One of the key things we do, and love doing, here at Salem Social Village, is to help people help other people – bringing change to communities by equipping those who can themselves bring change, or who are already doing it.
In the Autumn/Fall of 2014, our Humanitarian Aid project was contacted by the chairman of a regional NGO, Sardor Ismanov. His genuine concern for the largely rural region around Kazygurt, the town where he lives, inspired this young man to take initiative and begin working to develop the material and spiritual well-being of the area’s residents and to restore cultural traditions.
Sardor with a group of young people in Kazygurt
Sardor’s dream was to encourage people – especially young people – to not leave the area in pursuit of the supposed wealth and luxuries of the big city, but to remain in their native homeland and help to improve rural living conditions.
“To change something, you need to first change yourself,” says Sardor. “We need to stop running away from our problems. If every man rolled his sleeves up and got stuck in to help tackle these challenges, it wouldn’t take us long. It is time to stop just talking about it. It’s time to act!”
One of the biggest issues, according to Sardor, is a lack of education among people who live in rural areas like these. They are no longer gathered around a common interest; there is no healthy passion and commitment to work together. Very often, the villagers feel helpless in dealing with daily challenges. “When children grow up, they leave their elderly parents alone,” he says. “And too often young couples separate, leaving children to be brought up by single mothers. ”
More young people benefitting from the work of Zhalynda Zhastar
After registering a non-profit organisation with the wonderful name ‘Zhalynda Zhastar’, which means something like ‘inspired youth’ in Kazakh, Sardor began running a range of attractive social activities: cultural leisure activities, social services, educational work and charitable initiatives. To support his noble beginnings, the local authorities provided him with a small office which his group use as a training center. It’s a center where anyone can come and study English, Russian and Kazakh, and they also run all sorts of topical seminars and training sessions.
Residents of the area love the services they provide and many people are making the most of these new opportunities. However, the children and young people who could most benefit faced the problem of a basic lack of resources. These newly inspired and engaged young people were in dire need of basic things such as tables, chairs, office equipment and educational literature.
Loading the shipment for Zhalynda Zhastar at Salem
It was at this point that Sardor was advised to seek help from Salem Social Village – and we were really please to meet this inspiring young man. Helping people like him is exactly what we do, thanks to the continuing shipments of quality donated goods that we receive from Crossroads. And so it was that Zhalynda Zhastar received a shipment of humanitarian aid from us, solving many of these simple problems of resources.
A year on from the shipment, Salem staff went back to visit our old friend and colleague, to see how things are going at Zhalynda Zhastar. As always, inspired by his work, Sardor gladly talked about all that was going on, both in his life and with the organization. He was also keen to point out to us, with huge gratitude, what a massive help it was to them to receive the shipment from us of furniture, household appliances, computers, literature in English, as well as clothing for families in need.
Children using the resources at the Zhalynda Zhastar centre
With undisguised pleasure, Sardor talked about how incredibly popular language courses and sports activities are among the rural youth. One of the charity’s other initiatives is visiting a large family with kids in significant need resulting from their parents’ divorce. Karlagash, who is still relatively young, suffered immensely from her husband’s behavior – he often drank and then beat his helpless wife and children. In this culture, and particulalry in rural areas, a woman must never complain about her husband, and any divorce always comes with universal condemnation and rejection from the community, regardless of the circumstances.
Tragically, this is what happened to Karlagash. She was left completely alone and without any support. But Zhalynda Zhastar was able to stretch out a helping hand to her. “We try as often as possible to meet with and support Karlagash and her children,” Sardor told us. “We try to help particularly in practical ways with the things a man should provide. We’ve been able to pass on much needed warm clothes to them, which we received from Salem Social Village – they were a timely assistance for this dear family!”
Karlagash and some of her children
None of us knows, of course, how many radical changes will be brought to the Kazygurt area. Will Zhalynda Zhastar be able to truly address the problems of modern rural life here? Such things are difficult to predict. However, as the local saying goes, ‘When the farmer that sows wheat, there is always hope for a good harvest’. And what that will be, only time will tell.