Winners of ‘Civil Initiative’ award announced
The Committee of Citizens Initiatives (CCI) has selected the best 15 social action projects in Russia for the ‘Civil Initiative’ award. The prize is intended to give recognition to people who have helped transform their city, and the country, for the better.
‘Our aim is to highlight the work people do to improve the lives of neighbours or their fellow townspeople, irrespective of difficult or adverse conditions,’ said Aleksey Kudrin, a CCI member and chair of the Accounting Chamber of the Russian Federation. ‘Participation, solidarity and mutual help can contribute a great deal to the development of our country. At times this can be done without state involvement. A few days ago, the All-Russian Citizens’ Forum discussed the question of how to achieve personal happiness. We can try to assess what the state has done for its citizens, or we can talk about the concrete things people do to help bring joy to the lives of friends, neighbours or fellow city dwellers.’
In 2018, about 3800 social action projects from 78 Russian regions were submitted for the competition. Winners were selected in 13 categories and each received a ‘Golden Bud’ statuette and a prize of 200,000 roubles.
The ‘Seeds of New Power’ category is dedicated to local government, and to initiatives encouraging cooperation with state authorities, or resolving issues connected to housing and municipal services. Yurevets (Vologda region) received the award for ‘most promising village’. There are just 150 houses in the village and local people have made efforts to ensure that it is equipped with utilities and services. Special events including games and masterclasses have been organised, and recreation spaces built. Increasing numbers of families are now moving into the area, and a greater sense of community is being encouraged in the village.
The ‘Health of the Nation’ category attracted initiatives to improve public health and encourage better life styles. The award for 2018 went to the ‘100-day workout programme’ from Moscow and the Moscow region. There were 15,000 participants in the project, and all were offered free help to achieve their fitness goals over a training period lasting 100 days.
‘We are a community of active people keen to train and build up our physical strength but, above all, we want to help others achieve success in life,’ Mikhail Kaldorkin, an organiser of the programme explained.
The most successful human rights initiative in the ‘Air of Freedom’ category was a project from St Petersburg entitled ‘Woman. Prison. Society’. The designers of the initiative assist women prisoners, those women who have been released from prison, and prisoners’ wives. All are offered psychological, legal and medical help. The designers of the programme say that they aim to make the Russian punitive justice system more humane.
In the ‘Expand the Limits of Possibility’ category, the award for the best initiative supporting the disabled went to a project from the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug which ensures that people with disabilities are offered companionship and transport when they go out.
The ‘Offer your Hand in Aid’ category gives recognition to voluntary groups that help victims of accidents or natural disasters, and search for people who are not accounted for. The prize went to ‘Mutual Assistance on 51 Roads’ (Murmansk region). Since 2014, volunteers have helped hundreds of drivers following accidents or breakdown to tow away vehicles, change wheels, or charge car batteries.
The ‘Star Port’ Foundation from Veliky Novgorod won the prize in the ‘Family of the Future’ category. Its ‘MaMy’ programme offers social, psychological and practical help to mothers.
‘Behind every child stands a mother, and the child’s fortunes depend on the mother’s strength. Mothers with terminally ill children have created a space, which we have called “Battery”, where a tired mother can recharge, irrespective of the health of her child,’ Tatiana Cherneva, the designer of the project, said.
The award for help offered to forced migrants, in the ‘Russia is our Common Home’ category, went to a project from Stavropol Krai named ‘Faith, Hope and Charity.’ The organisation offers legal aid, and trains practising lawyers as well as representatives of human rights organisations and state agencies.
From among initiatives which organise help for the sick, the judges selected a project entitled ‘The Care for Stroke Victims School’ from the Volgograd region. Patients who have suffered a stroke are helped to start early rehabilitation, and relatives are instructed on modern methods of caring for them.
The Social Centre of St Tikhon (Moscow) received an award in the category ‘We All Share in the Pain’. The Centre helps orphans, convicts, the elderly and the homeless – a total of about 15,000 people nationally.
The winner in the environmental category was a Krasnoyarsk project entitled ‘Clean up your feathers, Siberia’, put together by the ‘Green Purse’ organisation. Activists organise ecological competitions in which participants collect paper and other material for recycling.
‘Our movement has 100,000-200,000 people involved every year,’ one activist said. ‘As we say there is no such thing as rubbish, there are only raw materials”.’
In the ‘Memory’ category, the award went to an interactive book entitled ‘Chernobyl – Pages of Memories’ (Belgorod region). The publication gathers information on people who dealt with the aftermath of the nuclear accident in April 1986, and the book has been supplied to libraries and schools. Another winner in the same category was a project to preserve the memory of victims of political repressions from the Irkutsk region. Volunteers have created a data base about historical persecution in the area. They also collect photographs, letters, and personal possessions belonging to political prisoners, and give talks in schools.
One of the awards for journalistic projects went to the ‘Korolyov Master Plan’ portal. The founder of the portal, Igor Grishin, said that the site focuses on issues associated with the development of historic parts of Korolyov and the demolition of buildings of historical value. The judges also awarded a prize to the samizdat publication ‘But my dear fellow, you’re a transformer’, which brings together creative professionals working in the media. Writers address themes as diverse as single industry towns, stand-up comedy, disability and art. The authors of the project say on their website that they want to ‘shed light on news in an objective way, and thoughtfully examine the shape and course of events, as well as the causes of growth and development’. The project includes the radio channel: ‘Glagolev FM’.
In the ‘Spiritual Heritage’ category, the winner was a street cinema festival from Vladivostok. The initiators of the project, Aleksandr and Margarita Shcheryakov, gave free showings of short films throughout the country. The festival was included in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest running travelling festival in the world.
‘We had the idea five years ago,’ Aleksandr Shcheryakov said in his award acceptance speech. ‘We wanted to create a national film festival that would present the work of young, talented film-makers to hundreds of thousands of people internationally. We borrowed huge amounts of money from friends to make our first tour. Now, the festival of street cinema is no longer just about cinema. It attracts large numbers of civil activists, urban communities and NGOs worldwide. For many Russian regions this offers a way of gathering activists, involved in a wide range of different projects, around a single table.’
The ‘Civil Initiative’ awards are now in their sixth year. They were instigated by the Committee of Citizens’ Initiatives.