31 May 2017
For anyone who is thinking about visiting Central Asia, put Kyrgyzstan on your list and for those wanting to get involved with charity, pay a visit to the wonderful director (email: firstname.lastname@example.org), doctor, nurses, cook and teachers at Bishkek’s <The rehabilitation center for children and youth>. Since I have no abilities to speak the language, Aigul (owner of Salam travel http://visitkyrgz.com/) and Mairam (Aiguk’s friend) made sure that logistically, everything will go well. I could not have done this without them. Thank you!
I was not going to leave without a visit to a center that offers not only a bed and food but also education and all round care for underpriviledged kids. Like so many charities around the world where my focus was placed on education and child care, poverty and instability has a negative impact on her growth and development. To make matters worse, some are orphans. Some are taken care of by only one parent or by their grandparents and for some, they suffer abuse at the hands of caregivers who are alcoholics. Due to the lack of care and love, many children also have run ins with the law. Low schooling being a determinant of poverty and poverty being a limiting factor to schooling is an obvious cycle that is occurring around the world. Education like healthcare, is the fundamental freedom and access that everyone must have. Education alleviates poverty when successful policies and employment opportunities are being created or else in some cases, many will see it as pointless. Yet, tis strange that many of the poor are unable to continue with their education. When textbooks and uniforms should be free, it is a shame that families who can’t afford it have to pull their kids out. Still undergoing a transition in her education system, many families do question the need for an education when it costs and does not guarantee employment. Why not get them to contribute (instead) to maintaining the family?
As a young nation where 2.1 million children form almost 37% of the country’s total population, child poverty remains a serious issue in the country and the 2015 UNICEF report stated that poverty is on the rise. 900,000 live in poverty and face not only material deprivation but also poor access to services and protection. Toss in rural and urban numbers in terms of access to education and what you will find is that rural children requires more assistance. Sometimes, given the remote villages that they live in and the difficulties in access, schooling might not be properly maintained. The country understand the problem and have been making progress but it still lags behind other countries in the region.
4 plaques on the walls of the school or center’s entrance indicates that the building, faciltiies and staff are part of a government/internationally-funded program. One is supported by Germany as a token of friendship with most funding coming from Mack & Schuhle (a German wine company). The school is also part of the “Renewable Energy Solutions Program” under dena (Deutsche Energie-Agentur) RES Project Kyrgyzstan. Co-financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), I suspect that energy consumption and facilities were installed with support from the Germans. The rehabilitation center is also known as the open center “LUCH” for Children in Conflict with Law opened withthe support of UNICEF in 2010. The three storey building is well equipped with a kitchen and large dining hall, classrooms, teacher and doctor offices, sick bay, playground, main activities hall and dorms with double-bunked beds.
As I walked into the building, everything is well organised and proper. I was led into the director’s office who was busy listing things down with a fellow teacher. The wonderful Russian lady listened to my explanations and I confess, I was a tad nervous. I am never oblivious to the fact that sometimes, charity is not easy. By this I mean, it is not just a walk in the park where I come and everyone will accept me without any questions asked. Execution is not easy and I have had enough bad experiences in the past that made me re-think about my approaches so…like always, I explained to her my purpose which is a) not to get money [ I’m not running a charity company since I personally back away from many of these NGOs] b) it is very personal thus small scale and I combine it with my travels since I’m interested in social welfare c) want to meet local heroes who run the place so I can become a better person and d) learn more about the resources that they need, hand over some tiny amounts of supplies and hopefully get that chance to meet the kids and see their smiles.
With her eyes fixed on me, the director listened attentively. She didn’t say much except for a couple of nods then she started to fill a form which listed down my name and what things I’ve donated. Wow, I looked at Mairam and couldn’t believe just how efficient and quick the process is. I think those local officials in Bhutan who halted and scrutinized my charity chapter along with those damn Chinese ‘chiefs’ who clearly was only interested in getting money can learn a few things from this center in Bishkek. To be honest, I was slightly embarassed at how small the amount of my supplies were. She simply smiled and said ” It is the thought that counts and I am happy that you are even willing to make a stop!”
I asked about the funding and what the school need and she mentioned that although they do not have to worry about rent of the building or salaries since that is all supported by the government, they are always in need of supplies such as underwear, socks, bed sheets, T-shirts, stationeries and more. This was beneficial since it gave me a much better understanding of what I can give them when I return back to Shanghai.
20 minutes into the conversation, some teachers showed up and greeted me before I was led away by the nurse who gave me a tour of the center. I went and saw the kitchen, bathrooms, dining halls, library, school halls and also the dorm quarters for boys and girls.
With a total of 90 children (correct as of May 2017), boys to girls ratio is 50 : 50 and the age ranges from 2 to 18 year olds. The older kids sleep upstairs- boys to the right wing and girls to the left. The younger kids sleep on level one. Older kids also take care of the younger kids and take turns in keeping the areas nice and clean. The children study in local schools and are not separated or singled out from those who come from more intact and well-off families. Like the Iran charity where those with down-syndrome play with other children in the local town, singling out children during their development is detrimental to their self-confidence. I wanted to visit the children but since the boys were off playing football and the younger kids were still taking their afternoon nap, Mairam and I went over to the girls’ dorms .
A bit shy at the beginning, the girls slowly opened up when I asked them about their dreams. They want to be chefs, dancer, hairdresser, doctor, teacher, flight attendant and much more. Despite their individual situations, knowng their dreams is a positive sign since they can surely work towards that. Come to think of it, at least they all know what they want! Unlike me! It was heartwarming to meet the girls and even better to have the chance to talk to the local heroes who dedicate their time for these kids. Beauty comes from kindness and I see that in all the staff members who take care of these 90 children. Like gatekeepers, these specialists ensure that children are loved and well looked after.
‘We do not get a lot of solo foreigners coming for a visit during their holiday,’ explained the nurse. ‘ It is always lovely since the children know that someone out there cares.’
Another wonderful end to a charity chapter in a beautiful country. Thank you and Goodbye for now.