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

Camping with Future leaders

On a walk in the mountains.

On a walk in the mountains.

Students show their work

Students show their work

In July our Kara-Suu office ran a week long summer camp for young people. The focus was leadership training, and in addition to our volunteers, around 20 young people helped with preparations leading up to the camp. These young men and women had attended training sessions since January, where topics such characteristics of a good leader, planning skills and teamwork were covered. They were then were able to put these lessons into practice as they worked together to organize this year’s camp.

The camp itself was a great success, with many young people aged 13-20 attending. The program included fun and games, songs, as well as English lessons and basic first aid training. Every day lessons were given on deeper topics chosen by the young leaders themselves, including emotions, trust and purpose.

After day one in a local school, everyone climbed aboard mini-buses and headed up to the mountains where we set up camp next to a mountain stream in a cool grassy area of Kyrgyzstan. Everyone attending the camp worked together to collect water and firewood, as well as wash and clear up after meals. After some initial reluctance to help, everyone learned to work together and the camp ran smoothly.

It was a time of ‘firsts’ for many of the attendees; for some boys it was the first time that they had to wash up, for others the first time to interact with English speakers and for many the first opportunity to try out new crafts such as making balloon animals. For some this was also the first time camping in the mountains, despite having lived in mountainous Kyrgyzstan their whole lives!

These camps have been run for several years now and our vision continues to be to see young leaders experience new things, grow, and learn to work together.

Bringing Art Back to Jalalabad

IMG_8034In the mountain city of Jalalabad, art is making a comeback amongst young people in a small art studio and classroom located near the center of the city. The studio presented its first art exhibition on Friday April 17, 2015 in the streets of Jalalabad where the work of at least 15 young school children was hung for the public to enjoy. The scene drew many visitors including students from the nearby university and parents with their children. The young and old alike passed by, marveling at dozens of paintings, drawings and collages made by the students. People amidst their daily lives stopped to see the art and watch the students drawing in the spring sunshine. It was a perfect day to display the hard work and creativity of the students to their parents and anyone interested who happened to walk by.


The studio presented its second exhibition the following month. Students displayed yet another month’s worth of artwork, this time including acrylic paintings, mosaics made from torn paper, decorated rocks and painted cutting boards. The event was yet again a success drawing even more attention the second time around. People of all ages came to marvel at the art work and inquire about the classes being offered at the studio, while the students worked on beautiful chalk sidewalk art.


Aigul J., a local artist and teacher, began the studio in September of 2014 and in November CDI volunteers began regularly teaching classes. The studio serves as a way to spark creativity in the lives of Kyrgyz school children, and inspire older people too, who often don’t have time to invest in creative pursuits, or were not aware it was even an option. The art studio has attracted many boys and girls who attend classes every Tuesday and Friday before or after school. Though art supplies are limited in Jalalabad, the kids have the opportunity to work in various mediums and styles including watercolors, acrylics, pastels, pencil, colored pencil, collage and more. They also study different styles, techniques and famous artists, inspiring them to think of their own ideas and develop their individual styles. The work of the children has attracted the interest of older kids, and a summer program for adults and teens is starting in June.

The studio is open to visitors and this spring’s exhibitions have allowed the entire city to share in the joy and wonder of being creative.

Written by Britta Seaberg

Geometry and Woodcarving

CDI Volunteer teaches geometry to our apprentices

CDI Volunteer teaches geometry to our apprentices

Since our last post about “boys and knives”, our traditional woodcarving project has taken leaps and bounds.

We are now 4 months into our first apprenticeship program with 5 apprentices who are enthusiastic to learn all they can about the woodcarving craft. These students were chosen from an entry level woodcarving course we ran last autumn.

A sample of traditional 'Naksh'

A sample of traditional ‘Naksh’

As well as training the apprentices in the use of woodcarving tools and traditional local ‘naksh’ designs, we are teaching our students geometry. These lessons are designed to improve their geometrical drawing skills and 3D spatial awareness. They are learning to draw out designs for themselves and transfer them onto wood for carving out. The end results are wooden products, like picture frames or chopping boards with beautiful and accurate traditional woodcarving design, which may be sold in local and international markets.

Sun Power

IMG_3173“I am really afraid of this coming winter. How will I stay warm? How will I pay for electricity?”

This is a common sentiment among many people in Kyrgyzstan facing inevitable power cuts and rising electricity and heating costs. In 15 years of living Kyrgyzstan I have never heard so many people concerned over how they will keep their families warm during these coming cold months. The water reservoir which powers Kyrgyzstan’s hydroelectric power plant (the only source of electricity) is dangerously low. Coal and electricity are the main source for many people in heating their homes.

In an attempt to respond to this need, CDI has begun building and testing a simple solar heating unit built from locally available materials. This heater is a basic insulated wooden box using aluminum cans to heat air which is pulled from and returned to the house. It can run on 220 V or a small 12 V battery when there is no electricity. Kyrgyzstan averages about 300 days per year of sunshine and we believe this has the potential to reduce the dependency on coal and electricity, therefore lowering the financial burden and reducing the environmental impact of burning coal.

We have begun training two local men to build these solar heaters and will continue to equip them to build heaters on their own for installation in their villages.

The Solar Heating Units builds on an existing Home Efficiency project that CDI has been running in the South of Kyrgyzstan. This includes building efficient wood/coal burning stoves and training on home heating efficiency and insulation techniques. With a combination of training and the introduction of appropriate technologies from locally available materials, we plan to help families address their need for inexpensive heating while conserving the environment and equipping local men to produce the heaters.


Teaching and Training

Feruza teaching EnglishWhat is better than teaching young people skills for the future? Helping to develop local teachers so they can teach these skills!

This is our focus with an education project we are running in conjunction with a local school. CDI staff are teaching English and Woodcarving to young people, while working alongside a local teacher to enable them to take over the lessons in the future.

For the English class our staff member has been working alongside an English teacher from the school, running extracurricular English lessons at two different levels. They have worked together to prepare the lessons, teaching one class each, alternating each lesson, so that the local teacher can gain experience for each level. Our staff member is always available when she needs help.



For woodcarving training, our staff member is working with the handicraft teacher at the school. They created the course contents together, including both woodcarving skills and basic technical drawing skills needed for working with wood. As they partner together, the local teacher is also learning new teaching techniques and skills himself.

This is one of our core values in CDI: developing people to bring positive change to communities. Our focus is to build capacity in local people so that even once we’re gone there will be a lasting impact.

Efficient stoves for frosty days

A team of men installs the tandoor.

A team of men installs the tandoor.

Kyrgyzstan will soon become a land of frosty mornings and bone-chilling days. Unfortunately, due to low rainfall, the hydroelectric dam reservoir is low and electricity will be limited this winter. People are scrambling to purchase coal and figure out how to stay warm through the winter.

The finished stove is ready to be plastered.

The finished stove is ready to be plastered.

Over the last two years CDI has been researching and designing fuel efficient stoves. In the Kara-Suu region we finished a prototype in one family’s house. This model heats the house by radiation and uses less fuel than the normal stoves. It also has a built-in tandoor oven that allows the women to cook and do their weekly bread baking inside during the winter. This keeps the extra heat inside and makes working conditions more pleasant for the women.

As part of the project, this month CDI is showing the family how to effectively insulate the rooms that the stove will heat. Over winter we will test the stove for energy efficiency and get feedback from the family on the ease of use. Men from the area will also visit the household to see the stove in action. Next year we will be inviting men to join our training seminars to learn these new stove designs. We hope this model will be reproduced in many houses, saving fuel now and in winters to come.

Should learning be fun?

“But I’m the teacher for the 5-6 year olds, I need to teach the children to read and write, not play games with them…”

Teachers learn new musical games using instruments made from bottles and boxes

Teachers learn new musical games using instruments made from bottles and boxes

This was a comment made by one teacher during a training seminar with the teachers of the new Kindergarten we are helping in Kara-Suu district. This teacher’s comment typifies many people’s attitudes towards learning, that learning can’t or even shouldn’t be fun.

The training had started with teaching on play and learning, on why play is important for children and how it helps them to have a good foundation for learning. It continued with our trainers teaching the teachers some basic English through a game. It was a ‘lightbulb’ moment for the teacher as she saw how shapes, letters, and numbers could be taught through fun and group games.

Making sleeping mats for the children from material and cotton donated by CDI

Making sleeping mats for the children from material and cotton donated by CDI

As part of our focus on development in the Kara-Suu region, we are working closely with the local government to help facilitate the opening of a new kindergarten (for children aged 2-6). This has meant running a series of training sessions, starting with two participatory learning lessons focused on child development, followed by training covering topics picked by the teachers themselves. These topics include First Aid, Crafts, Games and Music. Each session touches on some teaching theory, but is also very practical and learner centred, enabling the teachers to get the most out of the training.

In addition to these training sessions, donations from CDI’s supporters have enabled us to supply educational resources, particularly books, bean bags and craft items, as well as helping towards setting up the kindergarten, providing enough bedding for Nap time!

Boys and Knives

After living in Kyrgyzstan for a while, one begins to notice a lack of quality craftsmanship. Because of the intrenched Soviet philosophy of function over form, creative excellence often falls to the wayside. CDI’s recent woodwork project aimed to instill the value of beauty and an develop artistic talent in eager young boys. Working in a local school, we ran a 10 week course for students, teaching basic wood working skills. Starting with carving a cut-out star, then a flying duck and eventually intricate designs, we challenged them to excellence at every step. By the end each student had made something they were proud of and learned skills and a mindset that will serve them well in the future, whatever profession they choose.