It is a great pleasure to work with my friends in RFE/RL’s Central Asian services. They do some amazing work, and I have a front-row seat for it all.
I do not boast about them as often as I should in the Qishloq. They are making a difference to the people in Central Asia, and as one example I offer the story of 13-year-old Aychurek Sulaymanova from Bishkek, courtesy of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Azattyk.
Like many 13-year-old girls in Bishkek, Aychurek goes to school in the morning. She is in seventh grade. But when school ends, Aychurek becomes an adult.
Aychurek, her mother, and her younger brother live in a basement apartment that was once part of a factory housing project. Aychurek’s mother is ill and confined to a wheelchair.
So for the last 2 1/2 years, every day when school ends, Aychurek scours Bishkek’s bazaars looking for plastic and cardboard. She searches until darkness starts to fall. Then she takes her day’s haul to a recycling area, where she is usually paid between 100 and 150 soms [about $1.30-$2].
On the day Azattyk spoke with Aychurek, she had collected some 10 kilograms of plastic. Asked what she spends the money on, Aychurek replied, “Bread, food. Yesterday two women repaired something in the entryway [to Aychurek’s building] and I had to pay 100 soms.” Aychurek also buys medicine for her mother with the money she earns.
Once home, Aychurek cooks the evening meal for the family. “I fry potatoes, I make soup, I can cook chicken and I can also make plov, manti, and oromo,” she says.
Azattyk reported about Aychurek on February 22. The next day -- let me repeat that, the very next day -- February 23, people started dropping by Aychurek’s home, and they didn’t come empty-handed. Through WhatsApp and social networks, Kyrgyz at home and around the world worked to set up a fund for the family. Special transportation is supposed to arrive on February 24 to bring Aychurek’s mother, Yryskan, to a bank to open an account to receive the donations.
And it all started with an Azattyk report.
I’ll be touting more of our Central Asian services’ successes at the Qishloq in the coming weeks and months.