Teenage Orphans Face Life on Their Own

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If you’re one of the nearly 11,000 young people living in orphanages and other children’s centers in the Kyrgyz Republic, chances are you could end up living on your own by the age of 15, when such youth start becoming eligible to ‘graduate.’ Without the skills and understanding to navigate the challenges of independent living, these youth are vulnerable to lives of crime, prostitution, and trafficking.

Now, however, thanks to the efforts of Jasa.kg, an IYF civic engagement and workforce development program funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), orphans growing up in state-run residential institutions are better prepared for life on their own. The adoption of IYF’s Passport to Success® (PTS) curriculum by the Ministry of Education and Science (MOES) means thousands of such youth will benefit from comprehensive life skills instruction, including how to manage their time, communicate effectively, act responsibly, develop a career plan, and much more.

The mainstreaming of PTS illustrates the power of quality training and demonstrated results over time. From 2012 to 2014, the Jasa.kg program was implemented in all 27 state-funded residential institutions, where youth received in-class life skills training; went on field trips to visit employers, educational facilities, and cultural centers; and led their own community improvement projects.

With the help of IYF’s local partner, the Childhood Institute, the PTS curriculum was adapted to provide orphans with the behavioral, problem solving, workforce preparedness, and healthy lifestyle competencies so crucial to leading successful, independent lives.

Through roundtables organized with MOES representatives, the Childhood Institute sparked discussion on the needs of youth in residential institutions and the results being achieved through the PTS trainings. Emphasis was placed—not only on the program’s benefits to youth—but its impact on the quality of instruction. In all, over 70 teachers and tutors across the country were trained to deliver the PTS curriculum, which involves a highly interactive teaching methodology designed to engage participants in the process of learning and acquiring new skills.

“I was able to inspire the youth’s interest in the program, and my relationship with them has changed,” says Bakyt Alymbekov, Deputy Director of the Panfilov Boarding School for Orphans, and once a resident of the school himself. “Before, I delivered lessons in an authoritarian style. Now, thanks to the PTS program, I’ve learned how to work better with youth and keep their interest.”

The MOES recently approved the integration of PTS as a standard offering for extracurricular programming at the 27 state-run residential institutions in Kyrgyzstan and agreed to finance the instructors’ stipends to teach the program. To date, more than 1,300 youth in residential institutions have participated in the program, with thousands more poised to benefit well into the future.

Said Ashat, a teenage resident at the Chui Boarding School gymnasium for Gifted Children from Low Income Families, “After the PTS course, I became more sociable and felt stronger in stressful situations. I started to plan my day better and be more attentive with people. Now, I feel better prepared to step out of the institution into the adulthood world.”


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