Ekaterina Nikitina is a student of the Faculty of African and Asian Studies at St Petersburg University. For several months, she has been participating in the Russian Red Cross fundraising campaigns, along with other volunteers who give their time and energy to making the world a better place. In this interview, Ekaterina Nikitina shares her reasons for becoming a volunteer, explains how volunteering activities are organised, and talks about the benefits of volunteering.

Could please tell us why you decided to join the Red Cross Youth movement?

I have been involved in volunteering for quite a long time. For a year and a half, I was a volunteer with the Liza Alert search-and-rescue team. My main motive was the desire to do something that is really meaningful. Then I closely followed the activities of the Red Cross and realised that I would want to be a part of this movement. Let me note right away that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and National Societies of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) should be regarded separately. The main difference between them is that ICRC employs professionals who receive a salary for their work, while the National Societies are humanitarian organisations that mainly rely on volunteers to accomplish their missions. Currently, I am taking part in events organised by the Russian Red Cross Society. After graduation, I would like to get a job with ICRC as a professional Arabist, and work in the countries of the Middle East.

Since April 2022, you have been taking part in a fundraising campaign for humanitarian aid as a shift supervisor. What are your role and responsibilities and what challenges do you face in your volunteering work?

The main task of volunteers at the humanitarian aid collection points for internally displaced persons is to properly receive items donated by benefactors. In other words, donated items are to be registered, sorted by the appropriate categories, packed, and then delivered to the warehouse. There is a list of items that are required as humanitarian relief supplies. Unfortunately, people do not always get acquainted with this list in advance. Basically, our challenges are mainly due to this reason.

St Petersburg University students and staff who would like to participate in volunteering activities, but do not know where to start, can enrol in the Volunteer School, organised at the St Petersburg University Volunteer Centre. Coordinators of the Centre conduct courses for volunteers, and talk about the opportunities that are open to activists in today’s world and types of volunteering.

Senior volunteers supervise what happens during the four-hour shift. This function is performed by trained, competent and experienced volunteers who have been involved in volunteering for a long time. They help people who come to the collection points and coordinate the work of junior volunteers. Usually, there are three volunteers in a shift.

Do you think more or fewer people volunteer now than before? What kind of people are they?

As a matter of fact, volunteer turnover occurs regularly: some people leave, others take their places. Nonetheless, I have noticed that the number of volunteers is on the rise. Speaking of people involved in volunteering, I do not think that categorising them by age group is appropriate. Among us there are students and middle-aged people. What unites us all is that we are not indifferent and we are seeking to help those in need.

I believe that the work I do is definitely worth the effort and time spent.

Ekaterina Nikitina, a volunteer, a student of the Faculty of African and Asian Studies at St Petersburg University

I would not call it humanitarianism, because it sounds too proud. Yet, in my opinion, it is empathy and the desire to make at least a minimal contribution to solving the existing problems that lie at the heart of humanitarian action.

Would you recommend other students to become volunteers?

Most certainly! I think that it makes life more fulfilling, it brings personal satisfaction, and you realise that you have been able to do something good for people. In March-April 2022, humanitarian aid collection points operated at St Petersburg University. If we could organise their work again, it would be great. Humanitarian aid is still needed. We continue to collect supplies. And indeed, we are recruiting new volunteers.