After thirteen years of cooperation United Way Сharity Foundation has withdrawn its support from Civic Assistance Committee because of Committee’s “foreign agent” label.
In early November, 2015, the Committee received a letter from Olga Yelesina, a new Head of Programms of United Way Foundation, stating that our organisation “has been elected a beneficiary of funds” raised by the Foundation and proposing to apply for a project amounting to 1 511 649, 50 rubles. We were delighted, but not surprised; Civic Assistance has been cooperating with United Way Foundation for many years, more precisely, since 2002. During this time, the Foundation made fifteen donations to our organisation; mainly in support of Сommittee’s Learning Center To Refugee Children, but also for provision of humanitarian and medical assistance to refugees.
We have prepared an application for a project “Access to education for refugees and migrants children”, aiming to provide support for the Learning Center. In this center refugees and migrants children, who don’t attend school or face difficulties in schooling, are taught Russian and other subjects by volunteer teachers, mostly Moscow universities students. Volunteers are helped by tutors, experienced subject teachers. All the children, attending the Center, have a different level of preparation, therefore every child gets individual training. But there are group lessons too. There is a psychologist who works with some children. Moreover, the Center organizes guided tours, walks, trips and holidays for children. Children from poor families are attending the Center, so that usually they have lunches during the lessons. And they are given monthly passes for public transport. 73 children were attending the Center in 2015, 65 volunteers were working with them.
For hundreds of children, who attended the Center for nineteen years of its existence, it became a place where they began to know and love Russia. And for hundreds young volunteers, working in the Center, it became a true school of altruism.
The application, submitted by the Committee, didn’t cause any objections from the Foundation. There was a site-visit in mid-December: Foundation’s representatives visited the Learning Center to review its work (standard element of Foundation’s project assessement procedure). The representatives didn’t espress any doubts or comments after the visit. The only matter of concern was the fact that Civic Assistance was put in the Ministry of Jistice list of organisations, functioning as “foreign agents”. However, Foundation’s representatives espressed their full understanding of the injustice of the labelling of our organisation as “foreign agent”.
Yet after Christmas holidays Olga Yelesina told us that Board of Directors of the Foundation refused to support our project precisely because our organisation was put in the “foreign agents” list.
It’s unfortunate that our Learning Center will not receive the needed support. We deeply regret the fact that we have lost one of our regular partners. But let’s point out what really matters in this story; the decision of the United Way Charity Foundation makes it evident that the policy of stifling of independent NGOs yielded results. If foreign donors are expelled and recognized as “undesirable organisations”, then domestic foundations don’t dare to help “foreign agents”.
We are grateful to the United Way Foundation for long-term cooperation. We continue helping refugees, migrants and their children. It is not our fault that now our ways are apart.
Elena Burtina, Civic Assistance Committee