bishkek orphanage kyrgyzstan
In the summer of 2015 I volunteered in the Bishkek Orphanage as part of my trip to Kyrgyzstan. The experience was one of the most fulfilling things I have done in my life.
For two weeks I spent most of my time volunteering in the orphanage. There are 120 children living in this orphanage, but the building and government funding they receive is only intended for 70 children. Most of the boys and girls living here come from histories of sexual and physical abuse. Some of them have simply been abandoned by alcoholic parents.
Life is difficult at the orphanage. Both the girls and boys have shaved heads to try to manage lice. Fleas and bedbugs are a persistent problem. Many of the children suffer from visible skin diseases and other preventable conditions – cough, diarrhea, poor nutrition.
I saw that the staff at the orphanage are dedicated and well intentioned. They’re also progressive. One example of their innovation is the transition house they have for the teenagers living there – a place where, as boys and girls grow into young adults, they can gradually become more independent and prepare for independent life.
However, the staff have big obstacles. They consistently lack man power, food, supplies and other basic essentials. The money and resources they receive from the government is simply not enough.
I met with the staff several times, trying to get many opinions about how the money pledged by Megan could best be spent. In the end the money was split up among different areas.
Some was spent on medicine, food and clothing. Some went to taking individual children to doctors in order to diagnose serious health problems. One of these children is Jan, and my experience with him is another story and project unto itself.
When I work with an organization I am involved in many ways. I ask lots of questions and get the advice of the staff – they’re the experts. I spend time interacting and getting to know the children that the organization is helping. I’m also involved every step of the way with handling the money we are giving the organization – from budgeting to bargaining. This way, everyone is held accountable to spend 100% of the money in a way that benefits the children.
First I went to the main medicine supplier in Bishkek to buy medicines for the orphanage. I had help with this (I don’t speak Russian, or Kyrgyz). Friends and former volunteers accompanied me to help translate.
We were also really excited to purchase new uniforms for the children. These kids attend public school, ones that require uniforms. Their old and torn uniforms, the staff told me, make the children feel embarrassed and different from their classmates. It contributes to them being bullied at school, and so they lose motivation to attend. We went to the main bazaar, where you can find almost everything – including uniforms. This year, the kids will have new outfits for when school starts in September.
A large part of the budget went to buying nonperishable food supplies for the orphanage, making sure the children will have enough food for the next few months.
My favourite part was getting to know the children. After spending all this time with them it was clear to me that the thing they need the most is Love and Attention!
The orphanage is looking for volunteers. The children are enthusiastic about all sorts of activities – playing football, art, learning English, learning internet skills. I can say – working with these children is an experience that you’ll get a lot out of. And – the volunteer work is completely free! The only thing you have to spend is your time and energy.
For more information about the orphanage and how you could help please contact me!