was in no position to help, and I couldnt face either the girl, who was just vanishing, or talking to her parents, she said, trying to explain.

At the Economic Forum, Russians limp response to charitable appeals was also taken up by Maria Chertok, director of the Russian office of the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF). She said the organizations 2013 World Giving Index showed that a mere 6 percent of Russians donated money to a charitable cause even in a way as simple as giving a bit of change to street beggars.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Oct. 30


Dental-Expo St. Petersburg 2014 concludes today at Lenexpo. Welcoming specialists from throughout the federation, the forum is an opportunity for dentists to share tricks of the trade and peruse the most recent innovations in technology and equipment, with over 100 companies hocking their wares at the event.



Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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