The starting point of the Search Movement
PoiskDetei.ru was the first specialized volunteer website in Russia involved in the search for missing children. It began operation in May 2009 after the search for the 14 year old girl Anna M, who went missing in Moscow. The future founders of the PoiskDetei.ru website, Dmitry Vtorov and Gayane Stepanyan were involved in that search.
During the summer of 2010, there were large wildfires in Russia. The disaster caused people to come together and organize to withstand the elements. In Russia, there has been a broad movement of volunteers and socially active people united by a common goal – to help people located in the area of an emergency. Therefore, there was a tremendous response when 5-year-old Lisa Fomkina and her aunt disappeared in Moscow in September; in all, several hundred volunteers were involved in the massive search.
Following the high-profile search for the young girl and her aunt, the site and forum began undergoing active development beginning in September 2010; a questionnaire system for people willing to help search was created, and social network groups emerged. All expenses were borne by the volunteers and the voluntary assistance network. From September 2010 to December 2010, i.e. during a four-month period, the number of people who declared their intention to participate in searching for missing children grew to 800 volunteers, who responded from different cities in Russia, as well as from neighboring countries. The process of forming search teams began in St Petersburg, Tyumen, Chelyabinsk. Thus the development of an organized nationwide community of search volunteers was launched.
Establishment of the Association of Volunteer Organizations “Search for Missing Children”
By September 2013 more than 30 organizations were involved in the movement, which brought together more than 6,000 volunteers not only from Russia but also from other CIS countries, as well. The missing children search movement began undergoing active development in Ukraine. Simultaneously, the Community provided information support for the search for children in Kazakhstan and Belarus; relationships with organizations from the European Union, the USA, China and other foreign countries developed. This expansion, as well as the need to work with government agencies, led to the further development of the Community and the unanimous decision of the organizations involved in the movement to establish an Association of voluntary organizations called “Search for Missing Children”.
A public relations office was established to publicize the Association. It provides a service for reporting on search events, volunteers, organizations and various problems in the field of protection of children, childhood and family interests. It was registered in Roskomnadzor under No. ИА No. ФС77-44545 on 14 April 2011. The Organization’s pages include information about unique safety materials and advice for children and parents. And that’s just the beginning: foreign materials that may be relevant for our country are being prepared and adapted.
A charitable foundation called “Search for Missing Children” has also been established. Its goal is the acquisition of resources for the development of local search teams and initiatives, the provision of rehabilitation and other assistance to children and parents of missing children, as well as the development of programmes to improve child safety and prevent juvenile delinquency. The foundation is considered a cornerstone in the development of voluntary initiatives in searching for missing children and social programmes of the Association and the movement as a whole.
The cooperation of the Association and State Services
Volunteers are actively cooperating with the General Administration of Criminal Investigation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, the central office of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, the Emergencies Ministry, and Joint Stock Company “Russian Railways”, as well as their regional offices; these agencies are constantly cooperating in the search for missing children.
It is important to note that the members of the Association and the International Centre “Search for Missing Children” do not duplicate the functions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Investigative Committee, the Emergencies Ministry and other special state services. They cooperate with them in accordance with Russian and international law. The volunteers disseminate information about missing children on the Internet and in the media, provide psychological assistance to relatives of missing children, post leaflets, conduct local searches using special gear, and attract professional rescuers and handlers.
The Association is also actively involved in workgroups formed in the facilities of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, specifically in the Committee for Security and Anti-Corruption, in the Civic Chamber, and in the Investigative Committee. Members of the Association participate in various roundtables as experts, work on proposals for legislative initiatives concerning the search for missing children and protection of children from exploitation.
The current state of the Association
According to our estimates, in Russia there are actually about 60 organizations or initiatives that involved in the searching for missing children. Of that number, 48 belong to the Association, the remaining 12 organizations have either not yet decided on their response or perceive themselves as having a unique role to play outside the context of the Association. Nevertheless, it is the Association’s policy to provide assistance regardless of membership, and the Public Relations Office works and involves all those involved in searching for missing children in a common media space. The task of creating a common media space is being carried out successfully.
Training of volunteers and charity work.
the Association also offers classes and trainings on search and rescue methods, first aid, and orienteering, and it works with special technical devices. A distance learning method involving training webinars was launched, and joint exercises with other organizations has been established, particularly with the Emergencies Ministry, the Russian Union of Rescuers, and volunteers from the Moscow branch of the Red Cross.
The Association’s Foundation was also the first organization in Russia to join the International Day for the Search of Missing Children, which is held every year on 25 May. A charity concert featuring Russian pop stars, as well as a variety of workshops and competitions for children, parents and volunteers, was held on this day for the second year in Moscow. Also taking part were the head of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees and the famous Russian musician DJ Groove.
In recent years, our volunteers have helped find more than 2,500 children. People with adult relatives who have disappeared also turn to the Association. As far as possible, we undertake such searches as well. More than 600 adults were found with our assistance. Currently, the Association is involved in searching for 100-150 missing children on a daily basis.
It should be noted that the search actions are carried out by the volunteers themselves using their personal equipment, machinery and vehicles. The work of volunteers is not paid, and the only reward is the gratitude of people who are rescued.