Little Heroes

Speeches Shim

Monday, February 7, 2022
Nursultan and his mother Zhanna
Eurasia Foundation

Creating Opportunities for Vulnerable Children and Families in Northern Kazakhstan

When Nursultan, a young boy with cerebral palsy, attends communication courses, his mother, Zhanna, joins him—not to wait while he learns, but to participate in her own skill-building courses. Both mother and son are honing new talents with the assistance of Batyr, a civic organization and a member of USAID’s Social Innovation in Central Asia Institutional Development Program. The 14-month program is designed to empower established and new civil society organizations through a series of tailored assessments and targeted assistance from Central Asian experts in organizational capacity building, long-term strategy development, workforce development and relationship building with key constituencies and other stakeholders. 

Batyr (which means hero in Kazakh) opened in 2012 to champion the rights of vulnerable groups in Kazakhstan’s Aqmola region. The organization supports people with disabilities and their families through skill-building and social inclusion opportunities. In 2021, Batyr joined the USAID-supported Institutional Development Program, hoping to develop modern methodologies to assist children like Nursultan connect with the broader community.

Previously, Nursultan communicated by arranging paper letters to form words. Now, this sociable student is practicing his typing and communication skills through Batyr’s computer literacy training. Using a computer, Nursultan can express his thoughts more readily. 

With USAID’s Social Innovation in Central Asia support, Batyr purchased new computers so more children can participate in the course. “Following Nursultan’s example, 25 children have started learning how to communicate with the use of computers,” says project coordinator Aisulu Rakhmetova. 

As interest in Batyr’s courses grew, so too did the organization’s capacity. USAID’s Social Innovation in Central Asia’s Institutional Development Program experts supported the organization to identify strategic goals and the steps needed to achieve them.

With clear growth goals in mind, Batyr launched new programs for families of children with disabilities. Caregiver courses offer family members a chance to pursue their own passion projects while also supporting their loved ones. 

Now, while Nursultan excels in computer courses, Zhanna tackles projects of her own in Batyr’s sewing workshops. Her recent creations include felt books that promote young children’s development through sensory play. With support from USAID’s Social Innovation in Central Asia, these workshops are “developing with small, but already confident steps,” says project coordinator Aisulu. 

The Institutional Development Program training also benefited Batyr’s employees, who developed their professional skills through courses offered by Social Innovation in Central Asia. The activity’s fundraising workshops have already proven useful to Batyr’s mission. 

Employees located, applied for, and won a grant offered by the Government of Japan, which they invested in a van. This vehicle, specially equipped with a hydraulic lift and unique safety features, now transports Nursultan, Zhanna, and other participants to and from the center. By establishing new funding streams and partnerships, Batyr hopes to champion more “little heroes” across the region.

The USAID-funded Social Innovation in Central Asia activity develops the skills, tools, and capacities of civil society organizations to diversify their funding sources, become financially viable and increase their impact on communities. 

Last updated: May 26, 2022

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