Help towards self-help

Help towards self-help: The Playgroup

Afternoon in the self-help group: parents and children playing. Maren Ernst (middle) and Burul Schamyrkanova (standing) from Uplift (photo: Alexandra Evang)

In 2009 in Tokmok (a small town close to Bishkek), we founded one of the first self-support groups for families with disabled or chronically ill children in Kyrgyzstan. As there is no culture of self-support in the country, we simply named this group a “play group”, and invited the families with their disabled children to “play” and communicate. What seemed so very obvious and easy to us did not appear likewise for the affected families at first, resulting in a poor initial response to our invitation. It took a year until the self-support group came to fruition. We were not aware that the families had to overcome two obstacles at a time. First they were afraid to be seen in public with their disabled child and “admit to their fate”. Second: what should they expect from a “play group” when the children themselves could barely move? How should they play? What should they talk about with people strange to them?

Furthermore the financial hardship was often so bad that the families often could not afford the transport to the “play group” with their impaired children. In addition the use of public transport with their severely physically disabled child was for the most part not possible.
The transport to and from the “play group” is now financed by Uplift donations. Now Uplift provides the framework for a functioning, regularly visited self-support group for families with disabled children. Beside the communication with other, often very experienced similarly impacted parents, the families benefit from the self-support group by

  • Receiving instructions for baby massages to establish a deep connection with their special child
  • Getting support when applying for state subsidies or receiving assistive equipment
  • Receiving help in the form of physical therapy and support during medical interventions and much more

The regular exchange between members of the “play group” is of great importance for both the children and their parents. Many children encounter people outside of their direct family for the first time. The parents find out that they are not the only ones subjected to this fate. It helps them to distance themselves from the option of sending their child to a home in order to be able to live and work normally again; they focus on themselves and their own inner strength and are taking initiative for themselves and their children.

  • Since 2009 more than 1000 families participated in the self-help group
  • At the moment 30 families visit the “play groups” on a regular basis, 55 families receive support in form of home visits
  • The need of such self-help groups in Kyrgyzstan is high.

Help to self-help: fighting poverty and prevention – a multi-sectional approach

Social Business

Help to self-help is closely connected to fighting poverty, capacity building and sustained education. The Uplift program always focuses on strengthening and stabilizing families in the long term, economically as well as personally. This is the only way prevention works and impaired children can stay with their families, instead of growing up in an institution.
Employment opportunities in rural areas are few and there usually are no options for care or supervision of the children outside the family. The parents, and especially mothers, must be able to work from home. Hence we are promoting a concept which offers the possibility of home-based work. That way we qualify mothers with disabled children from rural areas through various training measures. They are for example being trained in textile crafts so that they are able to take on home-based contracts from entrepreneurs in and outside of Kyrgyzstan. 2021 and 2023 together with the craftswomen of the city of Bishkek, we conducted a felt work training course for 30 mothers of special children and women with disabilities.  

Self-Sufficiency – Setting up a small farm

We have implemented several projects and initiatives with the focus on starting a small self-sufficient and sustainable farm with livestock and cultivating fruits and vegetables. In cooperation with Rotary Club Kyrgyzstan we have run the Project “give a cow”, in the frame of this project 112 dairy cows were given to families with children with disabilities. All family members are needed to take care of the animals. The fathers are also participating. Uplift qualifies, advises and helps out in case of emergencies e.g. if winter fodder is needed.
In 2019, we provided sheep to several families in very difficult circumstances. We also provide fruit trees  to families with disabled or chronically ill children every year. More than 500 young trees have been planted by families since 2019.

In 2023, we opened a new social sewing facility where 15 moms are permanently involved.

Due to the pandemic in 2020 many families found themselves in a rather difficult life situation. This winter, we were able to support the neediest families in rural areas with an emergency aid package: basic food, additional psychological assistance, therapeutic assistance for needy children (partly online), as well as funds for heating. 456 families received food support during the pandemic, 100 families with special needs children received 1 ton of coal each. 2021 80 families received the necessary food packages and coal for heating. The Winter Family Support Program now runs every winter season.

With your donation, you can support Kyrgyz families with disabled children, and help them take initiative and become self-sufficient.

Uplift – Aufwind e.V.

Caspar-Theyss-Str. 20
D-14193 Berlin
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