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05-06/2010
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Social orphanhood and corporate charity
Mikhail Kravchenko

The autonomous nonprofit organization Social Marketing Agency (ANO SMA) and VIP-Premier are implementing a joint project titled “Effective Ways to Solve the Problem of Social Orphanhood in Russia”.
The purpose is to develop a system that would replace orphanages. Magazines for 2009 (##5-6, 7-8, 9-10, and 11-12) and for 2010 (#1-2) published Russian top managers’ reflections on this matter. Project managers are Yevgenia Mishina (ANO SMA) and Natalia Kosova (VIP-Premier). Now the magazine presents the position
of Mikhal Kravchenko, the founder of the Group
of Companies “8 Marta Furniture Factory”.

VIP-Inform
Mikhail V. Kravchenko is the founder the Group of Companies “8 Marta Furniture Factory”. A graduate of Moscow State University's Economic Department (where he majored in world economics), Kravchenko has succeeded in creating and implementing different business projects. The enterprises he has founded employ about 3,500 people. He is a member of the Copyright Commission at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, a winner of the “Russian National Olympus” state prize, the “Face of the Year” national prize in the “Businessman of the Year” category (2006), and the first national prize “The Good Angel of the World”. Kravchenko has been awarded the “Presidential Star” Order, the Diamond Star of the “Peacemaker” International Association, and the St. Anna and “The Glory of the Fatherland” Orders

– The top manager of any enterprise in Russia receives many letters asking for help, mainly from the directors of children’s homes, charity foundation employees, and arch priests. Surely, you are not an exception. How do you respond to such requests?

– Every person has an inborn need to help someone, and the desire to help is a natural reaction for me and for the majority of other top managers. But when the number of requests by far exceeds not only business possibilities but also human resources, there arises the need for a trusted organization or person that could study requests, check facts, assess our possibilities and propose a solution. This is why many enterprises create their own charity funds or choose among those whose directors and employees they know personally. We have not created our own fund, but we go to those whom we know and whom we trust. We help many people.

– What kind of help to orphans do you think would be most appropriate?

– The most appropriate help is when you give a person what he needs most of all at this very moment. There is no clear division into kinds. A hungry person needs food. A person who is freezing needs clothes. But the situation may change for both of them tomorrow.

– What in your opinion orphans need most of all?

– The family, parents and close people. But if we analyze the requests that come from children’s homes, orphans need most of all sanitary ware products, beds, blankets, computers, and summer recreation.

– How do you think business will respond to a call for supporting programs and events aimed at finding a foster family for each orphan?

– If there are such programs, they have proved effective, and their mechanisms are transparent, I think many businesses will be willing to include them in their charitable activities.

– What in your opinion is the role of the government in these processes?

– It is my deep conviction that the government policy in respect of orphans should seek to provide each of them with a family to live in. It can be an orphan’s own family that will be helped by the government, public or charitable organizations to cope with the crisis and continue to bring up their children, or it can be a foster family, guardianship, etc. But all efforts should be taken to ensure that children do not stay in an institution because facts indicate that if they do so, they will have little chance to live a happy adult life, certainly much less so than their peers who have grown up in families.

– Can you remember any example of your company’s help to orphans?

– There is an old lady at the marketplace in Suzdal, she sells little souvenir felt boots, about five centimeters high, tied with a string. She sells them and says: buy the little felt boots, they are warm, and they will bring you warmth, joy and prosperity. I talked with her and found out that she spends all the money from selling the felt boots to help the orphans who live in the children’s home on the outskirts of the city.

The old lady has bought a washing machine for the children’s home, and she takes each child to the marketplace to choose and buy warm clothes for him. She makes the little felt boots of felt rejects she picks up at a local factory. Her main worry is that her fingers are no longer as good as they used to be and she can’t make as many little felt boots, she earns less and therefore has to spend less, too. She says that the children’s home is very poor, it lacks good clothes and toys, and its employees even had to hand-wash the laundry. We sent a filming crew to Suzdal and made a short film about the lady, her life, worries, joys and goals for which she sells felt-boots at the city market. Local television played the film several times. And we have heard that people have started to offer help to the children’s home. Let me say this again: every person wants to help, but does not always know how and often feels shy to offer help.

– Sometimes orphans have to be helped with clothes, food and furniture, too?

– If there is a strong desire to help this way, it should be done of course. By it is my deep conviction that adults are much more concerned about conveniences than children are. If a child feels miserable because he has no new pair of sneakers or fancy mobile phone, it means that he lacks much more important things in life such as understanding, love, friendship, attachment. It’s hard to say if these problems can be solved by satisfying a child’s material needs. No one has proved that orphans from heavily sponsored institutions with excellent conditions eventually become more socialized than their peers from problem-ridden children’s homes. There are many factors that are not in any way connected with material welfare, but that seriously affect a person’s views, attitude and ability to realize his potential. We have seen different children’s homes, even though all of them get the same financial aid from the government depending on the number of children and employees. This makes me think that the welfare of a children’s home largely depends on the organizational and business skills of its director. It could be more effective to teach him to run his business better than to repair the hole-ridden roof...

– What in your opinion should effective corporate charity with regard to orphans be like?

– To begin with, all parties to the process should come to agreement on what they will consider the effect. I think the best children’s home is a dissolved children’s home. Not just a closed one, of course, when all of its children are taken to other such institutions, but the one where the children have found their families. Many countries have got rid of orphanages and replaced them with a system that can quickly find a foster family for a child who has lost his parents for one reason or another. I think that if this experience is thoroughly studied and used in Russia, we, too, can learn to live without children's homes. This means hard work, but I think it has already begun. And, in my opinion, corporate charity can fit into this process. We need instruments that have to be developed by people and organizations immersed into this topic. Today we largely respond to specific requests: if we are asked to paint a fence, we paint a fence, if we are asked for candies, we buy them. But if we learn to hear and understand each other and agree on the goals, then truly effective programs will be created for achieving these goals.

– Do your employees take part in charitable projects supported by the company? How do you assess the role of employees in these processes?

– They certainly do. In my opinion, the more people are involved, the better for everyone. We all are society with oligarchs, big-time sports, show business, orphans, and children's homes. Our society will develop according to the priorities we determine for ourselves, and so will every individual, following the model created by God.

By Yevgenia MISHINA, Director, ANO Social Marketing Agency

The autonomous nonprofit organization Social Marketing Agency (ANO SMA) and VIP-Premier invite the press services of senior officers to participate in the research project “Effective Ways to Solve the Problem of Social Orphanhood in Russia”. The research is conducted by way of targeted interviews with CEOs of companies and corporations operating in Russia.

Please, contact ANO Social Marketing Agency at:
+7(495) 797-6310, 797-6311 info@socagent.ru
VIP-Premier Magazine: +7(495) 621-1605 pr@vip-premier.ru

 
 
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