Encouragement Towards a Better Future
We were able to send a team of five volunteers on a flight to the southwestern most part of
Kyrgyzstan. The flight only took 90 minutes; much more pleasant than the 35 hours our SoS
Team travelled on the mountainous roads in 2011. They were warmly greeted with Uzbek
hospitality by our student organizer, Nodir. Nodir had participated in our previous SoS project
in Isfana but this time he was a leader. What a great thing to see his ideas at work on how to
serve his community!
The Road to Isolated Togetherness
On July 20th we went on a road trip over mountain passes, through government
checkpoints and around Tajik and Uzbek enclaves. Beyond that we went on a
spiritual journey travelling through ethnic divisions and around mental obstacles.
We were a team of 14 of 7 different ethnicities... Kyrgyz, American, Uzbek,
Kazakh, Indian, Russian and Burmese.
The team had time to appreciate the nature and culture of a land so near
yet so far away from anything they are familiar with.
by Nodir Ataev
In July 2011, Greenhouse Club organized a trip for an international team of 14
volunteers to serve the community of Isfana in southern Kyrgyzstan. Isfana is a
small town of about 28,085 at the extreme western end of southern Kyrgyzstan and
is largely cut off from the rest of the country. While there are many volunteer
organizations in the capital Bishkek, not many volunteers go to remote towns
The volunteers who went to Isfana divided into groups and served the community
through teaching English to children, developing creative thinking skills of
English language teachers, training kids to play soccer, and performing live
music. Even though the concept of volunteering is rather alien to many Isfanans,
they were extremely pleased and grateful to the Greenhouse volunteers for
traveling a thousand kilometers to serve their community.
In addition to improving their English language skills, making new friends,
learning to play soccer and attending live concerts, many locals were delighted
to interact with foreigners. Along with Kyrgyzstani volunteers, the team had
members from diverse countries such the US, India, and Myanmar. Isfanans were
very happy to learn about the cultures of the volunteers.
The volunteers themselves were very pleased with the warm welcome from locals.
The team members were amazed by the hospitality of Isfanans: every day different
families invited all the members of the team over to dinner. The volunteers were
able to get a real glimpse of the local culture and had many memorable
experiences. A volunteer from India got to ride a horse for the first time, a
member from Bishkek ordered a custom Uzbek dress from a local tailor, and all
the team members thoroughly enjoyed eating Uzbek plov with stuffed grape leaves.
Perhaps one of the most important lessons that Isfanans learned from the
Greenhouse volunteers was recognizing the benefits volunteering in bringing
peace. Ethnic tensions remain high in southern Kyrgyzstan since the June 2010
ethnic riots. The Greenhouse team successfully brought Uzbek and Kyrgyz children
together in an effort to improve ethnic relations.
The residents of Isfana express their heartfelt thanks to all the volunteers
and organizers of the trip to Isfana. They would be very happy to see more
volunteers in the future. Many locals are already proposing to organize more
volunteer activities this summer. I personally plan to organize free guitar
lessons, hold sessions on studying abroad, and teach English this summer.
A Respect for Life
Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our
manners.— Laurence Sterne
Chubak taught the national anthem as a way for the children to learn respect
for their country.
Chubak and Kanat trained the children from 8 in the morning until 3 in the
afternoon for five days and on the sixth day they held a tournament for all
the 46 participants.
The winners of the Championship! There was a raffle after the game where the
children won balls, jerseys and toys.
Influencing the Sphere of Education
Jim organizes the teachers and students at the Uzbek School.
Anywhere from 40 to 100 children came daily to their lessons.
Each morning we had a training for 8 local teachers and 5 local university
students on methods, learning styles, activity ideas and how to use resources.
Here Akmanai teaches along with Tiffany in Kok-Tash, a village one hour
further in the mountains. Akmanai was one of four student volunteers who is
studying in Bishkek to become a teacher. This was their first opportunity to
get in front of children and teach, an invaluable experience.
Half a Band - A Whole lot of Fun!
We had organized a band called "Ferriswheel" to perform in Isfana, but the
night before leaving Bishkek someone stole some musical instruments and
documents leaving us with only half a band. But this drama didn't prevent
Ashon, Askhat and Nodir from having a good time.
Music is a medium that crosses cultural barriers that especially reaches
the youth. The band performed music in Uzbek, English, Russian and Hindi.
An Uzbek Wedding
Some of us had the chance to attend an Uzbek wedding. Here are Ashon,
Akmanai, Altynai and Jim with the bride. The bride mourns because she is
leaving her home to be a part of her husband’s family.
A Cup of Tea
A cup of tea which is continually refilled, representing infinite
We cannot NOT mention food because it was a major part of the trip to Isfana.
We were served endless meals, our hosts’ way of welcoming us into the
community. Fresh fruits and homemade breads decorated the tableclothes of
each home we entered.
Akmanai gives a scarf to one of our hosts to honor her for her generosity.