“I became more energetic and cheerful. I have always been shy, and now I am not shy anymore. I learned to dance well.” So says 12-year-old Anjella Razgonaeva, a young women from the Petrovka Boarding School for Children with Mental Disabilities who participated in the “Caravan of Talents” project, launched in November 2012 in the Kyrgyz Republic under the leadership of the well-known dancer Atai Omurzakov. The dance project is part of the Jasa.kg initiative, a civic engagement and employability program supported by the International Youth Foundation and USAID that includes a life skills component for youth living in orphanages. Its objective is to increase the self-esteem, personal development, and social skills of youth living in residential institutions.
Anjella has had to overcome many challenges in her young life. According to Venera Naspekova, Director of the Petrovka Boarding School, she was wrongly placed in this particular orphanage, but remains here because there was no other place for her to live. Anjella will soon be placed in another school after being adopted by a guardian family. “Most of my relatives moved to Russia, and those who remained here wanted to move to Russia. But I don’t want to move, because I have lots of friends here,” Anjella said. “She is a high achiever, activist, good singer and dancer and our pride and joy,” says Ms. Naspekova.
The dance classes were held three times a week from November 2012 through April 2013. More than 100 youth from six residential institutions in the Chui region benefited from working with prominent dancers from the local dance studios "Wake up," "Let’s Dance," and "Centrum." The dance trainers also provided youth with the opportunity to participate in dance competitions and design joint projects. In April, youth from the Belovodsk Reform School for Boys won the final dance competition, which qualified them to compete at the International “I am a Dancer” Festival held in September 2013.