Ending the Circle of Disability and Poverty in Russia

09/15/2015 10:51 am ET | Updated Sep 15, 2016
Natalia Vodianova

Choosing this one out of the 17 Global Goals was an easy task, as my entire life and the work I do seems to revolve around inequality.

Thinking about it brings me back to the late 1980s and my childhood in the industrial Soviet city of Nizhny Novgorod. I was the older sister in a single-parent family with a disabled younger sister, Oksana. We lived in extreme poverty with often not much to eat. I still clearly remember feeling like a complete outcast of society so many years ago.

I also remember minimal specialist care available to my sister, nowhere to go, no special schools, no childcare, nothing. My mother and I were Oksana's caretakers 24 hours a day. This meant my mother couldn't get a permanent job, I couldn't study properly and our entire lives revolved around survival. It was a vicious circle; one without support. Disability and poverty often go hand in hand and I clearly felt it.

And then -- bang -- fast forward a couple of years and I am dining in the best restaurants of Paris with some of the wealthiest people in Europe. How did it make me feel? That something was wrong with the world and I had to do something about it.

Luckily for all of us here on this planet, people are mostly very generous. The fashion industry has been incredibly supportive, and some wonderful individuals and fantastic businesses from around the world came forward to support our work at the Naked Heart Foundation.

What we do is, in fact, tackle that very vicious circle of disability and poverty. By providing free professional-support services for families raising children with special needs across Russia, we give those parents a chance to look after themselves and to work themselves out of poverty.

By tirelessly working with the media and the professional community in Russia, we try to open up new opportunities for children and adults with learning disabilities and special needs. We want to give them access to education, jobs and simple things like going to a cafe without being judged or kicked out for being "different." We are all different, but our opportunities in life can't be.

The Global Goals should make us all think about how each of us can contribute to reducing inequalities -- in your village, city, country, in your world. It is inspiring that we are all joining forces.

It is very easy to ignore inequality, but if we all do even just the smallest actions, it can make a big difference.

Natalia Vodianova launches Elbi, a new mobile platform for "doing good" on the go on September 27. If you want to be part of what we do at the Naked Heart Foundation, drop us a line.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, "What's Working: Sustainable Development Goals," in conjunction with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The proposed set of milestones will be the subject of discussion at the UN General Assembly meeting on Sept. 25-27, 2015 in New York. The goals, which will replace the UN's Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), cover 17 key areas of development -- including poverty, hunger, health, education, and gender equality, among many others. As part of The Huffington Post's commitment to solutions-oriented journalism, this What's Working SDG blog series will focus on one goal every weekday in September. This post addresses Goal 10.

To find out what you can do, visit here and here.