Witness to a Better World: Photo Essay from Kazakhstan
On a recent visit to a village 120 kilometers east of Almaty, I witnessed first-hand how the BOTA Foundation is helping under-resourced children and youth of Kazakhstan. I sat in on a reproductive health class with expectant mothers. I accompanied them to the doctor, who mentioned to me that prior to BOTA, she had to knock on doors to persuade expectant mothers to go in for a check-up. I interviewed energetic youth in the midst of their apprenticeship to ask about their goals for the future. “I hope to land a job that will nurture my new skills so that one day, I can open my own café,” says Yerkenzhe.
Towards the end of the day, I learned that all of these services are coordinated by only a handful of local volunteers. I was quite surprised to hear this since there are many BOTA beneficiaries in this village, which also includes preschool aged children and disabled children in addition to expectant mothers and working age youth.
A child recites a traditional Kazakh poem. BOTA provides he and his twin brother the opportunity to attend preschool.
Before we drove back to Almaty, I sat down with these unsung heroes over cups of tea and to discuss their experience. Due to economic challenges these four women, who live in the village and hold higher education degrees, have been without a job for years. BOTA has granted them a sense of purpose again, to be at the forefront in molding the future of the children and youth in their community. “My husband now calls me the Boss,” one says with a smile. The conversations and interactions with the children, youth, mothers, and especially the volunteers, left me deeply moved that day. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to personally see BOTA at work and with this photo essay, I hope to share with you BOTA’s impact.
IREX is building the BOTA Foundation by providing senior technical expertise to ensure that over $100 million effectively reaches the poorest of poor in Kazakhstan. BOTA is an independent not-for-profit NGO that improves the lives of children and youth in Kazakhstan through university scholarships, small cash transfers to impoverished mothers, and grants to local NGOs.