Like other youth in her village, at 16, Adina Bazarbaeva assumed she would eventually go to Russia to find work when she finished school. “I didn’t think I had anything to contribute to society,” she recalls. “I wasn’t focused on developing myself, setting goals, and achieving success. My life was boring.”
That changed when Adina took part in a volunteering seminar held at her school in the village of Aravan, located in the southwest area of Kyrgyz Republic.“On that day, a whole new world of opportunities opened up in front of me,” she says. Soon afterward, Adina joined the USAID-supported Youth of Aravan volunteer club.
Youth of Aravan is one of 24 youth volunteer clubs established in the Osh and Jalal-Abad regions that provided youth with training in volunteering, social project design, management, and fundraising along with workshops for trainers on conflict resolution, financial literacy, social media, and partnership-building. The project was carried out through Jasa.kg, a four-year program of the International Youth Foundation supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Over the course of two years, Adina, together with her peers, organized a number of volunteer projects. During one, the youth led a river cleanup, clearing water bottles, plastic bags, and even animal carcasses from the Aravan River. “We worked the whole day,” recalls Adina. “Elders passed by looking at us with surprise; many thanked us and offered their blessings. The next day, some even joined us.”
With the project design and fundraising training she received, Adina and the others launched a book drive, collecting more than 300 books and textbooks for their school library. The volunteers also developed a garbage collection system at their school, conducted sports competitions, offered language tutoring, and collected clothing and stationary for orphaned children.
Five months after her initial training, Adina became president of the volunteer club. Now poised to graduate from secondary school, she hopes to one day become a TV announcer and administer a charity. “I will never stop volunteering,” she says. “Volunteering is a school that teaches, disciplines, and makes you matter to society.”