Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova will visit the Homyel region next month in the capacity of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) goodwill ambassador.
The athlete, 23, will head for Belarus from the Wimbledon tournament to meet with young people affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident, according to the UNDP press office.
In the town of Chachersk, Ms. Sharapova will visit a local arts center where children learn about the environment and work on projects to beautify the town. "She will then stop over at a health facility using a therapeutic approach to emotional and mental stress. Finally, she will meet with the recipients of her foundation's scholarships, who attend the country's top universities," the press office said.
"It has always been my dream to contribute to the recovery of a region where I have a personal connection," Ms. Sharapova was quoted as saying. "Giving young people the tools they need to reach for their dreams is a good way to overcome the Chernobyl legacy. Helping people help themselves is at the heart of UNDP's mission, and I am eager to see the results firsthand."
Ms. Sharapova’s father and pregnant mother fled Homyel, about 80 miles north of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, shortly after the April 1986 accident. She was born in a Siberian city months later. In February 2007 the tennis player donated $100,000 for eight Chernobyl relief projects in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.
The projects, carried out by UNDP in cooperation with local authorities and NGOs, focused on better computer access and the reconstruction of sports facilities and hospitals in the three countries’ worst-affected areas.
The tennis star's foundation also funds a five-year scholarship program for students coming from the contaminated regions.