Peterhof (Russia) is well-known for its Grand Peterhof Palace. But only few know about the gray concrete block behind the „Russian Versailles“. It is the Psycho-Neurological Internat No.3 (PNI) – a public home for more than thousand people with psycho-neurological problems and mental illness, but also for homeless, alcoholics, older women and men. Many of the residents are lying in beds day in, day out and have been supplied only with the most basic needs. A undignified life – reduced to vegetating until death. A small Russian non-government organization is trying to improve the situation of disabled though voluntary services. Volunteers like Laura and Paul made a conscious decision to work in Peterhof. Their job is to assist the patients in everyday matters, to spent lovely time with them, provide body-care assistence and help with eating. Notably, they take time for the individual and treating them with respect. Because without any knowledge it´s very difficult for them to see what a resident need. Also they cannot expect help from the Russian staff, the cooperation with them often is very troublesome. Volunteers are also undesirables. But their willingness to help is very high. But all too often anticipation and enthusiasm turn into feelings of overwhelmed and helpless. Because the work in PNI requires many skills by young volunteers – on the physical level and from a psychological point of view. They are messenger of smiles for those people nobody wants to see them. A tough responsibility for young volunteers.
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