Ivan’s Story

We thought that this story would be about how, through the request of a guy named Ivan, Salem Social Village was able to send some much needed material assistance to the Medvedko family, who live in the village of Granitogorsk, in the Taraz region. They have 9 children, and so just getting by is pretty tough for them – we were glad to be able to help.

But what we discovered was that the real story turned out to be Ivan’s.


Ivan is now just over 30 years old. He’s a strong and good looking guy, full of energy and exuding kindness. He’s an active volunteer with a charitable organisation which helps homeless people, very large families, people with disabilities and many others in need.  All unremarkable, except that… Ivan has a group 2 disability: most of his legs and the fingers of his hands have been amputated.

Ivan, or Vanya as he is mostly known, dedicates all his free time to people who need support and attention. “It wasn’t always like that,” he says. “At 15 years old, I became an orphan. My Mum’s sister, in Shymkent, took me in. I finished school and started work, but the new-found money and freedom obviously was something I didn’t have the skills to handle. I over-indulged in alcohol and was carried off by it for around 15 years. I became completely dependent upon the drink, losing myself more and more every day. My relatives didn’t want to even be seen with me, because I hurt them so many times, and eventually I began stealing. I was drinking, playing cards, and once got drunk and lost everything…

“Once, I got really drunk during a cold snap, and got lost out on the steppe. Spending 8 hours out in minus 20 degrees C (minus 4 Farenheit), I got bad frostbite in both legs. Not having any documents, I couldn’t get any medical treatment and so gangrene set in. Dying of pain, I lay on warm heating pipes and drowned my sorrows in vodka. Exhausted and weary, I prayed to God to die.

“Some wonderful people, charity volunteers, found me and simply saved me. They gave me a place to stay and basically enabled my recovery. I underwent four complex operations, where the doctors had to amputate both legs up to the knee, and all my fingers. Some of my new friends helped me to get all my documents sorted, and helped me learn how to hold a pen. What they did for me has changed my life forever. I just couldn’t stay as I was – they basically gave me a new life.

“Now, I get a small disability allowance, which is enough to enable me to live a very simple yet healthy lifestyle – but that’s not so important. What’s important is that I have found myself, what life is all about. I am proud to have become a volunteer with a charity and now I’m able to joyfully help others who simply don’t have enough to make ends meet or who have found themselves in great difficulty.

“I don’t regret anything. Even though it cost me so much, I have found genuine treasure. What would I say now? Appreciate what you have! Do good to others – it is the source of true happiness, and we can all do it!”

We met Ivan a few months ago. He approached Salem Social Village for material help for the Medvedko family who were in great need. He has also provided us with a list of more than 80 children with disabilities, who live in various regions of South Kazakhstan.


Some of the Medvedko children with their new resources

When you set out to help those in need, you anticipate encountering endless stories of tragedy, sadness and despair. But there are so many out there, like Ivan, who have inspiring stories that bring hope. We love meeting them, hearing their stories and enabling them to help others even more than they were already doing. And then telling their stories, in the hope of inspiring others to also get involved.