Private charities were outlawed during the 70 years of communist power. When the Soviet Union began to collapse, and the social safety net unravelled, Russians found themselves scrambling to build an NGO culture from scratch. Expats have been involved in a big way - and many have specifically come to Russia to help out. Others who are already here see overwhelming needs every day that they cannot ignore. Here's how to get involved. |
If language is a barrier, volunteer or fund raise through any of the myriad of community or religious organizations.
Russian speakers can go directly to a Russian charity or help an expat group find new projects to support.
Beware if you are moved to write checks at the site of photos of needy children staring helplessly from the front of a slick brochure. Sometimes the most effective Russian charities can't afford Madison Avenue and some of those who can may not be what they seem.
Some do's and don'ts
Do realize that the Russian tax law doesn't grant NGOs the kinds of benefits they enjoy in the West. Thus, instead of creating a project to fill a need, charities target needs that the law allows them to address.
Don't donate money without thoroughly checking out the recipient organization. NGOs that balk at transparency may not be what they seem.
Don't assume that because an NGO is based abroad it is more effective than a home grown Russian NGO. Often the opposite is true.
Moscow is a home to a large number of charitable organizations that are always happy to welcome new volunteers. If you want to volunteer or if you have furniture, clothing, shoes, bedding, toys, kitchenware, appliances or items you no longer need, please contact one of the charitable organizations listed below. Many are always looking for in-kind donations for the projects they support. Some may be able to pick up your donations from your home or office.
AIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW)
AIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW) is a Dutch, non-governmental, public health organization working in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) to reduce the impact of HIV among vulnerable populations. AFEW has developed a system of replication, which adapts successful international HIV programmes, based on best practices to the local conditions in other countries across the region. Currently, AFEW carries out programmes in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
AMUR - Working to Save Russian
Tigers and Leopards from Extinction
AMUR is an Anglo-Russian charity promoting the conservation of Amur (Siberian) tigers and leopards and was officially launched at the British Embassy by the former British Ambassador, Sir Roderic Lyne, in May 2001. The Amur tigers and leopards are extremely endangered with only about 450 adult tigers and 35 adult leopards living in the wild in the Russian Far East. AMUR works to raise money and awareness for conservation projects in the Russian Far East, where these two extremely rare big cats live. Amongst other things, AMUR is working to create new protected reserves, promote eco-tourism, carry out education projects and help with much needed research. Volunteers can get involved by joining the AMUR Committee, holding fund raising events (all money raised will go directly to projects in the field), helping organize events, making a donation, etc.
Address: Myasnitskaya ul., 35a, office 46
Metro: Chistie Prudy
Action for Russia's Children (ARC)
Action for Russia's Children (ARC) is an all-volunteer charity dedicated to helping children - particularly the under-privileged, disabled and homeless - and supports Russian initiatives that offer an alternative to institutional care. ARC works with day centers, therapy centers, specialist schools, a foster family project and toy library to establish alternatives to the internat system and to support parents who have made the difficult decision to keep a special-needs child at home. ARC's volunteers give support to ten projects helping children and young people in Moscow who have all kinds of special needs: physically and mentally disabled children, orphans, the homeless, and those of mixed race who suffer from discrimination.
Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)
Charities Aid Foundation is a non-commercial organisation committed to efficient giving. It works to raise the profile of giving, lobby for tax breaks and provide an increasingly broad suite of services to charities and their supporters. The Russian office of the Foundation - CAF Russia - has been a successful charity in Russia since 1993. In close collaboration with the leading Russian and international companies and foundations, it realises around 40 programmes a year. Since the beginning of its work, CAF Russia realised over 300 initiatives aimed at the resolution of a considerable range of social problems, from aiding organisations for the disabled to developing local foundations in 26 regions of the country. Over 44 million dollars went to such ends. The total value of the projects supported by CAF exceeds 120 million dollars.
Address: Tverskaya ul., 24/2, str. 1, podiezd 3, floor 5
Diema's Dream was founded in 1998 as a result of Mary Dudley's charitable work with orphanages in Moscow while she first lived here from 1994 to 1997. It was during this time that she met Diema, a charming little boy who had hydrocephalus and was paralyzed from the waist down. When Diema turned 5, he was sent to an Internat for children from the ages of 5 to 18. The founder had lost Diema in the system. Through her search to find Diema, Mary met Leonid Mogilevsky. Diema was one of the lucky children to have been saved by Mogilevsky from one of the worst internats in Moscow. Today Diema's Dream is a non-profit, all volunteer US and UK foundation providing financial medical and educational support for physically and mentally disabled children in Russia and the former Soviet Union states. The larger goal is to support changes in society and government in order to create social and medical support programs that will allow parents to raise their children at home instead of living in institutions. Diema's Dream has sponsored educational seminars for the staff and teachers of the Charity House Program.
Address: Borisovskiye Prudy ul., 16, korp. 4
For decades Russian children with Down syndrome had no early intervention services, and their needs were ignored. In 1996 Downside Up, a Russian-British charity, began its daily free programs for Russian families that raise children with DS. Downside Up provides free educational and social services to several hundred Russian children with Down syndrome and their families. Volunteers are involved in charity fundraising events, such as an annual bike ride in Moscow and a Kilimanjaro Climb, and do volunteer work with the children at the center.
Address: 3rd Parkovaya ul., 14a
Tel: 8 499 367-1000
Address: Leningradsky prosp., 26, korp. 1
Guide Dogs - Dogs as Assistants to Disabled People
Guide Dogs is an independent non-profit charity called "Dogs as Assistants to Disabled People" that provides a free humanitarian service to disabled Russians. The volunteer trainers train both guide dogs for the blind and help dogs for physically or mentally disabled people. Those who receive dogs get them for free. New dog owners also receive free instruction to learn how to work with their four-legged companions. The guide dog services are provided free of charge, but since Guide Dogs Dogs receives no governmental assistance the center relies on donations to continue its important work.
Tel: 8 499 145-2261
Hope Worldwide supports orphans, disabled children and pensioners, veterans of World War II and the elderly. Volunteers are always welcome.
Address: Botanicheskaya ul., 33, korp. 5
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
IFAW's mission is to improve the welfare of wild and domestic animals throughout the world by reducing commercial exploitation of animals, protecting wildlife habitats and assisting animals in distress. IFAW seeks to motivate the public to prevent cruelty to animals and to promote animal welfare and conservation policies that advance the wellbeing of both animals and people. Today IFAW's programs include a campaign to save the critically endangered Western population of Gray whales at Sakhalin Island, the IFAW Mobile veterinary clinic that spays/neuters and treats stray dogs and cats, the IFAW Orphan Bear Cubs Project that rehabilitates bear cubs orphaned after the cruel winter den hunt.
Address: Smolenskaya pl., 3, Smolensky Passage
International Women's Club (IWC) Charities
The International Women's Club of Moscow supports many different charitable projects with the assistance of a group of dedicated volunteers. These projects fall into different areas that include baby houses and internats (orphanages), children, the elderly, families and individuals, foster families, handicapped and hospitals, soup kitchens, street children, the homeless, women's issues and a donations office. Volunteers are always needed and very welcome! The IWC Charities Group holds regular general meetings at which you can find out more about the work of the group and the many projects the IWC supports.
Kidsave believes that every child needs a family. Consistent with its mission to end the harmful institutionalization of children, Kidsave has been working since 1999 to help move orphaned and abandoned children into permanent families. Volunteers are always welcome to help.
Kitezh Children's Community
Kitezh was established to place children from Russian orphanages into loving adoptive families living in an idyllic village some 300 km southwest of Moscow in the Kaluga Region. This therapeutic community is recognized nationally and internationally for the outstanding work that it does in healing traumatized children. Ten years ago, Kitezh was virgin forest. Slowly, a village of log cabin homes and a school came into being. The school is fully recognized by the government, and there are classes in computing, English, art and icon painting, personal development, as well as Russian, math, history and geography. The children learn traditional Russian dances and perform musicals such as "My Fair Lady" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" in the original English. Some of the first children to come to Kitezh from orphanages ten years ago are now university students - an outstanding testament to the loving success of this community.
Tel: 8 916 9751603
The Maria's Children studio was established in 1993 when director Maria Yeliseeva began her volunteer work with orphans. Kids from different orphanages in Moscow attend the art studio to team art and life skills. They create murals, paintings and other artwork that has been exhibited in Russia and abroad, and their teachers practice art therapy and musical therapy with children challenged by disabilities. The studio also has a psychologist who works with the children. Maria's Children provides an atmosphere where children learn trust, love and friendship. They learn to paint and in doing so, are empowered to change their lives. Every year, Maria's Children sells adorable postcards and wall calendars. Volunteers who are interested in doing artwork with children are always welcome.
Address: Dmitrovsky per., 2/10
Metro: Okhotny Ryad
METIS Inter-Racial Children's Charity Fund
The mission of METIS is to improve the lives of mixed-race children through humanitarian assistance, education and training programs, and other avenues of social advocacy and support. It is the only organization of its kind in Russia. Current METIS programs and projects include computer classes; English and French language classes; donations of food packages to needy families; financial support to individual families; monthly ethnic gatherings for children and families excursions to theatres, museums, and other cultural venues; distribution of a semi-annual newsletter; holiday celebrations for children and families; donations of clothing, toys, and household items, summer camp sponsorship etc. Volunteers are always needed for the above programs and projects.
MiraMed Independent Living and Social Adaptation Center (MILSAC)
Since 1991 MiraMed has been assisting displaced and orphaned children in Russia, helping them make the transition from state-run institutions to society. The organization's social protection programs for Russian orphans include humanitarian aid, education and training at MiraMed Centers for Social Adaptation in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Uglich that help orphans re-enter society with the skills they need to live a safe and meaningful life. MiraMed's short and long term volunteer programs give adults from around the world the opportunity to live and work in Russia and make a personal difference. MiraMed founded the Angel Coalition, the first and now the largest, most successful anti-trafficking coalition in Russia whose members provide public education and training and support for the rescue, return and rehabilitation of trafficking survivors. There are opportunities to work with pregnant single young mothers, single moms with young children, teenagers, and young adults, or with a professional staff of teachers and psychologists.
Address: Kotelnicheskaya nab., 1/15, korp. B, office 52
Homeless dogs and cats are a big problem in Moscow. There are still no Western-style SPCAs in Moscow. The aims of Moscow Animals are to provide in-kind and financial support to a number of private and semi-private dog and cat shelters in Moscow and to assist the shelters and private individuals that rescue animals off the street in finding new homes for their furry friends. Volunteering at animal shelters in Moscow is possible, though operating conditions will usually be nowhere near those in Western countries. If you would like to adopt a dog or cat, please visit the dog and cat pages on the Moscow Animal website.
Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy (MPC)
The Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy funds and operates soup kitchens that serve hot lunches to hundreds of Moscow's elderly each weekday in a number of locations around Moscow. In addition to running soup kitchens, the MPC distributes groceries to African refugees and underprivileged foreign students and prepares food packages for families from METIS, an inter-racial children's charity fund. Volunteers are always welcome.
Tel: 8 499 143-5748
Nastenka Foundation is based at the Institute of Pediatric Oncology and helps children suffering from cancer by providing their families with medical, financial and psychological assistance. Nastenka tries to help by providing the families with financial assistance; raising and providing funds for the purchase of medications, prostheses and medical equipment; providing funds for the treatment of individual children; providing the children with additional nutrition; providing the children with clothing and toys as well as educational supplies; arranging parties and entertainment at the hospital and excursions for the long-term resident parents; and involving volunteers in all aspects of the Foundation's work. Nastenka is always looking for volunteers to assist with fundraising, distribution of donations and raising awareness about their cause.
"NAN" - No to Alcoholism and Drugs
Founded in 1987 by a group of psychiatrists who specialize in drug related problems, NAN now has more than 40 different chapters across Russia. The fund concentrates on developing, testing and approving various spiritually oriented methods of preventing alcoholism and drug-use, venereal diseases and AIDS. It works with abandoned "street" children. NAN has been a leader in NGO development in Russia and played an active role in preparing various federal and Moscow city laws regulating charities. NAN is a recipient of the Euro-American Award for Democracy and a Civil Society.
Address: Shvernika ul., 10a
Tel: 8 499 126-3475
Operation Smile is a leading international charitable medical organization which provides free, high quality, reconstructive facial surgery to children around the world born with cleft lip, cleft palate, and other facial deformities. Founded in the United States in 1982 by plastic surgeon Or. William Magee and his wife, Operation Smile has since operated on almost 80,000 children in 22 mission countries free of charge. Operation Smile donates medical equipment and supplies to in-country host hospitals. All Operation Smile doctors are volunteers, donating their time and services. Operation Smile has been recognized by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as the largest organization of volunteers in the world. Nominated by former US Ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering, Operation Smile was awarded the first Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 1996.
Address: Smolenskaya pl., 3, Smolensky Passage, office 708
Russian Children's Welfare Association (RCWS)
The Russian Children's Welfare Society is dedicated to assisting disadvantaged Russian Children improve their lives. Our organization was formed in 1926 to assist Russian children and families who emigrated to the West. Today the RCWS focuses on helping to improve the lives of children at risk in Russia. During the 2007-2008, the Society disbursed approximately 2 million dollars in direct aid to children in Russia by supporting orphanages, homeless shelters, hospitals, rehabilitation centers for disabled children and schools. More than 20,000 children have been helped by the Society, and over 600 grants have been made to children's organizations.
Address: Bakuninskaya ul., 81/55, str. 1
Tel: 8 499 261-1868
Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund (ROOF)
ROOF is a pioneer in providing high-quality education for children and young adults from Russian orphanages with programs aiming to eradicate traditional prejudices against this group by integrating them into society and enabling them to take care of themselves. ROOF needs volunteers to help with fundraising, translating materials, raising awareness about the problems faced by orphans in Russia, etc.
Address: Voznesensky per., 8
Taganka Children's Fund (TCF)
Taganka Children's Fund supports over 1,200 of the most disadvantaged children and single parents in Moscow to prevent children from entering institutionalized care or ending up alone on the city streets. Taganka Children's Fund is always looking for volunteers to assist with fundraising, PR grant writing and development projects. Much of the work can be done in English.
Address: Bolshoi Rogozhsky per., 10, korp. 2
Therapeutic Riding Society
Therapeutic riding is a physical and a social activity that helps cure or ease many diseases and problems and that brings together the healthy and the handicapped. Equestrian therapy lessons include creative games and sports and contribute to a sense of well-being and self-reliance. The society is a non-profit charitable organization that aims at giving comprehensive help to disabled people. The program of rehabilitation and social adaptation provides riding sessions; rehabilitation exercises; lessons in clay modelling; embroidery; drawing; singing; pottery; ceramics; woodcarving; as well as playing sessions, lessons in basic horse grooming, stable keeping and horse tending. Members of the club regularly take part in national and international riding competitions. As the assistance the society provides to the disabled is free of charge, it relies on donations and grants from national and international organizations and private individuals.
United Way Moscow
United Way Moscow is a community-based, non-profit organization dedicated to improving people's lives in Moscow and eventually in Russia. The United Way marshals volunteer monetary resources to make a positive impact on the lives of children, teens and seniors. It also lobbies for government policies in Moscow and throughout Russia and promotes the concepts of philanthropic giving in Russia.
Address: Nizhnaya ul., 14, str. 1
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia
Founded in 1961, WWF is one of the biggest non-governmental conservation organizations in the world. WWF's mission is to stop the accelerating degradation of Earth's natural environment and to help its human inhabitants live in greater harmony with nature. Established in Russia in 1994, the main programs that WWF Russia is working on include forests, climate change, rare species, nature protected areas, ecological legislation development, education, and toxins. The WWF needs volunteer help in their office.
Address: Nikoloyamskaya ul., 19, str. 3
Although we believe all of the charities listed above to be reputable organisations, please bear in mind that a listing does not guarantee the bona fides of the organisation concerned.