Charity Festival Held by HSE University

Charity Festival Held by HSE University

© HSE University

HSE University Student Development Office held its traditional Charity Xmas festival from December 1th to 5th. The event was open to HSE University students, staff and graduates, and anybody else who wished to attend. This year for the first time, it was online, but nonetheless brought together a large number of guests and speakers. The HSE News Service spoke about volunteering and charity in the Coronavirus era.

How have charities been affected by quarantine and self-isolation? How are  doctors being supported during the pandemic? What should people do if they want to support victims of domestic violence? These were among the issues discussed by the speakers and guests of Charity Xmas’2020, including HSE University volunteers and representatives of many charities. Each day of the Festival was dedicated to a topic of particular importance and relevance in the modern world.

‘In the programme we placed great emphasis on how the Coronavirus has affected people’s lives and the activities of foundations, how people implemented initiatives to help those in need, and how one can help today without having millions’, said Yana Suleymanyan, Coordinator of the Charity Xmas'2020 Festival.

The Festival was attended by more than 300 people: employees and students from all the campuses of HSE University, students from other Moscow universities, as well as the target audience of the invited foundations. In addition, University students helped to organise Charity Xmas’2020.

Yana Suleymanyan
Yana Suleymanyan
Photo courtesy of Yana Suleymanyan

‘The Festival was organised by HSE University student charity organisations such as ‘Open Your Eyes’, ‘HSE Outreach’, ‘Best Buddies’, ‘Homeless Story’, as well as volunteers from the Volunteer Centre, said the Festival coordinator. — They not only helped to design the programme’s content, but also conducted their own master classes and interesting activities. In addition, we were assisted by 25 brave students who, through the Project Fair, responded to putting together a Festival with us’.

HSE University students and graduates were speakers at many Charity Xmas'2020 sessions. So, on December 3rd, we discussed the topic ‘COVID-19 and domestic violence’, where HSE University graduates Elizaveta Kapinos and Irina Klimova told delegates about their project ‘One in Three’.

‘According to the UN, one in three women in the world has experienced physical, sexual or other forms of violence at least once. And these statistics shows that this is a huge problem. It is believed that violation of women’s rights is one of the largest undocumented violations of human rights,’ said Elizaveta, explaining the title of the project.

‘One in 3’ is a generator of information announcements to support victims of domestic violence. ‘The main part of the announcement, according to our idea, has an educational function, it contains an excerpt from UN statistics. It also contains the telephone number of the nearest crisis centre and the number of the ‘Anna’ centre hotline’. The slips with these contacts are a small, but very valuable, tool, since you can tear them off to take with you. It is important that only telephone numbers and nothing else is written on them’, Irina emphasised.

It is very important for us to be able to overcome powerlessness in the face of the large-scale, terrible, complex problem of domestic violence, because it is not always obvious what we can do at our local level without having vast resources and access to government; what we can do in our home, city, favourite cafe, at work, etc.

Through the project, every person, whether or not they are involved in activism, can help victims of domestic violence. To do this, all you need is to carry out a few simple steps: stock up on paper, scissors, drawing pins or sticky tape, go to the project website, select your area to generate the necessary contacts (the crisis centres database on the website is all-Russian, and is updated constantly), print the ad, cut it out and hang it in spaces where it’s allowed.

‘Our idea was that such a small piece of paper could be put in a pocket, because it is not always safe to search for these contacts in a web browser (not all victims have the opportunity to Google, as it stores your browsing history and can be checked). The most important thing is that we assist in asking for help, and we do it discreetly, offering people a choice and showing them that there are places where they can get professional help’, Liza noted.

Staff at the HSE University Centre for Psychological Counselling also gave advice to Festival guests on how to help another person. In a session titled ‘How do you Listen and Support?’ Irina Makarova, the Centre Director, and Ekaterina Solovieva, the Centre psychologist, shared reasons that can contribute to a lack of adaptation to a complex situation, things that are not appropriate to say to a person in a difficult situation, etc.

Ekaterina Solovieva, explained how to recognise that a person is having problems: ‘There are external changes in their usual way of life: avoidance of communication, detachment, indifference to everything that happens, and simple everyday things (washing hair, ironing clothes) or, conversely, the person can conceal their condition too much (being unduly brave, laughing). A person can also become more sensitive: exhibiting intense reactions to situations that they were not previously interested in, blowing up at minor issues, responding rudely — these manifestations, out of character, indicate that resources are already on the edge. Another sign that a person is in crisis is when those hobbies that used to bring pleasure have ceased to bring joy. In addition, cognitive abilities (thinking, attention, searching rational outcomes, etc.) may be impaired.’

‘The first thing we usually want to say to somebody who is suffering is that everything will be okay, everything is going to be fine. And I guess in some cases things really will be okay. But if we’re talking about a difficult situation, like loss, the idea of telling someone to cheer up, saying that everything’s okay, encourages a person to move on, and can devalue what’s happening, to pretend that what’s happening isn’t so important. And the pain that a person feels, the tears that they shed, seem to have no meaning’, — Irina Makarova urged us to think carefully about how we talk to people in this situation, noting that certain phrases should be avoided when talking to a person experiencing difficulties in life.

At each session, the Festival guests could put their questions to the speakers. Some of them added interactive elements to their presentations, including tests, surveys, and quizzes. For example, Margarita Reznichenko, a 4th year student of the Bachelor’s Programme ‘Political Science’, and a Green volunteer of HSE, held a quiz about eco-anxiety. The guests answered questions about the signs of eco-anxiety and how to deal with it. The activist also spoke about what the HSE University environmental student organisation does and what ‘Ecological anxiety’ is.

‘Green HSE has existed for seven years. We are engaged in environmental education, we collect waste and try to make our university as green as possible: starting from HSE University, we are changing the world. The term ‘ecological anxiety’ has emerged recently, although the threat of climate change has been discussed since the second half of the 19th century. In general, ecology is a global problem for mankind, and even if an ecological catastrophe takes place in a particular country and city, it is still something that should concern all of us’, Margarita emphasised.