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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

Wednesday, July 23


SPIBAs Legislation & Lobbying Committee invites everyone interested in the practical aspects of courts and procedural law to todays Legal Debating Club at 9:30 a.m. at the Mertens House, 21 Nevsky Prospekt, office 506. Visit spiba.ru for more details.


Take advantage of the sunny summer days and participate in Beach Games 2014, which runs through July 27 in Sestroretsks Dubki Park.



Thursday, July 24


Liliana Modiliani, a well-known Russian stylist, will talk about choosing clothes that fit during her lecture at 7 p.m. at the Pryamoy Efir art club, 13 Viborgskoe Shosse.



Friday, July 25


Discuss Russias economic and political prospects for 2014 during a Business Breakfast organized by SPIBA at 9.30 a.m. in the Bank Saint-Petersburg office at 64


Malookhtinsky Prospekt.


Start your weekend with adorable miniature pigs at the Squealing Pig festival at 7 p.m. this evening in the Karl & Friedrich restaurant, 15 Iozhnaya doroga, on Krestovsky Island.



Saturday, July 26


Hundreds of brand-new and retro cars, drag and drift shows, test drives and karting are planned for the Avtobum-2014 festival, which will take place in front of the RIO shopping center at 2 Fuchika Ulitsa.


Participants in todays SaniDay Summer competition will impress visitors with their hand-made, unusual and hilarious boats, which will race at the Igora Resort near the 54th kilometer on Priozerskoe Shosse.


Metro Family Day will include both serious lectures for adults and master-classes for children, making the event interesting for the whole family. To participate, come to Kirov Park on Yelagin Island.


Photography will be the focus of todays Photosubbota, which features lectures by famous photographers, meetings with photo schools and studio representatives, and participation in a photography competition. The event starts at noon at Petrokongress, 5 Lodeynopolskaya Ulitsa.


If you like cycling, make sure to visit the Za Velogorod Festival with its retro bike exhibition, market and live music. The second round of the Leningrad Criterium race will also take place during the event at Petrovsky Arsenal in Sestroretsk.



Sunday, July 27


Navy Day will be celebrated with a weapon and military transportation exhibition, self-defense master classes and concerts. The event starts at 1 p.m. in the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburg.



Monday, July 28


Dont miss a chance to see the latest achievements in robotics during the RoboDom interactive show, exhibiting more than 150 robots. The show will be at BUM center, 22/2 Gzhatskaya Ulitsa, until Aug. 3. The entrance ticket costs 350 rubles ($10).



Tuesday, July 29


A video of a Queen concert from 1986 will be shown today at 8 p.m. in Yaschik, 50/13 Ligovsky Prospekt.



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