Olga Zenovich works in finance, is an active traveller, and supports social projects across the world. During the pandemic, Olga has been involved in remote volunteering, trading volunteering hours for monetary donations to Gift of Life. How is this possible? Find out in this interview.
Olga, how did you get involved with charity work?
I grew up in a family of doctors in Russia. From early childhood, I could see that helping others was a fundamental part of my mother and grandmother’s lives. I ended up in maths and finance myself, but the desire to follow their example and help those who desperately need it never left me. It was never a question of whether or not to help. The only thing I asked myself was exactly how I could do it.
You have lived in London for a long time, and you work at a major international company. Why did you decide to help Gift of Life and children with cancer in Russia?
You cannot solve a problem that you can’t understand or express. I encountered Gift of Life at Chulpan Khamatova and Evgeny Mironov’s charity arts evening. This was when the Theatre of Nations was touring London in October 2019. That evening, the abstract concept of charity took on real meaning. What I saw wasn’t just another charity, of which there are so many both in England and in Russia, but living, caring people who were prepared to expend time, energy, talents and resources in order to help. In that moment, I realised that I, too, have a chance to join them and help.
The company you work at supports a staff volunteering programme and makes donations to a charity of the volunteer’s choice for every 25 hours of volunteer work. Could you tell us more about that?
I work at Bloomberg, where philanthropy and giving back are core values. As part of this, employees can take part in various projects with non-profit partners, both in-person, and more recently, through virtual volunteering. If you accumulate 25 or 50 hours of volunteer work, those hours turn into a direct monetary donation of $2,500 or $5,000 respectively to a non-profit partner of your choice.
So far this year, I have taken part in the Humanitarin OpenStreetMap Team’s Missing Maps project and have supported social projects using Adler Planetarium’s Zooniverse portal. Last year, I also provided support through the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK programme.
Throughout my time at Bloomberg, I’ve remotely supported charity and social projects from various countries, shared my knowledge and professional skills, and simultaneously “earned” a donation for Gift of Life. Bloomberg quickly transferred the funds to the charity, enabling a course of a foreign anti-tumour medication for a child being treated for cancer in Russia.
Charities exist because there are no perfect government socio-economic and financial systems. Charities help solve the problems those imperfect systems are not able to handle. Companies like Bloomberg, which actively support international volunteering programmes, offer their staff the chance to help, to change the world for the better. We must not let that opportunity pass us by. Find out what charity and volunteering initiatives your company supports and take action.
Olga at the Gift of Life Gala evening, 13 January 2020
Let’s daydream a little. If you had to spend a month working at a charity, what project would you want to make happen?
I have spent a long time living with the idea of a charity project aimed at the older generation in Russia – our grandmothers and grandfathers. I see how the elderly need that kind of help, especially those who are lonely, and I hope that I will be able to realise that project.
There are many problems surrounding us, and so far, humanity has not managed to create an ideal world in which charities are not needed. You can do nothing and blame the system, or you can become part of a solution to at least one problem. I have chosen the latter.
What would you wish the children and young adults in our care who are currently receiving treatment in Russian hospitals?
You absolutely have to make plans for the future and have an intense drive to realise them. Everyone needs an objective. It is a person’s guiding star, especially during the most difficult and frightening of times – being ill.
To support children in our care find out with your employer if they support any volunteering schemes as Bloomberg do.
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