How is Valentyna doing now?
Gruner: I have the impression she has settled in. She takes loving care of her three foster children, two of whom have a mild intellectual disability. She has even welcomed two more children who were without parental care into her small family recently. When we talk about our help going further, we have people like Valentyna in mind. They help if you help them. The Vaillant Group’s donation of heating technology can be viewed the same way. Valentyna and her children are among the first to feel the Vaillant warmth in Brovary.
Schiedeck: That is a story that gives reason for hope. The situation is also an enormous burden for our employees. We call our colleagues on the ground on a weekly basis to see how we can support them and their families in everyday life. I really appreciate the team supporting our Country Manager Alexander Rohn, who continue their work with great passion despite all the adversity.
What challenges do you face as a children’s rights organisation in Ukraine?
Gruner: Immediately after the outbreak of war, we launched a comprehensive aid programme. Affected children and families are receiving assistance with evacuation and accommodation. We provide them with food, hygiene products, blankets and medicines, as well as supporting parentless children and families in particular need, providing immediate psychological help and trauma treatment, and offering educational support for children who are safe. Despite all the successes, it is unfortunately clear that children in particular suffer from the trials and tribulations of war. For example, Ukrainian children are systematically abducted from their homeland and taken to Russia. According to the official figures, there are believed to be 20,000 such children now living in Russia. In recent months, our Ukrainian team has been able to bring the first children back and reunite them with their families. That is just the beginning, of course. In the end, it all comes down to the well-being of each individual child.
Schiedeck: Child protection violations that were even able to take place under the umbrella of SOS Children’s Villages show how little respect is shown for the internationally guaranteed rights of children and young people in many parts of the world today. We as a company are aware of the difficult social and political conditions under which SOS Children’s Villages operates. At the same time, we emphasised the importance of complete transparency in the processing of cases.
Gruner: As a globally active children’s rights organisation, we take this responsibility very seriously. As a member of the executive board, I personally advocate for a path of transparency and consistency. We have a clear zero-tolerance policy on child protection violations within our organisation. One case is one too many. We have been working for many years on strengthening child protection. To this end, we have trained all employees and managers on the topic of child protection and further developed and refined our child protection guidelines, as well as our visitor guidelines. We firmly believe in the mission of SOS Children’s Villages and will do everything we can to ensure watertight child protection.