From the Outside Looking In

“The #1 Place that changed my world – Salem Social Village”

This article is the translation of a blog entry written by Nastya, a student from the English Courses at Salem Social Village. Click here for the direct link to the blog written originally in Russian.

In the world there are certain places where you just feel at home. Places which your soul is drawn to. In any city, town or village, each person has such a place. This is mine.


In our ordinary city, which not many people on our planet know about, there happens to be a corner, an “Oasis” of Western Culture and a source of inspiration.

My aim is not to praise this centre, and no one asked me to write about this, make an advertisement, or do PR for them.

But despite this, nothing can make this review more realistic.

And this place is called Salem Social Village.

I learned about its existence by complete coincidence. In the beginning it didn’t peak my interest. First of all it is at the complete opposite end of the city, the journey is long and inconvenient. But to be honest it just took one visit and I was in love forever.

My eyes had never had so much to take in! In addition to the visual stimulation of this place was the aroma of fresh roasted coffee and a charming atmosphere. All of this left a lasting impression.

Literally speaking, ‘Salem Social Union, Society of Culture and Education’ is situated in the city of Shymkent, Kazakhstan, on the territory of the Salem Social Village. ‘We are a non-profit organization, which helps needy people in the city of Shymkent and Central Asia.’

It all started with the simple idea to do good in this world, and the result of hard work!

The history of the centre is interesting and rich, I may tell you about that a bit later. It is in some sense divided into five different spheres of avtivity.

To be honest I am not a lover of attending courses. A lot of training centres care only about the money that they can make from their students. It often goes like this: I lose interest, become disappointed, quit and never go back. But with this offer to sign up for English courses I felt enthusiastic. Our school, (not the social village), can take pride in all things, except one teacher, who pretends to know his subject. Because of such ‘teachers’, money is wasted on extra courses. And because of this kind of education system I ended up at Salem.

And I need to say that I was pleasantly surprised!

Classes are run in a friendly relaxed atmosphere. Whether it is the movement of the ‘Foreign Spirit,’ which permeates the entire Social Village territory, or the attitude of the teachers, ready to share all their positive emotions with their students, magic—that is the appropriate word! This is a place that draws you in and does not let go.


They have an amazing resource centre which allows you to read books as they were originally written (in English).


The favourite place for the students — English Cup.


In the café they hold conversation clubs with foreigners from many different countries! The conversation clubs are characterised by how dynamic and unique they are.


By the way, the favourite of all the students is Curtis Burgan (California, USA).


Every Monday you can watch a film in English completely free of charge!

I want to point out that all of the profits which are made from the drinks and pastries go straight to charity! Buy an amazing cup of coffee, help people!


Pumpkin cookies with caramel glaze, Caramel Bars, Brownies, American Cookies (Chocolate Chip Cookies), Cheesecake, Apple pie and practically any type of pastry that you could wish for.


Every Friday they have “Friday Evening.” On this day you can relax, play a table game or an active game, or improve your level of English proficiency.


Besides the great atmosphere and excellent relaxation, in the Café you can get to know a lot of interesting people—volunteers from England, Holland, USA, Japan (China), Australia, Canada and many other countries.

The party theme is held once a month, that is for sure.

For example, Dutch Night:

A list of games and questions was provided for all who wished to participate in the event.

Everyone could feel the Dutch culture, enjoying national delicacies, which honestly speaking, not everyone liked, because of their particular taste and qualities.

We were also able to try high quality Dutch cheese completely free! Yes, yes! We had that too!

Chinese-Korean New Year:


Volunteers from Europe, Asia, America and Australia take the initiative to carry out a variety of events, including concerts. Most recently a little known group called Sallere Potheb came to the café, included in this number where representatives of countries which are at great distances from each other.

With this if you please, I will finish the first part of my story, even if it is a bit more like praise.