Paving the Way to a Cleaner City and a More Environmentally- Conscious Community

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, February 9, 2022
Kayirzhan took the initiative to help his town and community
Eurasia Foundation

Kayirzhan Aisin is a young eco-activist from Petropavl, a small city in northern Kazakhstan. For the past nine years, Kayirzhan has dedicated himself to conserving local ecosystems. 

“The environmental situation in my town was dire. Papers, empty bottles, and plastic bags littered Petropavl’s recreational areas. People seemed woefully unaware of how and what to recycle.” 

Galvanized by what he saw, Kayirzhan took the initiative to help his town and community. He founded Vtorsyrye, a company that collects broken and damaged electrical equipment, plastic, wastepaper and other recyclable materials. To amplify his impact, Kayirzhan partnered with students from schools across the city. Each year, they collected and sorted recyclable materials and raised funds for people fighting cancer and other serious illnesses. 

But for Kayirzhan, this was just the beginning. “In my many interactions with students and other members of my community, I recognized the need for a space for citizens to come together to learn more about recycling and alternative ways of making our surroundings cleaner and more eco-friendly. I dreamed of helping more people, promoting recycling to a broader audience, and implementing more eco-projects, all of which required funding,” he says. 

When he learned of the Youth Leadership Grants offered under USAID’s Social Innovation in Central Asia activity, he jumped at the opportunity. Youth Leadership Grants are small grants designed to support emerging youth leaders from Kazakhstan to implement initiatives that will contribute to social, economic, or environmental development in their communities. Initiatives funded by Youth Leadership Grants are either led by youth or focus on youth beneficiaries. 

With USAID’s financial support, Kayirzhan launched EcoLife, an environmental stewardship initiative that aims to improve the environmental situation in Petropavl by offering practical classes and hands-on opportunities to engage with and improve the environment.

“EcoLife works to reinforce the idea that making a change always starts with you,” explains Kayirzhan. “With a sense of collective responsibility, there is a greater hope of building a strong and eco-friendly community.”

EcoLife activities include environmental education, collection of recyclable materials, and their removal for processing and promotion of zero-waste principles. The initiative primarily works with schoolchildren to teach the next generation of environmental stewards about various types of waste and recycling methods.

Under the umbrella of EcoLife, school students from across the city of Petropavlovsk, formed a Green Help team, through which they installed recycling boxes in 23 schools across Petropavl. “Through this initiative, students can continually practice proper sorting methods,” explains Kayirzhan. “We empty the boxes once they are full and send them to our sorting center.” 

Kayirzhan soon realized that his initiative’s impact would extend far beyond the students with whom he directly worked. “After participating in the Green Help team, children tell their parents about the importance of recycling at home. We increasingly see whole families participating in recycling efforts.” 

In August 2021, Green Help, together with a local youth center, assembled a group of eco-volunteers. During the week, youth learned how to correctly separate waste. 

In early September 2021, the youth put their knowledge into practice as they collected waste along the banks of the Ishim River in Petropavl’s microdistrict 20. Volunteers sorted trash from treasure, separating out recyclables. That day, they collected 45 bags, 31 of which they brought to a local recycling plant.

Under Kayirzhan’s leadership and with the help of the USAID-grant, EcoLife continues to expand its impact throughout the city. 

“With our grant, we also launched Ekodozor, an initiative of active and socially responsible citizens who help to clean various parts of Petropavl,” says Kayirzhan. 

“On average, 30 to 70 volunteers team up to collect waste, paper, and bottles on designated days.” On 18 September 2021, the Ekodozor team collected 70 kilograms of recyclable materials from the city beach, all of which was sent for recycling at the local plant.

“It is great to see volunteers share their ideas and passion for caring for our city and its surroundings,” says Kayirzhan. “We are building a community where people can share their knowledge of recycling. We are helping people to realize the impact they make on the environment, and the impact they can have cleaning it up.”

Social Innovation in Central Asia is a five-year activity funded by USAID and implemented by Eurasia Foundation to cultivate a vibrant and responsive civil society across Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, and to build a new generation of forward-looking civil society leaders. Through the activity’s Central Asia Youth Leadership Academy, Eurasia Foundation annually trains a cohort of youth on foundational skills in community engagement and leadership. 

Last updated: February 10, 2022

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