Isfana

Winter 2013

Encouragement Towards a Better Future

The Return to Isfana - SoS Project

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!

Summer 2011

The Road to Isolated Togetherness

The Road to Isfana - SoS Project

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 Isfana Team - SoS Project

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.

Student Viewpoint

by Nodir Ataev

Student Volunteer -
 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 like Isfana.

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

Chubak teaches the kids the National Anthem - Isfana SoS Project

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.

Football Training - Isfana SoS Project

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.

Football Championship Winners - Isfana SoS Project

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

Teachers Team at Uzbek Gymnasium - Isfana SoS Project

Jim organizes the teachers and students at the Uzbek School. Anywhere from 40 to 100 children came daily to their lessons.

Teaching methods and learning styles - Isfana SoS Project

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.

Kok-Tash

Teaching in Kok Tash - Isfana SoS Project

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!

Ashon, Askhat and Nodir - Isfana SoS Project

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.

Youth dancing at our concert - Isfana SoS Project

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

With the Uzbek Bride - Isfana SoS Project

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 steaming cup of tea - Isfana SoS Project

A cup of tea which is continually refilled, representing infinite hospitality.

Askhat serves the soup - Isfana SoS Project

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.

A scarf for our host - Isfana SoS Project

Akmanai gives a scarf to one of our hosts to honor her for her generosity.

Seek peace and pursue it
Spirit of Salam - 
Student Volunteers

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Salam is Peace. At the core of peace is respect.

Spirit of Salam - Student Volunteer
Projects

We believe that Salam can grow in Kyrgyzstan through its youth using their talents to benefit not only themselves but to benefit the community through volunteerism.