Recently, one of our volunteering students, Tomiris Zholdasova, was inspired to write an article about us for a regional newspaper. We got her permission to translate it and reproduce it here – the photos are ours, but all the words are hers.
“I think of this place like a magical country, where kindness, peace and love rule. It’s a country where everyone is perfectly organised, but there is always a wonderful relaxed atmosphere that inspires creativity. The inhabitants of this country are Global Citizens – people who are responsible, kind-spirited, talented and purposeful. And everyone who has ever visited this wonderful place carries in their soul something life-changing that they will never lose.
Tomiris (far right) with some of the kids on the summer camp earlier this year
“It begins when you think about yourself, your surroundings, your skills, about what you want in life. In the end, you understand how this world was built, who and what fill it; and believe me, after this experience, no one can stay indifferent to the injustice, cruelty and lawlessness to which our society shuts its eyes.
“I won’t keep you guessing, as you are probably desperate to know where this idealogical world is. But before I go on, let me assure you that these are not empty words: this place that is truly so wonderful is located in our very own city, Shymkent.
“This Salem Social Village is a special place, where everyone is given the opportunity to develop in every way, becoming wiser and more charitable. Salem is a combination of social projects – for example, the unique project ‘English Centre’ allows you to acquire English quickly, effectively and at an accessible pace. The teachers are both native speakers from America and Britain, and highly qualified local staff, able to give a genuine quality knowledge, especially needed in the modern world where English is becoming increasingly demanded.
“The close connection between the projects Training Centre, Volunteering and Care teaches you in practical ways to be more sensitive and tolerant of those around you. There is good reason that the expression, ‘If you want to understand someone, walk a mile in his shoes’ became the motto of these projects. At the Village, they regularly train people and offer volunteering opportunities which leave people feeling helpful, needed and loved – a genuine and important part of the community around them.
“Alongside the Volunteering and Care project, the Humanitarian Aid prjoect assist many orphanages, rehabilitation centres and needy families in South Kazakhstan.
“Basically, many great things have been done by our volunteers for the good and prosperity of our city. Most often, people become part of this big friendly family by visiting the Salem Social Cafe, because by visiting any of the events held there, a person simply cannot remain uninterested in the activities of the whole city.
“Salem Social Cafe is the cosy heart of the village, where the whole friendly family gathers: volunteers, students taking English courses, staff, teachers and guests. Every Friday evening in the cafe is ‘Friday Night’, where visitors can hang out together or relax with great music, enjoy original baking and natural coffee. Often themed parties or acoustic evenings are organised where emerging talent from our city performs.
“In the informal surroundings of the cafe, you can get to know interesting and creative people, including foreigners who are frequent guests of Salem. On weekdays in the cafe, there is Conversation Club, where anyone in the city can practice their English, and Movie Club, watching films in English.
“It must also be pointed out that Salem is a non-commercial organisation. All this NGO’s revenues, from the cafe and the English courses, go to support the site and its charitable activities in Shymkent.”