Alumni Spotlight: Pat Thomas

Why did you decide to volunteer with VFP in Russia?

Volunteers For Peace in Russia

Pat: I first became interested in Valaam Island while looking for opportunities through Volunteers For Peace over a year ago. I had commitments then, but when I saw the project in March, I jumped at the chance. The pictures of the monastery were beautiful and I am always looking for photo opportunities.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Pat: Monday through Sat. noon, breakfast was at 8. All volunteers assembled in front of our dorm at 9 to receive assignments for the day. We worked at different things until 12 or 12:30. Lunch was at 1:00, work resumed at 2:00. Sometimes we were taken to our assignments by bus, sometimes we walked, depending on the location. The island has 10 working sketes in addition to the monastery; we worked at three of them, picking berries, weeding pathways, clearing planting beds, planting beds, pruning/maintenance of plants, and digging bulbs for the winter. The men had more difficult work--splitting logs, chopping firewood and stacking it, baling hay, stacking hay bales, demolishing old shacks, etc.

VFP volunteer program in Russia

How has this experience impacted your future?

Pat: This experience gave me some knowledge about the Russian Orthodox religion and about Russians in general. I had only the best encounters with Russian people from St. Petersburg to Petrozovodsk to Sortavala to Valaam Island and back. The people were very helpful, especially when we didn't speak the same language. I'll try to send some pictures; the way my software works, they will be sent separately. Thanks for the interest. I can't say enough great things about Volunteers For Peace.