Little Heroes: Creating Opportunities for Vulnerable Children and Families in Northern Kazakhstan

April 6, 2022
Nursultan participating in computer courses

When Nursultan, a young boy with cerebral palsy, attends communication courses, his mother Zhanna joins him—not to wait while he learns, but to participate in her own skill-building courses. Both mother and son are honing new talents with the help of Batyr, a civic organization and member of EF’s Social Innovation in Central Asia (SICA) project’s Institutional Development Program (IDP).

Batyr (“Hero”) opened in 2012 to champion the rights of vulnerable groups in Kazakhstan’s Aqmola region. The organization supports people with disabilities and their families through skill-building and social inclusion opportunities. In 2021, Batyr joined IDP, hoping to maximize its performance and develop modern methodologies to help children like Nursultan connect with a broader community.

Previously, Nursultan communicated by arranging paper letters to form words. Now, this sociable student is practicing his typing and communication skills through Batyr’s computer literacy training. Using a computer, Nursultan can express his thoughts more readily.

With SICA support, Batyr purchased new computers so more children can participate in the course. “Following Nursultan’s example, 25 children have already started learning how to communicate with the help of computers,” says project coordinator Aisulu Rakhmetova.

As interest in Batyr’s courses grew, so too did the organization’s capacity. SICA’s IDP experts helped the organization identify strategic goals and the steps needed to achieve them.

A sewing workshop

With clear growth goals in mind, Batyr launched new programs for families of children with disabilities. Caregiver courses offer family members a chance to pursue their own passion projects while also supporting their loved ones. Now, while Nursultan excels in computer courses, Zhanna tackles projects of her own in Batyr’s sewing workshops. Her recent creations include felt books that promote young children’s development through sensory play. With support from SICA, these workshops are “developing with small, but already confident steps,” says Aisulu.

IDP training also benefited Batyr’s employees, who developed their professional skills through SICA courses. SICA fundraising workshops have already proven useful to Batyr’s mission.

Employees located, applied for and won a grant offered by the government of Japan, which they invested in a van. This vehicle, specially equipped with a hydraulic lift and unique safety features, now transports Nursultan, Zhanna, and other participants to and from the center. By establishing new funding streams and partnerships, Batyr hopes to champion more “little heroes” across the region.