For 2 Decades, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation’s New Year’s Campaign for Children Has Brightened Millions of Lives, Young and Old

Hope can be a fragile thing, but even in the face of an alarming escalation of targeted attacks on their homeland by Russian despot and war criminal President Vladimir Putin, New Year’s has always been and will continue to be a time for the Ukrainian people to reflect on their blessings and pray for a better tomorrow. It’s not easy, especially now. In the first days of 2024, as the citizens of Ukraine renewed their commitment to achieving self-determination and creating a lasting peace, the challenges of the days ahead remained daunting. Knowing how a future filled with uncertainty and blighted by devastating loss often weighs most heavily on the youngest members of society, for more than 20 years, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation’s annual New Year’s Campaign for Children has stepped in to provide a measure of respite to Ukrainian parents and their precious offspring.

Rinat Akhmetov’s Long-Standing Commitment to the People of Ukraine

The New Year’s Campaign for Children was the brainchild of Ukrainian billionaire businessman/philanthropist Rinat Akhmetov, who heads several successful corporations, including Ukraine’s largest steel and manufacturing concern, Metinvest. Along with his eponymous foundation’s New Year’s Campaign, Akhmetov has spearheaded numerous initiatives aimed at channeling a generous portion of his companies’ proceeds into a wide range of war-related and civilian humanitarian causes to support the people of Ukraine — from the displaced who’ve lost their homes to the country’s brave defenders and wounded veterans, from the very young to the gravely ill and elderly.

In addition to the New Year’s Campaign for Children, other philanthropic outreach projects currently flourishing under Akhmetov’s astute stewardship are the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation’s Museum of Civilian Voices, an online archive and study resource dedicated to preserving and documenting first-person war testimony, that has to date, recorded recollections from nearly 100,000 military and civilian survivors and their families whose lives have been irrevocably altered by Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine; and The Steel Front — Heart of Azovstal, a multifaceted proactive umbrella initiative that equips front-line Ukrainian defenders with advanced, top-of-the-line lifesaving combat gear, as well as providing medical and humanitarian support to the city of Mariupol’s military veterans and their families on the homefront.

Understanding the Needs of the Russo-Ukrainian War’s Youngest Victims

According to a Feb. 27, 2023, feature in The Guardian: “Officials estimate there were more than 105,000 children across 700 orphanages, boarding schools, and other institutions in Ukraine when the war there started; more than 1% of the nation’s underage population and Europe’s highest rate of youth institutionalization.” During the New Year’s Campaign, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation hosts numerous festive and educational events for such children, as well as those recently adopted and those living with family but displaced from their homes. Their programs, aimed at giving traumatized kids a feeling of normalcy, tradition — and even fun — serve as a much-needed break from the day-to-day realities of war.

“Routines — doing things in familiar patterns — offer predictability, reliability, and a sense of security,” explained Lauren Potthoff, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine who advises Ukrainian relief volunteers and therapists working with children traumatized by the war.

Potthoff posits that renewing positive traditions can have a beneficial impact on those whose psyches are still in the formative stage. She noted that rituals — the special behaviors repeated over the course of a lifetime — afford youngsters a continuity that can help them cope with extremely difficult circumstances. “Rituals support the emotions we experience and are like routines in that they help to create a predictable environment,” she said.

Of course, the holidays are generally acknowledged as the time of year for both giving and receiving, but when it comes to living in a war zone, the need for generosity and compassion isn’t tied to a calendar. That’s why the Rinat Akhmetov Program for Children continues its good works year-round with visionary programs like Blogger Camp, where kids get a chance to decompress, regain their emotional equilibrium, learn new skills, and develop positive outlets for voicing once unspeakable experiences; and specialized treatment facilities that provide individualized assessment, care, and rehabilitation — as well as state-of-the-art hearing aids and prosthetics — to innocent children who’ve suffered combat-related injuries.

Rinat Akhmetov Believes the Children of Ukraine Are Its Future

The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation reports that since its inception more than two decades ago, the outreach of its New Year’s Campaign for Children has touched millions of lives. “The war stole the lighthearted nature of their favorite holidays from the children of Ukraine. But even in the darkest times, children should believe in miracles. The New Year is a time of magic and hope, and we, adults, should do everything we can to bring the holiday back to children,” Akhmetov stated.

Akhmetov notes the cornerstone of the Campaign for Children is the belief that bringing hope and happiness to the children of Ukraine is not only necessary to their present well-being, but is also a vital, long-term investment in his country’s future. “Our Foundation’s New Year’s Campaign is designed to bring children joy and faith in the best,” he explained. “We want them to feel that they are not alone, that there is someone who thinks and cares about them. We, adults, are responsible for the future of our children. And we must do everything possible so that they grow up in a free, peaceful, and happy country.”

In addition to thoughtful gifts, the seasonal programming provided by the foundation’s annual New Year’s Campaign for Children delivers a diverse blend of kid-oriented activities, such as engaging master classes taught by experts spanning a variety of artistic disciplines, structured group play and games, holiday-themed performances, motivational speeches, and educational videos. Participants are exposed to opportunities that help them develop and express their own personal “superpowers and mega talents.”

Akhmetov reports that thanks to its dedicated outreach, the Holiday Campaign performs a miracle of its own: restoring faith in the magic of the season to Ukraine’s most emotionally vulnerable kids. For youngsters who’ve lived through the worst nightmares of the war, it’s a gift beyond measure.