People with disabilities gain new skills in Kazakhstan
For years, Nastya Murzabekova didn’t leave her ninth-floor apartment. For months, she sat by a windowsill, cared for by her mother. Confined to a wheelchair and without the use of her legs, she was often overcome by feelings of helplessness.
Like Murzabekova, 570,000 people in Kazakhstan face physical or mental disabilities. Without proper support, they have no opportunity to attend school, get a job or have a family.
Dyusengali and Aruna Ospanov are working to change that. In 2012, they established the Predoleniye Centre for Independent Living in the city of Kostanay. The Centre provides life skills and hope for 20 people under a programme supported by UNDP and the Ministry of Labour.
Nastya Murzabekova has learned how to spin her wheelchair around. Now with the help of staff, she regularly visits the Centre.
“Many who come to the Centre manage to overcome their depression and unwillingness to live,” said Aruna, who uses a wheelchair herself. “Young people make friends and talk to each other. They are no longer trapped within the four walls of their apartments.”
The Centre provides people with the opportunity to make friends, play sports, develop hobbies, and learn to be independent. It offers computer classes, sewing, singing, and even ballroom dancing. UNDP support has enabled the Centre to hire a psychologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, masseur and a music teacher.
Ilya Virakovsky has learned web design and now works at the Centre. Asker Salmagambetov, who communicates in sign language, drives the Centre’s taxi . Alina Lamparter, who uses a wheelchair, teaches carving.
Some people in Kazakhstan suffer from mental disabilities. Mayra Suleyeva is working to help them. In 2012, she established the Kenes Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centre in Almaty, which teaches people with mental disabilities how to cook, take care of pets, carve, sing, and embroider.
Caring for plants, cooking, handicrafts making
The Centre practices ‘agrotherapy’, an approach to counter feelings of uselessness by teaching how to care for plants. A greenhouse was built for this purpose with support from UNDP.
For those with speech disorders, the Centre offers art classes to teach them how to communicate and express themselves.
Maxim Pichugin, 32, can now help his mother tend to the garden around their summer house. One 38 year-old student at the Centre, Yuri Petin surprised her mother one day by making a salad after taking cooking classes. Dima Xan, 26, can now sing, make handicrafts and take care of a small zoo at the Centre.
UNDP is also supporting a project in Astana, the capital, to develop a mobile application to better connect deaf people with emergency services. The application will allow the emergency services to immediately see the profile and location of the person requesting help.
Currently, deaf people cannot easily reach help in an emergency. Sometimes they have to ask for help from strangers on the street, which can cause critical delays.