Viasna’s Volunteer Service through the eyes of its members
Since 2015, the Human Rights Center “Viasna” has developed a separate line of activities attracting and engaging concerned people - the Volunteer Service. Tasks for volunteers vary from translation and archiving to observation and reporting on freedom of assembly and trails; and even organizing educational events related to human rights.
Now there are more than 40 active people in the Volunteer Service who are ready at almost any moment to engage in the promotion of human rights.
We asked some of our volunteers to tell us about their views on and experience of volunteering.
has been a volunteer for Viasna since the end of autumn 2019
I started volunteering when I googled possibilities for observation of parliamentary elections. I thought it could be interesting to observe the process from a neutral side and to see how it works. Despite the fact that I did not become an election observer because of personal reasons, at that time I became an observer of trails. I also translate some articles into English.
Volunteering is important because it gives us an opportunity to understand what is happening around. The Volunteer Service does not only provides knowledge on how to carry out observation, but also helps understand how to improve the situation. It is obvious that only by understanding the circumstances, one can qualitatively assist someone with the solution of certain problems. I highly respect people who consciously work on it. Communication with such people inspires me to search for new solutions to current problems.
has been volunteering for Viasna for 5 years (has been arrested twice during observations)
The decision to become a volunteer in Viasna was spontaneous. After the Human Rights Summer School in 2015, I was simply invited to watch a trial and I liked it. One of the most memorable moments of my volunteering was when I was arrested as an observer for the first time. At that moment, when I was lying on the floor of a police bus seeing the riot policemen’s boots, I realized that I was doing the right thing and would continue to do so.
In my opinion, volunteering is necessary because it supports those who are engaged in human rights activities professionally. It helps such people understand that they are not alone, that someone supports them and shares their views. In general, the most important thing is support!
has been volunteering in Viasna since mid-2019
I have been interested in political and social problems in our country for a very long time. But just reading the news is one thing, the other thing is to do something useful for my country.
I joined the Volunteer Service when I decided to become an observer in the elections in 2019. I realized that in Viasna people are engaged in observation as well as in other different activities and I became very interested in this.
The experience of observation in the 2019 elections was significant and useful. On the one hand, it was useful for me personally, because I grew up socially and now I understand a lot. On the other hand, it was useful for other people, because the facts from my observation were included in the OSCE report.
Volunteering draws attention to certain problems in society and helps solve them. While the government does not want to solve them or simply ignores them, unfortunately. Thus, people have to unite and take certain actions together.
Viasna often organizes various educational events. And even now, despite the epidemiological situation in the country, online webinars are still taking place. But the most important thing is that with the help of Viasna you can meet nice people, fulfill your potential and do something useful for the people who surround you.
has been volunteering in Viasna since the winter of 2020
I consider myself an empathic person: it is hard for me to stay away when I see injustice.
During the events in December 2019, I subscribed to various Telegram channels that covered protests and persecution of activists, and this is how I found Viasna’s channel and the Volunteer Service. I wanted to try to change the world around for the better as much as I could.
So far, I haven’t been able to take part in observation because the assemblies I was going to observe were canceled due to the coronavirus. Now I am planning to take part in election observation this year.
It seems to me that every person is pleased to realize that they can change the world for the better, that their opinion is important and that they are not alone. Volunteering in important initiatives inspires me. It also gives me an opportunity to meet wonderful people.
In the Volunteer Service, Ulada and I came up with the idea of an event to promote an environmentally friendly lifestyle as we had taken part in a Makeathon by the Office for European Expertise and Communications. I hope that we will be able to carry out our plans when the situation in the world improves.
Volunteering in Viasna is a good opportunity to meet interesting people and learn something new at training sessions. If you share human rights values and want to find like-minded people and friends, you will definitely like it.
has been volunteering in Viasna for 1 year
For the first time, I participated in monitoring of court hearings many years ago. At that time, I was taken for questioning, as a result. Therefore, I was considering this sphere toxic for a while.
Later, I participated in a number of intellectual and social projects as a student and as a volunteer. Thus, I realized that human rights protection is practically the only opportunity for peaceful evolutionary changes in society and for the transit of standards from outdated to modern.
Volunteering is important: this is how we create social capital, new initiatives and build connections. Belarus needs to create new communities and institutions. Without us, no one will build a better future. No grants will ever cover the need for social change. That is why the help of volunteers who understand the local context and know about local problems and who are capable of making big changes with little effort is important.
has been volunteering in Viasna for 1 year
Generally, I think volunteering is a great way to prove yourself and to develop some useful skills.
I got my first experience of volunteering at the Belarusian Human Rights House when I was studying in Vilnius. While studying at the University of Warsaw, I was volunteering for a Polish project “Observers in Action”. I also registered on the UN online volunteers platform through which I translated legal updates from English into Russian for the UNHCR. In addition to that, as UN online volunteer, I supported the analysis of data on internally displaced persons in Russia for the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. Most recently, I joined the community of the Minsk hub Global Shapers, where I help with various activities.
In Viasna, I have been volunteering for one year already, working on a wide variety of tasks, including all kinds of observation and reporting; English-Russian-Belarusian translation and proofreading; data collection on administrative persecution; assistance in the sphere of legal defense of citizens; archive support; program planning for the English Language Human Rights Club; strategic planning for Viasna’s Volunteer Service and so on.
In Viasna, I’ve met a wonderful team of concerned people who are trying to bring the difference towards democratic values and human rights. These people inspire me and motivate me for taking action. We always welcome new volunteers to join us. Those who value freedom, equality and justice through volunteering in Viasna can learn how to be objective and independent in their views. Volunteering for Viasna is an opportunity to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms. I believe that standing up for human rights brings contribution to the development of Belarusian society and helps create a better future for our country.