And then a white van pulls up and smiles spread across half-frozen faces. They swarm around it and gleefully welcome the volunteer workers who get out, distributing hot meals, wool socks, and basic medical care to them. In the depths of winter, when deep freezes curse the city and the temperature can go as low as -15 degrees F for weeks on end, the help of the volunteers means the difference between life and death for many.
Well, some people are bringing warmth to the humble residents of Moscow, in an unorthodox way – by jumping in the freezing river themselves, and donating the money they raise for that heroic (ok, bonkers!) act.
It’s called the ‘Auski Cold Plunge’, a celebratory event and fundraiser to provide relief for the country’s homeless, during their Arctic winters. Cold Plunge was started by founder Jessie Cummings in 2011 and has attracted plungers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UK, America, Israel, Russia, the Philippines and more. In its 3 years, the Auski Cold Plunge for the Homeless has raised $40,000USD for charities supporting homeless people. Last year saw over 100 people take the plunge and do their part to help their brothers and sisters who are living on the streets.
Unofficial numbers gauge Moscow’s homeless population at about 100,000 but no one really knows. They come to the city from all over Russia in search of work but often can’t get jobs, are robbed, can’t find family, or lose their documents and become trapped in the city. Budgets for any social services are stretched thin or nonexistent, and there are only 8 shelters, and 1 bus driving around for a city of over 11 million inhabitants.
There is no other safety net for these homeless men and women, mothers and children. In fact, during a recent 3-week cold spell, 200 homeless people died and on average about 30 succumb every month. That means in one of the most expensive cities in the world one human being dies from something as simple and preventable as cold, every single night. The volunteer workers drive around each morning and inevitably find corpses that they can’t shake from sleep, frozen stiff. They desperately need our help, so please get involved and spread the word – you’ll be saving many lives and bringing warmth to the spirit of men, women, and children, who are counting on you.
This year’s Cold Plunge is February 1st, at 11am on Bezdonnoye Lake, Serebryany Bor, Moscow
If you’re in Moscow or nearby, and you’d like to take the plunge, contact Auski to register, recruit a team of your wild friends to do it with you, and start raising donations.
If you’re not ready to plunge, you’re a chicken, you can still help in a number of ways:
1. You can come along and volunteer – register people, help teams, navigate the bus. You also can just cheer along and watch others plunge and get your pictures taken at the photo booth.
2. You can come to the after party at Katie O’Shea’s, which will start at about 3pm, and buy artworks by homeless people.
3. You can donate a prize for the after party raffle – it’s an extra source of income.
4. You can donate money on http://www.gofundme.com/6c0l60 any amount is much appreciated
5. You can help us get paintings from Caritas to Katie O’Shea’s – we need your car and a couple of hours. If you can do so, please email Anna and Tommas on firstname.lastname@example.org
6. You can spread the word and get all your friends to come along!
If you are willing to help in any way, please contact us at email@example.com or call Anna at +79261489042 (Russian and English) or Tommas at +79629126439 (English)
Participants must register – https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1dqGzKL7QTAJB321QsWj1SlMUPVLyy95XYrdxRJTRV6g/edit#