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Playing Santa Claus for Moscow Charity

British expatriate Jon Roche Katherine Jacobsen

British expat John Roche is not your regular philanthropist. From March to January, Roche, marketing director at Officescape International, grows out his white beard in preparation for his holiday-time role as Father Christmas at various charity events. He is also a regular master of ceremonies at expat charity events.

Q: How did you end up in Moscow?

A: I was asked to come over for a month to solve a problem that a company had back here in 1993, and so I came for a month, and I've stayed here since. I'm in my 18th year of my one-month contract.

Q: How did you get involved in philanthropy work in Moscow?

A: It was initially happenchance, but it was a delightful one. In 1998, I was invited to join the St. Andrew's Society of Russia committee because they were putting on a ball, and they asked me if I would be the master of ceremonies for the event. I suppose I was filling a gap at the very beginning with St. Andrew's because at that time a lot of people were leaving because of the financial crisis. And then once I started, the Irish business club asked me if I would do their MC activities. I became, I suppose, something of a fixture, you know it was: 'Oh John'll do it and John always does' so it sort of rolls along.

Q: While you continually work as a master of ceremonies for various events, you're also involved in Taganka Children's Fund, why?

A: I've focused on Taganka because over the years I've gotten to know how it works. I've gotten to know the individuals; I know a lot of the families, knowing the people and seeing how any resources are utilized. I think that's the thing.

Q: Why do you continue your involvement in philanthropic activity?

A: I think if you're living somewhere, and you've decided you're going to stay, then you need to get involved in your community, and if you can do something it can become a collective joy. You see results and you see the pleasure and the interest, and what a huge return you get for really quite low-level investment in just time. It's really just remarkable.

Q: When do you cut off your beard?

A: Well, historically, after January 1st people pay me to cut off my beard. This year, I'll be doing it on my own, but in March I'll start again. Every year, I think, well, maybe I'll retire as Santa. But I'll probably be doing it again.

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