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Citizen of the year: New organizations should be given time to prove themselves

New organizations should be given a few years in which to prove themselves before they are recognized, Triinu Ossinovski, Estonia's Citizen of the Year, head of humanitarian aid and development cooperation for NGO Mondo, told ERR. The Slava Ukraini scandal shook the credibility of the entire voluntary sector.

Ossinovski said that the title of Citizen of the Year came as a complete surprise for her. She said that it is impossible to achieve results alone in the development cooperation sector, and the recognition therefore belongs to the entire team at Mondo.

Last year, the title went to NGO Slava Ukraini head Johanna-Maria Lehtme who soon after found herself in the middle of a use of funds scandal.

Triinu Ossinovski said she came into contact with Lehtme when Slava Ukraini asked Mondo for support.

"I was greatly saddened to read about it all. I would refrain from passing judgment as the authorities have not come to a conclusion yet in this case, while we did feel that the credibility of the wider sector took a hit. Every such incident, even just confusion, robs us all of trust and forces us to try and prove ourselves again," she said.

She suggested giving new and enthusiastic organizations a few years in which to prove themselves before awarding them.

Estonia has seen unprecedented donations volume since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine. "Mondo raised €2.5 million, while I can say with confidence that three or four organizations have raised over €15 million between them in Estonia. The donations volume has come down a lot since. We still raise around €10,000 monthly. We have regular donors, and companies sometimes contact us to donate €30,000-50,000. Still, we are no longer talking about millions but rather tens of thousands."

Ossinovski said that war weariness is clearly in the air. "But, unfortunately, there is also a sense of normalization. We no longer regard it as peculiar or extraordinary that a common neighbor is waging such an extensive war just a few thousand kilometers from here. Mondo also has a team in Ukraine, and the locals tells us that society has found a new way of existing and that ordinary life is continuing on the backdrop. It has become a part of life, being at war, rushing to take shelter, someone's father, son, brother or fiend being recruited and sent to the front 24 hours later."

Estonia is doing a good job keeping the topic fresh, looking at Europe or the wider world. But Ukraine has fallen off the very top of news pages and is no longer as prominent.

The entire Ukrainian society is in a very difficult mental health situation, Ossinovski suggested. It is one of the fields where Mondo is working to help in Ukraine.

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Editor: Barbara Oja, Marcus Turovski

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