Real lives


What matters in life – success in football

© UNICEF Ukraine / 2012 / M.Koryshov
Alina in The Way Home Foundation

Ukraine - April 2012. By Jenia Luchmann

Alina Zelutina, 19, believes football has given true meaning to her life. It gives her satisfaction and offers the chance to interact with other young people. Her story, however, started in difficult circumstances.

Neglected by her mother, who suffers from hearing impairment and is originally from Moldova, Alina and her twin sister Oksana were taken to home for people with disabilities, in Odessa, shortly after they were born. When they turned fiver years old, they were sent to a child institution where they stayed until they started boarding school. The twin sisters also suffer from hearing problems.

Alina and Oksana are now now helped by a UNICEF-supported organization called “Way Home,” which changed their lives.

As part a social outreach programme, Way Home organizes summer camps every year and the twin sisters spent their summer vacations there while at boarding school. After finishing their studies, they had no idea what to do and where to go. Luckily they were invited by a social worker from Way Home to move in and was given a new chance in life.

In the centre which Alina now calls home, she has many friends who share her interests such as football and dancing. She currently studies at the Odessa Marine Transport College and her twin sister Oksana at the Odessa Pedagogical University. She is looking forward to starting a life on her own but still needs psychological care.

Over and over Alina emphasizes the importance of football in her life. She started playing while still living at the child institution, but thankfully found an opportunity to continue her passion for the sport. She was part of competitions between teams formed by vulnerable children from different regions in Ukraine, with the support of UNICEF, and social workers have praised her sporting talent.

Now Alina plays football every day at the playground near Way Home. She has attended several football competitions and has played in Kyiv, Odessa and Donetsk together with 20 other children in her team.


© UNICEF / 2012 / D.Xanthópoulus
Children trains before UNICEF football cup

Alina’s favourite international football team is Real Madrid, but at home, in the Ukraine, her heart beats for Dynamo Kyiv. Alina admits that she is not really sure whether there is future for her in professional football but says she wants to travel a lot in order to discover the world. Somebody suggested that she applies for a place in the Sports University and she says she will think about this as an option. One thing is clear: Alina’s dedication to football has become the most important part of her life and she is going to continue playing, even if her favorite activity now remains only a side activity.

Between 2009 and 2011, UNICEF, together with its partner organizations, has supported programmes for the most socially vulnerable children in the cities of Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, Donetsk, Kyiv and Mykolaiv. These prevention projects have proven their effectiveness and UNICEF continues to work with its national partners in Ukraine to strengthen social services, families and communities, and to provide a better protective environment for children. The projects help the children to gain life-skills while receiving social support and prevent them from ending up in the streets.



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