Volunteer in the Village

What’s a great way to help people while you explore your own interests and talents?  Volunteer with CDI!  Marvin B. came from Germany to Kyrgyzstan for 6 months, helping tutor German children of CDI staff and doing work in the community.  One of Marvin’s biggest contributions was in the preschool (kindergarten) in a village outside the city of Osh.  Marvin helped decorate the boring blank walls of the building with paintings of cartoon characters the children knew and loved.  Teachers and even some of the children got into the act.  And the new walls were ready in time for the big celebration for visiting dignitaries.  It made the perfect backdrop for the children’s songs, dances, and costumes.  Now CDI is looking into other ways to help and support this preschool.  DSCF8413-(Large)comp

Change Your Life

Women in a village not far from Bishkek heard some new information recently.  And that information brought about big changes.  The CDI seminar “Change Your Life” focused on stress management through fitness, stretching, massage, and nutrition,  with additional input regarding anger management, conflict resolution, forgiveness, and inner thought life.

Chinara has a houseful of children and grandchildren.  When she lost her own mother recently, she wasn’t sure how she would cope.  But Chinara said the practical tips and good information from the seminar gave her peace.  She discovered she could control her anger better and speak to the children more kindly.

Many families in Kyrgyzstan live in a multi-generational situation.  Aidai, who attended the Change Your Life seminar, struggled with living with her mother-in-law.  But the seminar gave her a new approach.  Here’s what she said afterwards: “I have been harboring unforgiveness in my heart against my mother-in-law for many years now, but after the Conflict Resolution and Forgiveness lessons, I decided to talk to her about it and try to resolve this conflict between us. We have to live in the same house together, and I have refused to talk to her or even hang her picture in my room these many years. After the lessons, I decided to be open and honest with my mother-in-law about how much she had hurt me. But when I tried to share about this with her, she denied it and said it never happened, and that I must have dreamed it! But regardless of that, I have felt forgiveness for her in my heart. I have experienced peace in my heart, and I have even re-hung her picture in its place (next to my father-in-law’s picture) on the wall in my bedroom.”

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Proud Display

“Sherzod” dashed joyfully into the cold, dingy classroom. Two years ago he never would have guessed that he would enjoy another course at school. But the wood-working class is different. The German master carver treats him like a respectable man, not just a school boy. Sherzod’s chest puffs up with pride as he thinks of how his skill has grown.

Boys like Sherzod, apprentices in CDI’s wood-carving program in the Kara Suu region, recently showed off their creations with pride and joy. And CDI’s program showed off the value of such opportunities to parents, local school directors, and government representatives. The hope is that they will use their influence to expand the program.


For the last year, a handful of both first and second year apprentices were trained five afternoons a week in wood-carving, drawing design, math, and English to give them the skills they will need both to create quality work and to make a living doing that. And the work goes on! Earlier this year four more boys completed CDI’s two-month course for determining aptitude and interest in wood-carving. Two will begin next year as first-year apprentices.


Prototype for Warmth

Now that cold weather has set in, there is one village medical clinic in Kyrgyzstan that will be warmer this year than in years past.fap

Staff from the Kara Suu office of CDI travelled to the remote mountain village of Bekjar to lead local workers in the construction of a more efficient furnace.  The Kara Suu group has lots of experience building these furnaces now, but they experimented with some improvements at Bekjar.  These included a different formulation of mortar for the brick exterior, a new way of creating joints between the top and bottom of the stove, and using higher quality fireproof bricks.  The team was pleased that it only took three and a half days to build the furnace.

Because it’s in the medical clinic, many people in the village will see this furnace.  If they want to have built in their own homes, they can hire CDI-trained contractors to do the work.  So village people can have warm homes and good jobs.building-furnace

Helpful Horses

The Bishkek CDI office is pleased to announce that the therapeutic riding program is up and running, with 3 horses ready for gentle, nurturing action. Kids who have been touched by the Children at Risk project staff in the homes for disabled children are candidates for riding therapy.

Bakit didn’t seem at first like a good candidate, though. At 8 years old, he was terrified of the horses when he first got near them. In addition, both arms and legs are affected by cerebral palsy, and Bakit had very little trunk control, which is necessary to sit on a horse at all. Bakit’s first session of therapeutic riding had much more crying and flopping around than horse riding—he was barely on the horse for 5 minutes. But the team decided to keep at for 2 weeks before re-evaluation as to whether or not this was the ightherapy for Bakit. We’re happy to report that after the 2 weeks—4 sessions—Bakit was glad to see the horses when he arrived at the stable, and he was able to ride for a good 10 minutes. After 2 months, he’s riding for 20-25 minutes with very good head and trunk control. He sits up straight with head held high and a big smile on his beautiful face. And there’s a bonus. The cerebral palsy had affected Bakit’s ability to speak, but since he’s been riding, he’s starting to talk a little too


Celebrating Accomplishment


Altyn and Nazokat were thankful they at least had each other. The sisters having cerebral palsy meant that they couldn’t do all the things other children do in Kyrgyzstan, but their grandparents had given them a good home and some life skills. However, when the girls’ grandmother died, their aging grandfather couldn’t care for them, so Nazokat and Altyn had to go live at the state institution for disabled children in Jalal-abad. Nazokat was especially depressed to be in the place. But life improved a bit for the two girls, and a number of others in the children’s home, when the CDI-sponsored education for disabled children started. Altyn and Nazokat, along with others in their orphanage, learned basic reading and writing. “School” brought a break in the orphanage routine and a good dose of self-esteem. The school year ended with a presentation for parents and orphanage staff, and a fun picnic lunch.

CDI recently completed our third year of education for disabled children, this year expanding to the orphanage in the south of the country in Jalal-abad. Some 50 children, in 3 institutions, received education. They also got certificates to prove their accomplishments.

Classes start again soon. And no one is sad about back-to-school here!


CDI staff with children at the year-end celebration.

Lives Changing

In June, CDI Bishkek’s Women’s Community Health Education team completed their first set of seven health lessons in a village one hour outside of Bishkek. This weekly training set covered topics such as healthy pregnancy, pregnancy nutrition, menopause, and other women’s health issues. While the physical health lessons were helpful, most of the participants found the relational lessons to be the most life-impacting. Recently the team met with the women to ask if they wanted to start another series. The overwhelming answer was, “Yes!” At that gathering every woman had a personal testimony of how the seminar is changing her family and personal life. Listen to what some participants said:

“I have a teenage brother, and we haven’t had a good relationship. I would beat him because he wouldn’t obey me. In the seminar Parenting Teenagers, we received handouts, so I took them home and read them to my family. I explained them to my little brother using kind words and we have started a good relationship. My mother is also trying. My brother is obeying us now, and the relationship between us is changing.”

The seminar has brought peace and agreement to this family and now they have more joy. When Ajar talks about herself and these things, tears well up in her eyes.

Another participant wrote: “I am learning through the Right Relationships seminar how to improve my relationship with my husband, my children and my relatives. I have a good relationship with my husband, but I believe in the future, it can be even better. If you come with more lessons prepared like these, it would be very good.”

When we taught about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) we discussed how most STDs can be prevented through a monogamous relationship with your spouse. Some of the women said, “Yes, but how can we keep our husbands faithful?” This gave us a great opportunity to share about husband and wife relationships. With material pulled from the Eggeriches’ book Love and Respect, we talked about how a husband that feels respected in his home is more likely to stay at home! We talked about a list of “24 Ways to Respect Your Husband.” One of the attendees recently shared that she posted this list on the wall in her house. She is trying to show her husband more respect and she’s been amazed at how it has improved their relationship!

Another mom shared that her husband also reads the handouts she’s brought home from the trainings, and he has stopped yelling at the kids so much, and is trying to practice some of the parenting suggestions provided.

It is encouraging to see women’s lives being changed through practical knowledge and their desire to practice what they are learning. We are anticipating great results from the next seminar called “Staying Young” which covers topics like healthy lifestyle, stress management and exercise.


Everyone is engaged in the lesson.

Everybody Gains!

In April of 2016 the CDI Bishkek office started up our women’s community health education project. We were able to hire two trainers. One of our trainers is experienced, having come from our Jalalabad office, but our other trainer was hired brand new with no previous experience. She is a very sweet lady, but very quiet and reserved. We weren’t sure how she would do as a trainer. She admitted herself that she had never spoke in front of other people, or taught anything, and she wasn’t sure she’d be able to do it. But she shared that she’d been looking for a way to give back to her community. She’s very artistic and had sewn curtains for her church, but beyond that she never really felt like she had much to offer. She shared with tears in her eyes, that after 4 years of art training, her husband and family had mocked her for years for having a useless profession and said she would never find a job or be able to earn money for her family. When the opportunity to work for CDI came along, she decided to take it, though it was way outside her comfort zone. Also, because of a past head injury, she’d been told that she wasn’t smart enough retain information and teach anyone. However, she has proved them all wrong. Working for CDI she has discovered that she is a person of value, and that there is a place for her talents and she has worthwhile things to say and share with others. She has gone from being a very shy, reserved person to learning how to speak out her thoughts and opinions and how to teach others about healthy living, which she has learned is not just about physical health, but also about emotional, relational, and spiritual health.

In her own words, she shared these comments: “As I have shared with the women in the village, I am also learning. When I prepared the Love and Respect seminar, I asked myself the question, “Am I using in my own life what I am teaching to others?” When my husband came home from work I asked him, “What is more important to you, love or respect?” Statistics say that respect is most important for men. I was afraid he’d give the “wrong” answer, but my husband also answered that for him respect is most important! I was embarrassed because I had not shown him enough respect. Right then, I asked my husband to forgive me and I explained the reason why.”

She also has said, “I have worked for 3 months now in this project and I like this work. When I prepare the lessons I get lots of information. I use this information when I meet with my sisters and I tell them what I learned. Our lives are not changing fast, but we are trying to change. These lessons are not only for me, but all women like them. They receive all the information with joy and when we see this we are also filled with joy.”

Seeing our own trainers’ lives being changed through what they are teaching is a powerful example of how effective participatory community learning can be. We feel that the project is off to a great start and can’t wait to see what the future will bring.

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Trainers presenting a skit at the beginning of the lesson.

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Participatory lesson


Hope for Efficient Homes

A village outside of Bishkek benefitted from a 4 week Home Efficiency Training seminar. Over the course of 4 weeks the Bishkek CDI Technology Team taught men and women how to keep their houses warm in the winter. Topics covered coal burning stoves, efficient windows and doors, insulation and solar powered hot air heaters. The coal burning brick stove and the solar air heaters were the items people were most interested in. Surveys indicated that the villagers had a fair understanding of basic efficiency principles but didn’t apply them to their own homes. Most identified that they had a working stove but needed a better one. The seminar uses models to demonstrate topics such as how a chimney powers a stove and how to build home-made double pane wood framed windows. These models give the participants first-hand experience and a practical look at how to apply what they learn.
We conduct trainings using interactive and participatory learning techniques which are a new concept in this culture. Most participants are worried that they might answer a question wrong, and this creates shyness and reluctance to engage in the activities. However, after some coaxing many participants got over their stage fright and bravely presented their ideas, and even their own solutions, on the topics covered. Ultimately our goal is to train participants how to solve their own problems together using their own resources.
One interesting benefit for the team arose during a presentation of the brick stove construction. There were many bricks that required difficult cutting with a powerful and somewhat intimidating power tool. Two of the participants worked out a solution to avoid having to cut the bricks, thus dramatically improving the design of the stove and eliminating the need for so many bricks to be cut. This is a great illustration of how as community development trainers we often benefit and learn from the participants as much as they benefit and learn from us.
The Home Efficiency Seminar allows us to conduct surveys while teaching useful and energy saving techniques that all the participants can take advantage of. As a result of the seminar, one local man expressed a strong desire to build a brick stove in his house. The Technology Team partnered with him to get the job done. He paid for all the materials and learned how to build the stove while working alongside the team. Not only will his house be warmer using much less coal next winter, but he can help others do the same with the skills that he gained

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Working out the most appropriate answers on the survey.


CDI staff member Mark demonstrating how the sun hits different spots on a house at different times of day.


Creativity at Camp

Summer camp. The words elicit images of campfires, swimming pools, and group games. For Americans another word associated with camps is CRAFTS. In the former USSR, however, creativity is not such a foundational part of that week at camp in the summer.

This is where CDI’s Creativity Project is stepping in. Project staff have had opportunity this summer to be involved with 3 different children’s camps, giving children a chance to take home from camp a lovely art piece.

For one camp, CDI staff trained camp staff to help children create art. Some 600 kids will attend this camp, having art each of their 7 days there. Creativity Project staff hopes these children will love art in fresh ways after this camp.

The second venue was essentially a master class in fashion design career development for older teen-agers. CDI staff helped the young people see how influential art is in society, using examples of music videos and films, while guiding some 15 young people in concepts of fashion design.

Finally, CDI staff led one day of a week-long English day camp, bringing together art and English education in a creative way. Staff helped children learn about colors and other topics in English by working in the arts.

It’s a great summer for creativity in Kyrgyzstan!