In 2005, Rinat Akhmetov founded his namesake charitable foundation in a bid to affect real change in Ukraine by eradicating the great social injustices that were at the time an all-too-common theme of the former Soviet country.
By prioritizing a consistent social development strategy that would drill down to the roots of social problems, Rinat Akhmetov hoped to address the systemic social problems that were rife in Ukraine across a range of priority areas including education, healthcare, and culture.
Year-on-year, since the foundation’s inception in 2005, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation has made headlines for its ground-breaking and lifechanging work.
Who Exactly is Rinat Akhmetov?
Rinat Akhmetov is a Ukrainian billionaire entrepreneur. In addition to running the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation he is also in charge of System Capital Management (SCM), a financial holding company, and owns Shakhtar Donetsk, a Ukrainian professional football club.
Akhmetov came from humble beginnings, born to a working-class family in Donetsk. Following the fall of communism in Ukraine, Akhmetov began building substantial wealth. According to Akhmetov, his wealth was obtained by “making risky business investments” in the first few years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, commenting in 2010 that “I have earned my first million by trading coal and coke, and spent the money on assets that no one wanted to buy. It was a risk, but it was worth it”
As a private individual, Akhmetov has made several notable charitable donations over the years. These have included:
- $900,000 to families of victims of a gas explosion that tore through an apartment complex in Dnipropetrovsk.
- $1 million to support the “Shelter Project” for the construction of a new safe confinement to cover Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4.
- $1 million to the victims of the 2011 earthquake in Japan. “This is a terrible tragedy, and its scope is really international,” said Akhmetov.
- 12 million food packages during the War in Donbas and the evacuation of over 39,000 people from the conflict zone.
- UAH 300 million to help the fight against coronavirus and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation
While Akhmetov’s personal donations are nothing to be sniffed at, it is the work of his namesake foundation that attracts most of the praise. The foundation, established as the Foundation for the Development of Ukraine (the “Rinat Akhmetov Foundation”) was formed on July 15, 2005.
According to the foundation, its founding was intended to address the causes of social problems that were dominant in Ukrainian society and to shift the focus from isolated acts of goodwill to a consistent strategy for bettering social development. The foundation is completely independent; there are no populist motives in decision making, and its activities are governed through professional expertise and coordination with a focus on the core objectives.
Mission: “Work for people by eliminating pressing social problems by adopting the best experience gained in Ukraine and abroad; by creating unique system decisions; by achieving the best results with each of our projects and activities.”
Principles: “The highest standards of transparency of projects and activities of the Fund at all stages: from the decision-making to summing-up.”
The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation has been widely recognized for its work over the years, including being credited with saving the lives of more than one million civilians in the East of Ukraine since 2014. Other notable achievements include:
Fighting TB: The foundation launched “Stop TB in Ukraine”, an initiative designed to stop the TB epidemic by improving diagnostics and providing widespread access to high-quality diagnostic services and treatments. To date, the initiative has been credited with helping decrease the Donetsk TB incidence and death rates by 22% and 41% respectively when compared with figures from 2008.
Fighting Cancer: “Cancer Can Be Cured” is Ukraine’s first large-scale national project established to help diagnose and treat cancer in line with global standards, and it is headed by the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation. Up to now, the project has helped over 100,000 people with cancer diagnoses and treatments.
Helping Orphans: “No to Orphancy!” was another initiative started by the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation that sought to address the problem of parenting that existed in Ukrainian society during peacetime. Over 7,700 orphaned children from across Ukraine were rehomed with new families thanks to the initiative.
Humanitarian Excellence: The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation Humanitarian Center, the largest project ran by the foundation, has been helping the most vulnerable citizens of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions for over six years during the ongoing conflict. Operated out of Donbass, it is the largest humanitarian mission in Ukraine and brings together all the resources of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, SCM Group, and the Skakhtar Football Club.
“The charity foundation has been helping people from the beginning of the conflict in Donbas for so many years. In addition, it exchanges information with other international organizations. It is in our interests because we want people to get the help they really need. What the Foundation does for residents of Donbas is invaluable”, said Ivane Bochorishvili, Deputy Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ukraine.
Recent Years: Response to COVID-19 and Other Key Projects
More recently, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation has been focusing its efforts on helping fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Ukraine alongside a select few key projects.
The Foundation’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation stepped up to help at the request of the Ukrainian president in early 2020 following a meeting with Ukrainian business leaders. After meeting with the president, it was announced that the foundation had been tasked with taking care of Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Donetsk, and Luhansk oblasts, and the city of Kryvyi Rih.
In an interview shortly after, however, Akhmetov himself made it clear that the foundation would be providing aid to the entire country and that assistance would not be limited to its assigned areas.
In a press release, Akhmetov said: “Our duty is to help every city and every region, to help Kyiv and the whole country. SCM businesses have been always providing help and we are certainly not going to stand on the sidelines now,” and added that no country in the world was or could have been prepared for a pandemic of such a great magnitude.
Initially, UAH 300 million was allocated and the foundation was one of the first in the country to respond to the then COVID-19 epidemic which quickly became a pandemic. This money was used to procure critical equipment, including 200 ventilators that were immediately donated to the Ukraine Ministry of Health. This money also went towards over 300,000 rapid COVID-19 testing kits and personal protective equipment for frontline workers.
More recently, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation has been helping educate doctors and provide them with new knowledge that will help them fight the ongoing pandemic. Working with the Ministry of Health and the Association of Anaesthesiologists of Ukraine, three online conferences have been held for doctors who are on the frontline fighting the virus, which have been attended by almost 8,000 healthcare professionals from all over Ukraine.
“Self-education of doctors raises the survival rate of every patient of any category. The situation with the coronavirus is like a war for us. And we must win this war,” said Dr Bohdan Melnyk, the head of the first infectious diseases department of Kyiv Municipal Hospital No. 17.
Other prominent Ukrainian medical experts have expressed their support of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation’s educational efforts, commenting that the exchange of experiences is crucial in the fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Helping Children Hear Again
In a world currently dominated by COVID-19 news, it is all too easy to forget that there are other things going on. While we all battle with the ongoing pandemic, there are many younger members of society who are fighting their own battles.
The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation has been helping children with hearing difficulties since 2007. Over time, the foundation has received more and more requests from parents who wish to access support for their children, and that’s why an entirely new and separate project—Rinat Akhmetov Supports Children. Now I Can Hear—emerged in 2018.
In the two years since the project’s founding, over 200 children have benefitted from highly sensitive hearing aids. One of these children is Masha Rumiantseva from Mykolaiv. This summer, she will turn two years old.
Speaking to the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, Masha’s mother, Kataleya Vladimirovna, says: “When Masha was about a year old, my husband and I began to notice [that] my daughter does not react when calling her name. The audiologist told me that the baby responds to sounds. This was confirmed by the Professor we addressed for advice.”
It was recommended that Masha be fitted with hearing aids as soon as possible to prevent any developmental problems stemming from the lack of hearing.
Although Masha’s parents immediately put her name forward for state-sponsored help, they found out that they would need to wait until at least the end of the year to receive a single hearing aid for one ear. This is when her parents approached the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, which reached out and came to the rescue and provided Masha with highly sensitive hearing aids.
What’s more, as of January 2020, children all over Ukraine can now access the hearing project. Previously, only children living in certain regions—Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, and Zaporizhzhia—were eligible. It also opened to children under the age of seven years old, an increase of two years on the previous age of five years old.
The highly sensitive hearing aids provided by the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation operate at various frequencies and can adapt to a child’s individual features. According to the foundation’s website, the hearing aids are sort-of miniature computers that compensate for precisely the number of decibels that a child’s hearing is lacking.
An important principle of the project is to help as quickly as possible because hearing aids need to be provided before the age of seven. If a child receives this help on time, he or she will learn to speak and will be able to develop in a full-fledged manner.
Families who are categorised as follows are eligible to access the project:
- families with many children or single-parent families.
- family-type children’s homes (FTCH).
- orphans and children under care.
- families with more than one critically ill child.
- families with two or more disabled members.
Celebrating 15 Years
This year, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation will celebrate its 15 years of work results with the grand opening of its latest project, the Museum of Civilian Voices.
Over 15 years, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation—the largest private charitable foundation in Ukraine—has helped more than 5 million people survive.
Since 2005, on the personal decision of founder Rinat Akhmetov, the foundation has been implementing national-level projects aimed at helping people and fighting social challenges. Using its achievements and global charity best practices, the foundation has created and continues to create new opportunities for the entire Ukrainian society to become better and live better for the future