UK Student Joins Center for Interethnic Cooperation:Reflections from Russia

BY Michael Crum

February 28, 2013

Michael Crum is a UK student studying in Russia for the academic year.

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be hired as an intern at the Center for Interethnic Cooperation (CIC) in Moscow. I have been studying in Russia for nearly seven months now and decided it was time to get some work experience abroad. I had some work experience my previous semester teaching English classes, but I wanted some work experience that pertained more to my academic focus in international relations.
Working at the CIC feels more like being with family. During my interview, I was simply told to talk about my character rather than showcase my achievements and abilities. They just wanted to know if I had a good heart. After responding “I think so,” they allowed me to volunteer my services. We eat dinner together every night, bring each other gifts, practice our Russian and English- speaking skills and celebrate events such as birthdays and achievements. This of course is a very small part of my work experience.
Russia is enormous. It shares its borders with Europe, Central Asia and Eastern Asia and is one of the most ethnically diverse countries on the planet. Russia, like most countries, has a long history of racism and intolerance. It has endorsed pogroms to rid of Jews, conquered and enslaved non-whites and passed various laws intended to prevent immigrants from coming into its borders.

The center was founded in 1997 as an NGO and works together with other like-minded partners throughout Europe. It aims to help protect ethnic minority groups, educate the public about the futility of bigotry and to work with public officials to assist in building better relations with minority communities. This is mostly done through training seminars.
The CIC organizes and hosts various events throughout the year. Some are held to educate young Russians about intolerance in order to stop it at its roots. Other events train ethnic groups to organize into democratic groups with an elected leader so that they may voice their concerns more efficiently. The third type of training seminar is held to teach government officials how to interact with these groups in an effective and receptive manner.
I am thankful that I have been a part of such a noble cause with these courageous and altruistic people. Some of my work includes raising money for the organization, proofreading documents written in English and participating in training and educational events. This year, I will help organize and lead several seminars around Europe.
One of my favorite parts of my job is meeting the people that stop by just to say hello on a daily basis. The CIC leaders have befriended innumerable people from various small communities and it is so fascinating to hear their stories and learn about their culture. Overall, my experience here has been fantastic and it seems to get better every day. We have lots of work ahead of us, but we have reached many of our goals and are excited to overcome new challenges.

For those interested in our cause, you can contact us at:

http://www.interethnic.org/en/

or

Facebook group “Center for Interethnic Cooperation”

All are welcome!

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