Volunteering in Kyrgyzstan
Lana Gurtovenko - our first volunteer who came to Kyrgyzstan to do research for her website which also promotes eco-volunteering at farms around Russia and neighbouring counties. While in Kyrgyzstan she has spent time volunteering at the Farm Guesthouse in Rot Front, Gulmiras' Guesthouse in Bokonbaevo and Yntymak village (formerly known as Kalinin) in Talas. Lana has written a blog about her experience volunterring with Tenti.
Why do you travel?
For architecture? For nature? For making a check in your bucket-list? For experience? For adventures? For forgetting even for a short time your problems at home? To find yourself? To lose yourself?...Why do you travel?
I’ve been asked this question many times after each trip that i made. And years by years the answer is changing. When i was 20-ish all i wanted is more adventures,more parties,more craziness,which i think its pretty understandable thing to wish at that “i want all in the same time” age. No shame here. But then after each country and after each year my focus of interest transformed into something new. I realised that all that time i was travelling for people. To meet them, to get to know them, to learn from them,to observe them,to help them,to live with them,to share everyday life with them.
Since the focus of my travels and answer for that question “Why?” changed i started to look for the ways how to use travelling in different way, how to travel not just on surface of the country,but to go deep into. And i found one. Its volunteering. It gives oppotunity not just consume while travelling, but to travel with meaning,for something.
When i planned a trip to completely unknown for me Kyrgyzstan, i have no doubts what to do there. To be a volunteer. Only the problem was how to find a host familities who need some help,even Google search couldnt help me out at all. So i started to write random local people through couchsurfing to give me some advices on this field. And how they say, hard work pays back fast. Local kyrgyz people started to write me back with contacts, who could be helpful for me. As i got many answers, one name popped up many times in different people’s messages. “Aibek Adigineev”. My curiousity never leaves me back and i wanted to know who is this guy and why every foreigner who is living in Bishkek knows him. I contacted Aibek through social network and got warm and positive response from him,saying that he is launching his project Tenti and he needs volunteers throughout the country. I remember my feeling that time. I couldnt be happier and more excited. It all means that i will be able to see Kyrgyzstan in the most realistic, most authentic way.
Just after arriving to the “mountain country” aka Kyrgyzstan i was fully blown by local generousity and hospitality. People are so willing to help,to be sure that you’re all safe and not hungry.I don’t even want to start here about gastronomical traditions in the country. All i can repeat a phrase from one local guy: “If you arrived back home with gaining no extra pounds, it means you hadn’t been in Kyrgyzstan”,which from my experience completely true thing to say.
When i met Aibek in person, it was at one of that cozy cafes that serves great coffee, one thing instantly caught my eyes. Passion in his eyes when he talked about his upcoming project Tenti and how hard he worked for it. Also it was hard not to see that its not just all about money and bussiness, its about something else. Dream,that about to realise. Wish,that contains big love for the country and desire to show it in the best way to guests. I remember that i just sat back and listened. This inspiring talks gives lots of motivation to push myself harder to the way of fullfilling my own dreams.
Aibek also told me about his volunteer programme that he wanted to make and it was a perfect match for me,exactly what i was looking for,so not even waiting for a moment, i said that i’m in and ready to be a first volunteer whom he can send for help to some host families.
It’s so important to be in the right place and in the right time. I definitely had a luck about it.
Aibek immediately dialed some numbers in his phone, while i was still sitting and not believing what is about to happen. And yes, he invited me to his family house in Talas in order to make a report about Nooruz, the biggest holiday in the country,which is the best to celebtare it in the villiage or countryside in order to see real fun. And i did. Definitely did.
Arrived to village Kalinin,close to Talas, right away was warmly welcomed by all locals there and treated like an old friend. Local kids showed me around the village,we went to the school,where i was surrouned by kids of all ages and felt myself like a celebrity. “ What is your name?” - this question was asked uncountable amount of times and i was proud to say my given Kyrgyz name, Gulgunai (laughing moon). Food,dances,games, more food, fun and pure atmospehe of happiness were in the air all that time.
My phone was dying of too often usage of it, but i couldn’t not to take plenty of videos and pictures. Everything was so new for me and just unbelievable cool.
Next stop on my volunteer journey in Kyrgyzstan was the village of Bokonbaevo,the south of Issyk-Kul lake. Aiber had contacts of local family who owned a guesthouse and were willing to learn some English in order to work better with tourists. Thats something that for sure interested me.
12 hours on the road from Talas to Bokonbaevo, changing marchrutkas in Bishkek and just constantly wondering how beautiful landscape is, brought me righ to the house of Gulmira and Abdrasul. We clicked right away and became a family. Russian daughter and Kyrgyz parents. In the morning after long and tasty breakfast they always organised something interesting for me and free of cost such as eagle-show, canyon excursion, panorama view and etc. I saw the village and south side of Issyk-Kul from all angles,and all of them are beautiful. In the evening we had 2 hours English lesson,where my hardworking and motivated new students opened the world of English language and became a researchers in it. They repeated new words day by day, sometimes we made small exams with them and me,being their teacher even for a short time, was really pleasant to see how progress started to apper and fear of making mistakes disspear. Along English lessons, we shared so many cute moments together, such as doing small party at my birthday, shared different emotions from pure joy to sadness,when my time in Bokonbaevo was about to finish.
And now i look back to all my 1 month experience in Kyrgyzstan and i see that it was all about people. People whom i met, local and simple people, inspired me to become better and work harder on archieving what i want.
I had a chance to integrate fully to local community,to deeply understand culture and not just to see a surface how only would be possible if i will go just as tourist.
Volunteering gives a unique chance to forget finally about yourself,your ego and make something good for others,to be helpful, to travel with meaning.
Note: if you are interested in volunteering you can find out about available postitions by writing us at firstname.lastname@example.org