Rinat Akhmetov: The problem of orphanage is counting its last days
December 20, 2011 Leave a comment
On 19 December, FC Shakhtar president Rinat Akhmetov along with the composer Igor Krutoy visited orphans from the Dnipropetrovsk region. During the visit, Rinat Leonidovich answered the questions from children and journalists.
– Rinat Leonidovich, what was the most difficult choice that you had to make in your life and what factors helped you make the right decision?
– You will probably be a journalist. We started talking about sport, and I think that sport – like no other activity – fosters important qualities. Life is a struggle; life is difficulties, obstacles and challenges. Sport fosters qualities that enable you to overcome these hurdles. One should always develop in a positive way to overcome obstacles that will be in your path. You should also remain honest, so you will not feel ashamed of your own actions.
– You say that life is a struggle, but one must always be a person with an open heart and dignity.
– Yes, to take on challenges you need to have a big heart. If you are heartless, you will not succeed. You need to have both a big heart and the right mindset.
– Rinat Leonidovich, do you have pets?
– Yes, I have dogs. I love them.
– What breed?
– Two Rottweilers and Caucasian Shepherds. They are dangerous!
– How many dogs do you have?
– What do you think about Dnipro’s potential?
– This club has a great potential. Its owner invests heavily and wants his team to play well. I respect the Dnipro approach. You need to have patience in order to make the team capable of winning the domestic league, let alone decent results in the Champions League and the Europa League. Sure, they are our rivals to some extent. (Laughs.) Strong competition means greater benefit to Ukrainian football as a whole. This season saw Shakhtar disappoint its fans. Last year, the team showed a good game, reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League. It turned out that we failed in the Champions League right after my stating that our goal was to win the aforementioned tournament. In 2002, when we claimed our first league title, I said that our goal was to win the UEFA Cup. The same story happened: we were eliminated from the tournament after suffering a 5-1 defeat against Austria. Nevertheless, after 7 years, on May 20, 2009 we won the UEFA Cup.
– Was it a match against Barcelona?
– No, we played against Barcelona in the Super Cup. We lost 1-0 in extra time. During that game, I lost 3 kilograms.
– Do you personally play football?
– No. As a child I dreamed of becoming a footballer. I have told this story many times: my mother had a big wallet, but there was never any money in it and I kept telling her that I would become a football player. At school, we would always play football. However, I was not to become a footballer, but I went on to serve football in another capacity.
– What does this programme mean to you?
– Igor and I started this programme 11 years ago in Donetsk. We went to children’s homes to see how the children lived, what they felt, thought, what they were dreaming about. Basically, it became an annual tradition. We came to a clear conclusion: every child must live in a family. This is the main idea behind our foundation. I am very grateful to your governor, because he feels this problem with all his heart.
– Rinat Leonidovich, are you going to initiate bills concerning this issue or will it remain only as your charity activity in the Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk regions?
– In general, we want to operate throughout the whole country, because orphans are everywhere. For 10 years we have been operating in the Donetsk region, and this year we launched a pilot project in Dnipropetrovsk. In order to do something, we need to have ‘a two way street’. I have already said that the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region is determined to tackle this problem; he is willing to do everything to ensure that children are raised in families. As far as I am concerned, on December 16, the parliament passed a law that helps to deal with this problem and protect the rights of a child. This law was signed by the President.
– Was it your bill?
– No, not ours.
– Will the experience of your foundation be used?
– By and large, we should all be together: the government, business and society. And then this problem will disappear. There are always three reasons behind orphanage. The first one is poverty, when one of the parents, for example, a single mother, finds herself in a difficult situation and decides to abandon her child. The second reason is a lack of responsibility, when dysfunctional families are deprived of parental rights. The third reason is the biological orphans. Today, there are 96,000 orphans in Ukraine. The task now is not to let this figure increase. If the government, business and society work together, this problem will go away. We need to take the best European experience in this area and get rid of this problem in our country, in each region, not only in Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk. When there is a problem and we admit that this problem does exit, but we say nothing and do nothing, then it means that nobody is going to solve it. But when there is a problem, and we are drawing attention to it, discussing it, looking for the best possible solutions, then this problem will not last long. A child’s happiness must win. There should be three allies: government, business and society. A child must grow up in a family, a child must have a home.
– Are philanthropists ‘a little ahead’ now in this respect?
– I would not say so. It is our first visit to the Dnipropetrovsk region; we did not have time to do anything significant. But I have no doubts that we will do it and we will not be ashamed of our actions. Our main ally here is the governor. With him, we will address these issues and I am sure that we will get a positive result. I am convinced that in the Dnipropetrovsk region this problem will be solved. Now it is important this example should be followed in other regions so that, say, in five years time we could say that we made those children happy; those kids found a new family – now they have a future. After that, our foundation will deal with other problems. If a politician is not dealing with this issue, he is no different from parents who abandoned their children. The main thing is that now our politicians want to solve this problem. The philosophy of our foundation is simple: systemic approach of tackling systemic problems. Orphanages are a systemic problem. To win, we need to have a systemic approach. As for the philosophy of the foundation, first, you need to have eyes to see these problems. Second, you must have a heart to feel the pain of others as your own. Third, you need to have the right mindset in order to solve problems. And, of course, we must be open to all partners with a caring attitude.
– Rinat Leonidovich, there are not many philanthropists in Ukraine. How long have you been doing this? Do you see many people who have share your approach towards this issue? Is the number of such people growing?
– You know, I am sure that there are many people who are not indifferent to pain suffered by other people. There are a lot of them! I have always been saying that you cannot ignore problems. There should real actions aimed at helping other people; you should not feign! Unfortunately, these systemic problems will not be resolved with a ‘quite voice’. In order to solve them, sometimes you need cry: “Guys, here is the problem that we have to beat». We have changed the philosophy. I want to repeat again that we were solving all the problems with a ‘quite voice’, nobody talked about it. Now, we say: “Let’s unite together. The problems must be addressed. Divided, we will fail”. We are talking about large families, cancer, orphans, tuberculosis! No one will beat these problems alone. We need to act together as a unit. I am sure that there are lots of people who support this view. We want this problem to disappear. That is the main thing.
– Rinat Leonidovich, let’s take an example of how the charity works in the West. Many quote western philanthropists, who, in turn, say: “I will give some portion of my capital to charity.” What do you make of it?
– We are open to the public. I mean, one person’s capital may be different to another person’s capital. How can it be assessed? A businessman may have a set of assets, but these assets are not his capital. If he sells them, then he will get money for them. Assets also require investments; we are talking about new jobs, wages and so on. As a result, we need to invest in modernization of production – it requires huge investments. I want to say that I will always do charity work – not feigning, but proper charity work. I want to solve people’s problems and do everything to make these problems go away. I will invest as much as it will be needed.
– You say that the government and philanthropists must act together. What exactly do you mean: bills from the authorities and money from the private sector?
– What I am saying is that charity is a systemic fight against systemic problems. In order to defeat them, we should always be together: the government, business and society. At present, Ukrainian authorities also do everything to ensure that children are raised in families. Every child must have a family, every child must have a home. We need the right strategy in order to achieve the result. There can be only one result – happy children who have a family. Now we are united: the government, business and society. So, we need to have patience and then we will see the end product. We will take into the consideration the best European practices in this field.
– Perhaps, you can initiate a bill aimed at increasing funding for programmes that deal with orphanage?
– We will certainly increase funding.
– How do you assess the work of the Family for a Child programme carried out in Dnipropetrovsk?
– I have already said that the governor has a kind heart; he wants children to be raised in families. We came to Dnipropetrovsk because the governor understands that there is a problem that has to be solved. Igor and I have seen this problem for eleven years; we understand what children feel, we know their problems. As for the governor, he shares the same views, and that is why we are here together. I think this experience will also be used by other regions, resulting in 96,000 orphans finding a family.
– To increase funding, you must at least be an MP. Are you planning to run for a parliamentary seat?
– First of all, you do not have to be a member of a parliament in order to increase funding. As for my running for a parliament, I am the biggest ‘truant’ in the parliament, I receive a lot of critics for that. I will put forward my candidacy not in the Donetsk region, I will come to people and say honestly: I will not attend the parliament, but I will solve all your problems. There are politics, who sleep in the parliament, but they say that they deal with people’s problems, whereas in reality they only solve their own problems … Actually, I am joking. ( Journalists laugh.) I mean, I am not going to run for a parliamentary seat. I took this decision a long time ago. What I will do is charity, and I will also increase the budget. Charity will be in my heart forever. I want to see the result of our work that will make people’s lives better.