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Service Programs

Lake Baikal Project Wins National Ecology Prize

Russia-2009-12-21-Lake Baikal Project Wins National Ecology Prize

Moscow, Russia - UPF's project of building and repairing bridges on Lake Baikal tourist trails won first place in the ecology category in the Volunteer 2009 All-Russia competition. The real prize, according to an organizer, was the gratitude of the people hiking the routes in greater safety.

More than 100 volunteer projects were showcased during the December 18 – 21 volunteer exhibition in Moscow. Project organizers took part in master classes and role-playing activities. They had opportunities to present their projects and discuss the qualitative and organizational aspects of the volunteer activities.

Yevgeny Rakityansky, co-organizer and team leader of the summer ecological and tourism project, was the winner of the ecology division of the competition. The task was to build or rebuild four pedestrian bridges along the tourist path between the town of Slyudyanka and Chersky Peak in the Irkutsk district of southern Russia.

Forty-one young people worked on the project from July 2 to August 6; they came from different parts of Russia, including Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Khabarovsk.

“Who said that volunteerism means gratuitous and unqualified labor?" he stated in the essay he wrote for the competition. "In the process of realizing the project we have already changed such a viewpoint. The Ministry of Emergency Regulations considers the bridges that we constructed to be safe and in conformance with all international requirements and standards.

Working in the midst of such natural beauty, experiencing the benefits of cooperation, and solving the challenges posed by the variety of situations were part of the experiential learning of the project. The participants felt the project was inherently valuable.

The bridges made it safer for hikers to travel along the scenic routes, and no lives have been lost since the project. "What is the price of one life?" Yevgeny asked. "Ask someone who has lost a family member. What is the price of one’s health? Ask an invalid person. Only then can you fully evaluate the Baikal project. I wouldn’t say that the volunteer labor is gratuitous. It is more valuable than all the money."

The real prize, according to Yevgeny, was the words of gratitude from the good people who actually choose this route. "The reason we know they are good is because bad people never climb mountains," he added.

A Russian website listed the project as one of the ten best projects in the “technology for goodness” programs.

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