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Soccer Star Andriy Shevchenko Named Charity Ambassador

June 14, 2005, 0:00 3161 Author: Yuriy ZELINSKY The Day

On June 6 Ukraine’s Ministry for Youth and Sports hosted a news conference with Europe’s best soccer player of 2004 Andriy Shevchenko and Minister Yuriy Pavlenko.

The Ukrainian striker stayed behind in Kyiv for an important reason. Sheva, as he is known to millions of his fans, has become an adviser to President Yushchenko. His new responsibilities are in the sphere of social protection for high-risk children: underprivileged children, orphans, and foster kids from problem families. He is initiating a series of projects to develop a sports infrastructure for children. Andriy has agreed to become a FIFA ambassador to SOS Children’s Villages and cooperate with the international charity organization SOS Kinderdorf International, which carries out long-term projects to provide care to orphans and children deprived of parental care. This organization has a global outreach with numerous charity ambassadors, including Christian Vieri in Italy and Ruud van Nistelrooy in the Netherlands. Shevchenko, who spoke with the Youth and Sports Minister on a first-name basis, thanked the president for the trust accorded to him and unveiled plans for a number of projects to provide children with soccer training and all kinds of soccer accessories.

The SOS Children’s Villages project will be implemented in Ukraine under the auspices of the Youth and Sports Ministry. According to Yuriy Pavlenko, the Ukrainian side will provide organizational and bureaucratic support. To illustrate a case in point, plans to build the first children’s village in Brovary outside Kyiv were drawn up years ago. However, as was to be expected, it was not just donors who had their sights on pricey land in the Kyiv area. Disputes over the land sparked a real battle between the regional and municipal administrations. The children’s side won, and some of the credit for the victory goes to the new government. The first cornerstone-laying ceremony has been slated for Independence Day, and the first Children’s Village will be commissioned by 2006. The organization expects to build 6 or 7 such villages across Ukraine. These will be family-type homes. Foster mothers will be raising close to 100 children in each village. Of course, this is too small a number given the estimated 100,000-150,000 orphans or children deprived of parental care in Ukraine. Yet if we keep repeating these figures without doing anything, this situation might spin out of control. There is also the danger that we will be relegated to supporting roles as long as Ukraine doesn’t have a clear and transparent law on philanthropy. After all, SOS Kinderdorf International should not be expected to tackle children’s problems in only one country. African and Asian nations have similar problems with orphaned children, not to mention the fact that it is shameful to shift care of our own children to foreigners. Nonetheless, Yuriy Pavlenko said that $70 million hryvnias in budget funds are earmarked for child-protection programs and he hopes to increase this figure next year.

Andriy Shevchenko promised to do his utmost to focus attention on this problem and the investments needed to resolve it. In fact, he is already staging charity soccer matches, organizing drives, and donating his own money. Italian pop singers recently competed in a friendly match with Ukrainians in Milan. Shevchenko talked with the singer Gianni Morandi and arranged for the next match to be held in Ukraine. Andriy also made a few beautiful, heartfelt comments about the fact that there can be many projects, but the most important ones are in our souls: “Our souls will help us.” Andriy knows what he’s talking about. Not so long ago he became a father, but is not going to stop there and is planning for four more siblings for his son Jordan.

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