July 2014—Like other youth in her village, at 16, Adina Bazarbaeva assumed she would eventually go to Russia to find work when she finished school. “I didn’t think I had anything to contribute to society,” she recalls. “I wasn’t focused on developing myself, setting goals, and achieving success. My life was boring.”
That changed when Bazarbaeva took part in a 2012 volunteering seminar held at her school in the village of Aravan, located in the southwest area of the Kyrgyz Republic. “On that day, a whole new world of opportunities opened up in front of me,” she says. Soon afterward, Bazarbaeva joined the Youth of Aravan volunteer club.
Youth of Aravan is one of 24 youth volunteer clubs established in the Osh and Jalal-Abad regions that provided young people with training in volunteering; social project design, management and fundraising; and workshops on financial literacy, social media, conflict resolution and partnership-building. The USAID-supported project, which started in April 2012, is being carried out through Jasa.kg, a four-year program of the International Youth Foundation.
Over the course of two years, Bazarbaeva, together with her peers, organized a number of volunteer projects. During one, the youth led a river cleanup, clearing water bottles, plastic bags and even animal carcasses from the Aravan River.
“We worked the whole day,” recalls Bazarbaeva. “Elders passed by looking at us with surprise. Many thanked us and offered their blessings. The next day, some even joined us.”
With the project design and fundraising training she received, Bazarbaeva and the others launched a book drive, collecting more than 300 books and textbooks for their school library. The volunteers also developed a garbage collection system at their school, conducted sports competitions, offered language tutoring, and collected clothing and stationery for orphaned children.
“After implementing several volunteer projects, I feel changes in myself. I’m more confident. My school values my opinion,” says Bazarbaeva. “People know and respect me in the village .… I know that I can do more for my community, but for that I need to develop myself further, get a high-quality education and learn languages. From an irresolute girl, I’ve become a leader, not only of a volunteer club, but at my school.”
Five months after her initial training, Bazarbaeva became president of the volunteer club. Now poised to graduate from secondary school, she hopes to one day become a TV announcer and administer a charity.
“I will never stop volunteering,” she says. “Volunteering is a school that teaches, disciplines, and makes you matter to society.”
Bazarbaeva, who continues to support younger students in their journey to become successful volunteers, is one of 360 youth to benefit from youth volunteer clubs through Jasa.kg.
USAID's Jasa.kg project is a civic engagement and entrepreneurship initiative that harnesses and cultivates the creativity of youth to build a stable, prosperous and democratic Kyrgyzstan. Launched in 2011, the project primarily aims to inspire active citizenship among the country's youth, prepare them for the marketplace and create a culture of positive youth development. /p>
Last updated: August 18, 2014