Scholarships Awarded in Belarus Through Maria Sharapova Foundation
Geneva/Minsk/New York, November 2009 —The United Nations Development Programme marked International Students Day by awarding five-year university scholarships to three students in Belarus in two separate ceremonies. The scholarships are funded by tennis champion Maria Sharapova as part of a wider UNDP effort to help overcome the legacy of the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986. Video: UNDP Chernobyl Recovery Efforts
The students come from Chernobyl-affected areas of Belarus and will pursue degrees in fine arts, two at the Belarusian State Academy of Arts and one at the Belarusian State University. The scholarship program was launched in September 2008 as a joint initiative between the Maria Sharapova Foundation and UNDP, where Sharapova serves as a Goodwill Ambassador. A total of 12 fine arts scholarships will be awarded in the first four years of the US$210,000 program.
“Investing in youth is the key to a better future,” said Ms. Sharapova, who has family roots in Gomel, Belarus. “My aim is to give talented young people a chance to realize their full potential.” Sharapova chose fine arts for the scholarships because she feels education systems sometimes neglect the field.
“UNDP is proud to count Maria Sharapova among its Goodwill Ambassadors,” commented Helen Clark, the UNDP Administrator and UN Coordinator of International Cooperation on Chernobyl. “Her generous contribution will benefit not only the scholarship recipients themselves but also serve as symbol of hope and recovery for young people across the region.”
The Maria Sharapova Foundation Scholarship for Youth from the Chernobyl-Affected Areas of Belarus —as the program is called— aims to assist talented students gain access to high-quality education in the leading universities of the country. It represents the first instance in Belarus in which an international non-governmental organization has provided support of this type to education.
The Maria Sharapova Foundation selected the scholarship winners from shortlists prepared by the universities, on the basis of academic achievement and artistic promise, working together with UNDP and the Ministry of Emergencies of Belarus, which is responsible for Chernobyl programs in the country. Three incoming students are to be awarded scholarships each year, over an initial four-year period. The first scholarship recipients already began their studies in September 2009.
Previously, the Maria Sharapova Foundation contributed US$100,000 to seven UNDP youth projects in areas of Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine affected by the Chernobyl accident.
Ms Sharapova was born in 1987 in Siberia, after her family fled Gomel in the wake of the Chernobyl accident. She later moved to the Black Sea town of Sochi. In 1995 she took up full-time training in Florida. In 2004 she won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon and was named World Tennis Association player of the year. In 2006, she won the US Open, and in 2008, the Australian Open.
UNDP coordinates the UN’s work on Chernobyl and implements recovery projects in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, the three countries most affected by the Chernobyl accident. These efforts strive to promote healthy lifestyles; support community-based initiatives that improve living standards and encourage self-reliance; and provide policy advice and advocacy services on Chernobyl.
Ms. Sharapova has also been active in those Chernobyl-recovery efforts. She has long-advocated for the international community to rebuild the region, including last April on the 23rd anniversary of the disaster.