ASTANA – Volunteering in Kazakhstan is gaining momentum and has developed distinctively in each region of the country, taking into account economic and climate conditions. Executive Director of the National Volunteer Network (NVN), Tatiana Mironyuk, who participated in research on volunteering and developed several methodologies for social projects, spoke with The Astana Times about her volunteer experience, its development in the country and what one needs to learn to help people.
Volunteers play a crucial role in community development, healthcare, education, environmental conservation and disaster relief.
According to the NVN data, there are over 3,500 volunteer organizations in the country launching more than 1,000 projects, including 542 social, 100 environmental, 87 cultural, 64 medical, 63 in sports, and 45 in other fields.
“I have been involved in volunteering for over 18 years, making it difficult to pinpoint why I initially started. I was young and didn’t fully grasp the concept, but I simply had a strong desire to help and contribute to something meaningful,” said Mironyuk.
In 2013, she became the head of the Shanyrak volunteer center in Temirtau (a city in the Karaganda Region), which prioritized social initiatives and assisted children and teenagers from disadvantaged communities. After four years, she received an invitation to join NVN, where she has been working for the past six years.
“Despite the advancement and stable work, volunteering in rehabilitation centers remains a priority for me. It brings me great pleasure to have the opportunity to help children in a psychoneurological dispensary,” she said.
Mironyuk explained that the NVN is a voluntary association of individuals and legal entities that aims to promote, support and develop a culture of volunteering among citizens, civil society institutions, businesses and government agencies.
“It serves as a platform for any volunteer initiative or group of people to promote volunteerism, recommendations, establish rules in this field, set the standards of state support for volunteerism and offer training programs,” she said. “All volunteer organizations and initiative groups in the country are self-sufficient, and we unite, help and collaborate with them purely on a partnership basis.”
Mironyuk emphasized that volunteering is free, gratuitous and should be done for the good of society.
“Volunteering is built upon these three pillars which are immutable. I would also include the principle of refraining from causing harm, because it holds great importance to me. I aspire for the next generation to avoid our mistakes, take into consideration our experience, and progress by advancing the development of this sector,” she said.
Mironyuk pointed out the significance of volunteer awareness in this field. It is crucial for volunteers to have a clear understanding of why they do it, what motivates them and the benefits they seek from volunteering.
“A volunteer is a person who has their own principles, desires, and opportunities, such as believing in their ability to make a difference, creating positive change, being accepted by a group, or seeing it as an opportunity for career advancement. It is important to understand what motivates you and acknowledge the need for personal gain, regardless of how self-serving or materialistic it sounds,” Mironyuk said.
“If you are drawn to volunteer work because you like the T-shirt given at a particular event, then go ahead and get that T-shirt and enjoy what you do. Finding personal enjoyment and recognizing one’s own accomplishments are important aspects that volunteers should derive from any activity they participate in,” she added.
Mironyuk also advised novice volunteers to explore various opportunities. In her opinion, individuals new to this field should reflect on their interests and preferred directions to determine what they enjoy.
“There are numerous options for individuals to showcase their skills and contribute, such as working with animals and shelters, assisting children, supporting the elderly and people with disabilities, among other areas. It is important not to limit oneself to a single organization or area of focus. Instead, individuals should search within themselves to identify what truly matters and brings them joy. Once they discover their passion, their impact will multiply,” she concluded.