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Meet this year’s Pat Whelan Youth Fund awardees…

Meet this year’s Pat Whelan Youth Fund awardees…

Pat Whelan Youth Fund Award has been found in 2007 in memory of IFCO member and former volunteer Administration Secretary Pat Whelan from Ireland. The aim of the fund is to support a young person (or group of youth) to attend IFCO conferences, seminars, events that would otherwise not be able to do so.

This year, seven awardees have been selected by the Trustees of the Pat Whelan Youth Fund. The award offered a full sponsorship to travel to IFCO2013 World Conference held in Japan on 13-16 September, 2013 and covered all travel, accommodation and other associated costs towards participation in IFCO2013.

Let us meet them all and welcome to the large IFCO family:

  • Kersti Kukk, 25 (Estonia)
  • What would you like to do in foster care system?
    I truly believe that if children were being provided with adequate emotional and psychological support, it could ease the process of going trough care and establishing oneself as an independent young person with a good level of self-esteem and self care and self love.
    I would like to start with a pilot project that provides emotional and psychological, spiritual and practical support for young people from care that are active on an international level. I have discussed the idea with my brother who is very active on a national level in Estonia and he wants to do the same project with a broader target group, but on a national level.

  • Yanko Antonov Dimitrov, 23 (Bulgaria)
  • About myself
    I was in institution from 3 to 19 years old. My middles school education is specialist of Radio and Television systems. My bachelor degree is computer and communication systems.

    How will you benefit from the Conference?
    I am going to share the experience in the project which i am starting - "New Bulgarian University". This project has a goal to make the care system in Bulgaria better than before. I am gone share the feelings and the good moments which i had whit the youths which i met in all around the world whit my friends from some care system ot children's in care system...

    Below are some of Yanko's thoughts after his participation in the IFCO2013 World Conference:

    Wow… Osaka. For me was hard to believe that I have opportunity to go in Japan. Even that this was my second IFCO conference, I felt really surprisingly and wondered what is gone happen. Meeting Japanese youths was really interesting, learning their culture, there care systems and the beautiful city. Even now is hard to believe that I went there. Also I was really happy to be part again in IFCO conference, meeting my best friends in my life and meeting new friends. From the first time in IFCO I understood that I have two different lives – the Bulgarian and IFCO. It’s really nice to know that youths from different care, have the opportunity to share their experience whit the care systems all around the world and trying to found solution for better care system in future.

    Now I am working in a project about the deinstitutionalization and reintegration in my city Sofia. We were making different kinds of messages about the problems for better care systems in the smaller institution which we gone have until 2025 year. Also these messages have been send in Switzerland today (30/09/2013) whith 5 youths from institutions from some parts from Bulgaria whit who we worked during the summer. I am gone continue to work in the institution which I grew up whit the young children’s in a different projects.

    Every time when have opportunity to share my experience I am gone do it whit pleasure, cause meeting whit youths from all around the world makes me really happy and useful. I fell required to do that cause from as depends the future care system. I won’t forget the Japan experience even the past and future work whit IFCO or P4Y. These are my best moments from my youth life, and won’t forget them never. The people which I met, are people which I have them like much that friends. They are my best friends in my life, and won’t forget them never.

  • Michael Kumar, 19 (Great Britian)
  • I am about to embark on a degree in Law (LLB) this coming October. I came into care when I was 10 years old, and was fortunate enough to remain in the same placement until 18.

    I have been one of the more fortunate people to come into care, and although it has not been an easy journey, I had a good carer, a good education (he pushed me to get into a Grammar School) and have been able to develop well emotionally and intellectually.

    I am an independent person, who has for many years been passionate about changing things, no matter where I am. I don't fear advocating my, or anybody else's rights, regardless of the position or seniority of the person I am advocating too. And I am totally unafraid to challenge established systems. I have been told that I am articulate and intelligent, although I am my own biggest critic and can be insecure (alas bad parenting and growing up in care has it's effects!)

    I am going on to University this year to do LLB Law, and my dream is to become a Solicitor or a Barrister in either Criminal or Family law,as they are both fascinating fields, but are fields I think Psychology is under utilized in, and that perspective is something I'd bring with me. I'm a thinker, I like to think about things in a holistic way, and strive for a perfect answer or solution. I have a deep sense of right and wrong and sometimes pragmatism eludes me as I try to achieve the right!

    I am a people person, working with my peers a lot and trying to gain a real understanding of the human condition, and avoid becoming or having the same, non achievable expectations that Society expects of all of us has made me very compassionate. I am not very judgemental, and never assume a person's behaviour is a reflection of who they are, but rather what they are feeling, I take this approach from analysis of how people have reacted to my behaviour over the years, especially when I was younger and have a very difficult time!

  • Iris Maria Magdalena Smit, 19 (Netherlands)
  • My name is Iris Smit. Smit is the last name given to me at my birth, but I live since my fifth with a family that goes by the name Hidding. I ended up with this family because my parents couldn’t take care of me anymore. I stayed at my grandparents’ for half a year, followed by placement in a foster family where I still live with. By now I consider my foster family as my real family. They offered me protection and love, which I appreciate till this day.

    Recently I am doing very well. I learned a lot from those experiences and became a stronger and more confident person. This might sound cliché but life really is very unpredictable. But unpredictable as it may be, in every situation you have control over your own choices. I think it’s important to pull through and see things from a positive perspective. I always believed in myself and that helped me to get where I am now. I study at law school and I am on my way up. Eventually, when I am done I want to become a judge. I am very ambitious and convinced that I will succeed!

    I will participate with the workshop ‘Communication About Foster Care’ (foundation Mobiel and WAT?!-krant). I discovered talking to other foster children brings me much joy. I learned a lot from the opinions and experiences of other foster children. I definitely think doing this with children from all over the world will contribute to my personal development. And I honestly think the IFCO conference will be something never to forget. I also am convinced that I can apply this information to my role in the WAT?!-krant.

    I most certainly will share this experience with the foster children in the Netherlands by writing an article about the IFCO conference. This way they shall see that foster care is a process which is always subjected to development. Personally I am curious about foster care in different countries around the world. I will definitely talk to the youth on the conference. I would very much like to share this obtained information with the reader of the WAT?!-krant so they learn and read about the situation in other countries.

    Furthermore, I will share my experience with the other members of the WAT?!-krant, so they can see the variety of possibilities in this area. When I come back I most certainly will be flooded with questions and it would be a lot fun to answer those questions in the future. The most members are too young to fly all the way to Japan but maybe I inspire them to do the same, so they can share their experience with children all over the world. This way the information about foster care will be passed on to future generations.

    When I’m thinking back about my time in Osaka, I feel really blessed for this experience. It almost feels like a dream, because it all just happened in four days. The people I’ve met inspired me very much. The youth delegates from all over the world and the Japanese youth gave me insight about their life in foster care. Hearing those stories, made me realize that in every country the policy of foster care is different and a lot of things have to change. So it was beautiful to see that the conference was made possible by people doing their very best to improve foster care. My commitment with foster care is writing for foster children in the Netherlands. This is my way of saying that they’re not alone.

    During the conference I never felt so accepted and connected with other people, even though it was tough to communicate with the Japanese youth. But the communication wasn’t really necessary, because in a culture where people are grateful, polite and warm, I felt embraced by everyone quickly.

    I would like to thank IFCO for this opportunity, this is an experience that nobody can take from me. I wish everybody all the best and hopefully I see you on the next conference in Ukraine!

  • Oleh Melnyk, 19 (Ukraine)
  • My name is Oleg, I'm 19 years old, I live in Irpin. It is a small town near Kyiv in Ukraine =) I study in Kyiv and plan to become a pastry cook in future! I am open mind, positive and friendly person! I have a lot of friends.

    But not everything is so cool in my life ... When I was born my mother left me at a maternity hospital. I was placed to children’s home and have stayed there for five years. Then I was moved to the institution for orphans and stayed there for 3 years. When I was 8 I was taken to the foster family. I live with them till now.

    I graduated from the secondary and vocational schools. Now I entering the University! But I have never forgotten about my parents! Yes, I continue to live, I am trying to be open heart and positive thinking... But at the same time I am still looking for my real mum and dad without answer for so long time! But I don’t give up!

  • Michal Ďorď, 24 (Czech Republic)
  • I was born in North Bohemia in the Czech republic. And like many others who grew up in children houses, I also came from poor family. At the age of two, i was placed to infant institute and year later moved to children house. Although many of my friends were sent to practical schools - that's very infamous practice here causing segregation both of children from foster care institutions and of Roma origin - i attended regular elementary school and later on high school. After graduation i decided to move to Prague, where I got admitted to International Relations program at Anglo-American University in Prague. Year later, I also got admitted to Korean Studies at Charles University. My interests greatly vary, but right now, i am trying to 'rediscover' my Roma identity. Having been raised by non-Romani language speaking carers in children houses, and yet simultaneously developing connection to my biological parents over the years, I realized how much both minorities (children from foster care, and Roma children) need. This has led me to volunteering and many more activities related to minorities and foster care issues.

  • Željka Kuzman, 25 (Croatia)
  • I was fostered when i was 15 and my mother died. I could not stay with my older sister and brother so the only solution was to go in foster care. I had a rough first year. I started to feel better and had a chance to became a family member in my foster family. When i was 19 i moved to the city where i started my college. Almost every weekend i went to my foster family. I was at home there. I started to volunteer when i was 19. I started in my local organization, Forum for quality in foster care. I went on trainings and workshops. Than I started to volunteer in Power4Youth. I attended the first P4Y training and since than I attended all of them. I also am volunteering in SOS Children Villages International. I am International Youth Council member which is part of a campaign I Matter. With them I had a workshop on an IFCO Conference in Brighton, England. I also started to do some volunteer work with Association Igra in Zagreb. I am working with them on an manual for proffesionals and foster children. Since the begining this year I am also volunteering on making a youth in care network in Croatia.