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Jobs from the Reach files - 2

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In this regular series Olive Braman tells how volunteers can use their skills and expertise through REACH, the charity that places professional and business people in part time voluntary jobs

You can find all the Jobs From the REACH Files articles from the Volunteering Index

Previous Jobs from the Reach Files

Reach Files 1: Retired Business Owner

Volunteering Index

Latin American Literature used to be Dr Verity Smith's speciality. Now, in her retirement, she is a volunteer working on social exclusion in Russia.

The switch isn't as odd as it sounds. Verity, from Muswell Hill, north London, is a former academic and editor of the Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature, and it's her research skills that are proving so useful now.

Verity works with the BEARR trust, British Emergency Action in Russia and the Republics. This is a small UK charity which is developing links with the voluntary sectors in Britain and the former Soviet Union. Its aim is to help those disadvantaged by poverty, disability and other forms of social exclusion due to the great upheavals in recent years

She found her job through REACH, the charity which places skilled executives to work as volunteers with voluntary organisations.

"So many new voluntary organisations are springing up in Russia that it's hard to keep track", she says. "The BEARR trust publishes a regular newsletter to keep people informed. It is the principal source of information about British Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) in the former Soviet Union."

Over the past year, Verity Smith has focused on researching and updating the database of British voluntary organisations working in the former Soviet Union, an essential tool in BEARR's work. Applying her academic research skills she has undertaken a comprehensive overhaul of the material so that the trust can answer the hundreds of information requests it receives each year.

"I know something of the need that exists as I have travelled to several countries in the former Soviet bloc and have also attempted, rather unsuccessfully, to learn Russian", she says.

The BEARR trust was founded ten years ago with the aim of making a contribution to Russia’s transition to a pluralist, democratic society. It works alongside Russian NGOs, to strengthen communities and promote citizen participation, and has several projects currently in progress.

It is working with OZON, Russia’s first child protection centre, to develop a distance learning training pack for those working in the field of child abuse. A video in Russian, aimed at teachers, social services, lawyers and the police, introduces the issue of child abuse and emphasises the need for early detection and intervention. The trust is also helping with a project to improve services for the elderly in Moscow, who are amongst those worst affected by the transition period. Many of them suffer from isolation and economic hardship

Like other small charities the BEARR trust is dependent on the work of volunteers. "We are very grateful to REACH for recommending Verity to us," says its Director, Myra Green. "We hope to assemble her material into a directory."

If you feel you could offer your services to the BEARR trust or would like further information, please contact Kyrill Dissanayake : telephone 020 7404 7081. Or see their website:

REACH can be contacted by telephone on 020 7582 6543. Email: website:

Look out for future features from Olive Braman on Jobs From The REACH Files or view all the REACH Files Articles from our Volunteering Index


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