Many things in Belarus have been and are being done by volunteers. Volunteers cover those spheres the state turns a blind eye to and does not see the problems. It is ecology, animal protection, social inclusion, assistance to lonely pensioners, historical and cultural monuments preservation. Volunteers look for funds, raise their voices on social media, raise the issue, and take it to an international level. Many volunteers are in prison now because of their activism.
Our organisation can also be considered as a volunteer. We have dozens of ordinary people who help us, translating into different languages, writing texts, shooting and editing videos for social media, and supporting us in many countries. A broad volunteer network used to exist in Belarus – in every region, our activists raised significant issues in publications on the website, prepared appeals to various structures, and agitated people to clean up their small homeland.
For example, in 2016, thanks to volunteers, a footpath appeared in a cottage village in Soligorsk. In 2017, “Our House” volunteers from Bobruisk forced local authorities to repair ramps at Children’s Polyclinic No. 2. And in spring 2018, Bobruisk residents collected more than 200 signatures for improving the sidewalks. We sent an appeal to the city council. The authorities promised to repair the said areas in 2018 and 2019. And this was fulfilled. In 2018, thanks to volunteers, the children of Valentina Buslaeva, Kopyl district, returned home. Volunteers helped the woman paying off her utility bills and receiving financial assistance. Thanks to the efforts of “Our House” volunteers, people cleaned up the square near the “Tourist” Hotel in Homel. In 2019 alone, more than 40 trees were planted here, 90 trees were tidied, a subbotnik was held, a new bench was put up, the ground was replanted, and paths were repaired.
Our activists were repeatedly repressed and persecuted in Belarus.
The abuse of our activist Olesya Sadouskaya’s family continued for several years. In 2014, she was accused of violence against a police officer and forced to undergo psychiatric treatment. In 2015 her daughter Katya was taken from her. In 2016, Olesya received 2.5 years of home “chemo”. On March 14, 2017, a court arrested our activist Yevgeny Glagolev-Vaskovich for 15 days on charges of participating in an unsanctioned rally. Activist Natalya Harachka met in 2018 in prison because she asked to identify herself to a member of the Department of Security who demanded her documents. In 2020 our human rights activist Valery Shchukin was fined 20 basic units for taking part in a legal election picket of Sviatlana Tikhanouskaya. On July 14, 2021, our activist Yuliya Harachka was detained and spent more than eight months in jail. On July 20, 2021, at 7.30 a.m. Alena Hrybanava, the human rights activist of Our House, was searched by the KGB in her flat. The KGB also detained our volunteers, Anastasia Sokol and Irina Guerrero Mengana.
The regime persecuted “Our House” volunteers, continuing to do so even abroad. For example, on 23 May 2021, Oleg Haidukevich, Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the so-called National Assembly of Belarus, publicly stated that a series of special operations were planned in Lithuania and Poland against well-known opposition activists, including their kidnapping and return to Belarus in a boot. And since June 2021, at least five women human rights defenders of “Our House” and partner organisations working to help Belarusian refugees and returnees have been spotted being followed by unknown men on Lithuanian territory. On September 5, 2021, Vladimir Archakov, deputy state secretary of the Security Council, admitted that the illegitimate government prepared several special operations to eliminate opposition leaders abroad, including simulated car crashes.
Despite this, our volunteer network is growing.
Humanitarian aid stores are a case in point. When we started helping the Belarusians in Poland in 2021, together with the DAR Initiative, we delivered food baskets to mothers with their children and residents of places of temporary settlement of foreigners, we helped unload humanitarian aid. When trucks with clothes and household items arrived in Vilnius at the request of “Our House”, many Lithuanian Belarusians came voluntarily to unload them, sort the aid, and help with the transportation of the items. Volunteers also helped us in Riga, where we delivered a batch of humanitarian cargo.
When the war started in Ukraine, we felt even more strongly about the rallying of the volunteer community. People came and continue to come to the warehouses to help unload and sort humanitarian aid, spread the word about us, take things to the addresses of non-profit organisations, medical institutions and Ukraine, and help establish contacts with initiatives and associations. Children’s clubs with volunteer teachers held at the “Our House” office (read the first report here). Ahead of them are classes in cookery, fine arts, English and Italian, and master classes for Belarusian and Ukrainian refugee children. And we are ready to support active volunteers with gifts from our partners. More than a dozen women who come to help at the Vilnius warehouse have already received cosmetic kits to take care of themselves.
You can become “Our House” volunteer too!
Come to our warehouse at Aušros vartų g. 3, if you are in Vilnius. Or write to our social networks, if you are in other cities or countries:
We will be glad to help you in transporting, sorting humanitarian aid, buying children’s art supplies. We will also need the help of translators, designers, SMM managers and journalists.
Today, our team says thank you to the volunteers who work in their spare time for the free and bright future of Ukraine. And we thank volunteers for helping people since August 9, 2020. We wish each volunteer health, strength and, of course, a speedy achievement of their goals!