What is it? Why you should support it.
The Carolin Illenzeer Fund was established in Estonia to help cover the schooling costs and to support the activities of the children of Estonian Defence Forces members who have been killed or severely injured in the line of duty.
This past week a meeting of representatives of Estonian organizations met in Toronto to discuss the importance and feasibility of Canadians of Estonian heritage actively supporting the Fund. Participating at the meeting, convened by Toomas Merilo, of the Estonian Central Council in Canada (EKN) and Metsaülikool were: Anita Saar, President, Toronto Estonian Credit Union; Mari Ann Tammark, President, Estonian Ecumenical Relief Organization (EERO); Ellen Leivat, President, AKEN; Anne Keelman, President, Estonian Society in Toronto; Markus Hess, President, EKN; Robert Kimsto, Executive Member, EKN; Ülo Isberg, the Estonian Officers Association in Canada and representative of the Fund; Laas Leivat, Estonian Consulate General.
After Toomas Merilo`s power point presentation of the Carolin Illenzeer Fund, it`s background, organizational structure, goals and methods of soliciting community support through a `Community Action Plan`, the representatives of organizations present decided to pursue possibilities of supporting the Fund through fund-raising activities in Canada. This decision was contingent on each organization giving approval to the general concept.
Some basic understandings were outlined before proceeding: EKN would act as a facilitator, not as an administrator/manager of the fund-raising effort; EERO would be willing to be the repository of donations for individuals requiring Canadian tax benefits; EERO would also strike an agency agreement with the Fund in Estonia as required by Canadian law governing charities; EKN would urge and facilitate all willing organizations nation-wide to participate in the fund-raising campaign.
Carolin Illenzeer is the daughter of Senior Warrant Officer Arre Illenzeer, who fell in the operation “Iraq Freedom” in 2004. Arre saw his daughter only once, while on leave. With President Toomas Hendrik Ilves acting as patron, the Fund was established in 2011 by the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association, the Estonian Reserve Officers’ Association and OSMTH (a Christian officers’ organization).
In actuality, the idea of a fund can be traced back to St. John’s Day (December 27) of 2005, when a group of Christian officers decided that their beliefs and values should be expressed in actions, rather than only in words. They unanimously decided that children of the fallen and injured must be assisted in their educational pursuits.
Since the founding group was small, their support was directed toward one child, one-year-old Carolin. Thus early in 2006 a college fund was established for Carolin to which the officers themselves made personal contributions.
From this the idea was expanded and it was decided that other children whose parent has been killed or severely wounded in the line of duty should also be supported in their educational path. Thus the Carolin Illenzeer Fund was formally established in 2011. Now its objective is to support many more children, 45 currently.
The Fund is guided by a strict Code of Ethics and abides by firm principles: integrity, equality, dignity, solidarity, collaboration, diversity and reliability. These are basic notions that give direction to the Fund’s activities and decisions. Since the Fund is a registered charity in Estonia, it is governed by the laws of the country.
In March of this year ten years had passed since the first Estonian military unit started their mission in Afganistan. Since then nine Estonian soldiers have died and over 90 have been injured. Thirty-two of the wounded suffered injuries so severe that they are incapable of being employed. (It has been said that proportionally Canada leads the per capita casualty list while Estonia is second.) The first unit of six soldiers - a bomb disposal group, a very dangerous specialty – began their tour of duty in the Kabul area and northern Afghanistan in 2003. By 2009 the Estonian contingent had risen to 289 military personnel. Now the Estonian parliament has placed a 170-member limit on the size.
(An historical comparison: In 1979 Soviet forces invaded Afganistan. In the war which lasted until 1989, 36 men originating from Estonia died. Of these 16 were ethnic Estonians.)
Since 1995 over 2,000 Estonian military personnel have defended Estonia’s national security interests in international operations. Critics have asked what security interests does Estonia need to defend in far-flung countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq or Bosnia. The answer is straight-forward. By becoming a member of a defence alliance such as NATO, Estonia has assumed responsibilities that it is obliged to fulfill. Estonia cannot remain a creditable member of the alliance and deserving of its collective defence when direly needed, without contributing to its collective military efforts. The NATO actions are deemed to be righteous in their cause. Estonia cannot afford to be a ‘user’ and not a ‘contributor’.
“The brave men and women who have chosen to answer the call to defend Estonia can be confident knowing that the society at large cares about the families of the fallen and severely wounded. Knowing that they are not alone makes it easier to commit to the military profession, to participate in an international security operation”, Victoria Punga, of the International Centre for Defence Studies has said. President Ilves has also pointed out that ‘Estonia does not leave its fallen behind` which also means `we take care of our own`.
Estonians abroad, especially in Canada, made a concerted effort to have Estonia admitted into NATO. Canada was the first to ratify Estonia as an bona fide candidate and finally as a full-fledged member. There`s no doubt that we here in Canada contributed to Canada`s early and enthusiastic sponsorship of the Baltic states.
Our collective moral compass guides us to be equally motivated to act on behalf of those who have had to bear the consequences of fulfilling NATO commitments, namely the children of soldiers fallen on the battlefield. It`s a small price that we share amongst ourselves. Plans are being readied for fund-raising campaigns. More information soon.
The Carolin Illenzeer Fund. (2)