On The Road Blog
A Great Model for Central Asian NGOs
- By Joseph Bednarek on June 25th, 2015
- Category: Blog, Europe and Eurasia, Featured, Featured Blog, Home
Children of Tien-Shan was one of the first GFC grassroots partners in Central Asia. When I started at GFC in 2010, Children of Tien-Shan had been a grassroots partner for two years, and I finally got to meet with the organization in the summer of 2011.
Children of Tien-Shan is located in Kyrgyzstan at the western end of Lake Issyk-Kul, the world’s second-largest alpine lake. During that first visit in 2011, it became very clear to me why the previous program officer for this region had recommended that Children of Tien-Shan become a GFC partner—the organization works in a challenging environment, consistently produces amazing successes with its work, and is a model and inspiration for other NGOs in the region.
Children of Tien-Shan’s main goal is reuniting children with their biological families; when that outcome is not safe or possible, the staff try to match the children with foster parents or help them get adopted into other families. Over the past ten years, Children of Tien-Shan has successfully put dozens of children into safe, family environments. And the organization continues to work toward this goal.
Last fall, Children of Tien-Shan received its final primary grant from GFC, concluding a seven-year funding relationship. After our grassroots partners graduate from our financial support, they become part of the GFC partner alumni network and are still eligible to receive our capacity-building services. GFC alumni partners are also a valuable resource for newer and younger grassroots partners. Alumni partners host grassroots partner peer exchanges and are often invited to GFC Knowledge Exchanges to share their expert advice and experience with other GFC partners.
On my recent trip to Central Asia, I was able to visit with Children of Tien-Shan twice—at the 2015 GFC Central Asia Knowledge Exchange in Dushanbe, and during a site visit to the organization’s shelter in Balykchy, Kyrgyzstan. During my site visit, I met some of the children staying in Children of Tien-Shan’s shelter.
One of these young people was a girl who was probably in her late teens, but no one knew for sure. She had been held in sexual captivity in Almaty, in Kazakhstan, but ultimately the police there found her and sent her back to Balykchy, in Kyrgyzstan, because that’s where she said she was from. She was dropped off in Balykchy but had nothing—no money, no home, no family—and was in a very vulnerable mental condition. The police in Balykchy found her on the streets and took her to the Children of Tien-Shan shelter. The staff at Children of Tien-Shan said that she was improving, had started talking more, and would soon go to a young women’s shelter run by another GFC grassroots partner, Our Voice.
While I know that Our Voice will take excellent care of her, it will still be a difficult path; while I was at the shelter, she had a seizure. The staff told me that the doctors could find nothing medically wrong with her, and that the seizures were brought on by extreme emotional and physical trauma. The episode reminded me that this young woman has a long and challenging road ahead of her, but that she is also fortunate that caring experts at Children of Tien-Shan were able to help her take the first steps on the road to recovery.