Kyrgyzstan - Giving something back

Giving something back

Kyrgyzstan is a poor country in transition, with a range of serious economic problems that are not going to improve overnight, despite a large number of NGOs working in the country. Much of the poverty is quite visible, particularly in the case of elderly Russians whose grown-up children have left for Russia, leaving them more or less abandoned on impossibly small state pensions.

Many of these proud old people are forced into begging, hawking tissues and cigarettes or selling their few remaining possessions to make ends meet. Giving them a few notes, or buying something from them, is a drop in the ocean but at least it helps a little. The elderly are not the only ones who suffer: wages are low, unemployment is high, and more than half the population live below the poverty line.

One charity that does a great deal to help at-risk youth is the Alpine Fund, which, in its own words, is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation providing education and mountain adventures to at-risk youth in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The Alpine Fund runs two youth programmes in Bishkek: Clouds at their Feet, which prepares at-risk 13–17-year-olds for independent living; and Alpine Interns, which provides real-life work experience for youths from children’s homes who are now living independently.

Donations may be made online using PayPal or by sending a cheque payable to the Alpine Fund to their US office at PO Box 583 192, Minneapolis MN, 55458. The Alpine Fund also welcomes volunteers who are willing to stay for two months or more outside the main summer season. Volunteers must pay for their own housing, transportation and living expenses. Potential volunteers should send an email with a covering letter explaining why they wish to volunteer, and a CV (resume) of past experience in working with youths.

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