Volunteering strengthens in Kazakhstan after tragic events in January
NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM - Volunteering has seen rapid development in Kazakhstan over the past years culminating in 2020 being designated as the Year of Volunteer. But as the saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed, and the tragic events that occurred in Kazakhstan at the beginning of January showed the real impact of volunteering efforts. More about the development of volunteering and how it helped in a difficult time like this is in the latest article of Kazinform.
The tragic events in Kazakhstan made us all rethink almost all our lives. Amid mass riots, mayhem, and looting, for many, the system of values has changed, while the level of patriotism and care for each other strengthened. Kazakhstan was in a two-week state of emergency from January 5 until January 19 that included a curfew between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., restrictions on movement in and out of cities as well as a ban on mass gatherings.
Volunteers and citizens unite amid the tragic events
Hundreds of private and public properties were damaged in mass unrest that swept across the country at the beginning of January and hit the worst its largest city and important financial and business centre Almaty.
«While security forces were struggling to fight back those who violated the order, we - the volunteers - were in the thick of things since January 7. We tried our best to help deliver hot meals to police officers, military personnel on duty at checkpoints, doctors, and ambulance workers. We provided ordinary residents with the necessary medicine, food, and everything they needed,» said one of the volunteers Dilmira Blatz.
Kazakhstan’s National Volunteer Front Office oversaw coordination, hotline, and communication with people in a difficult situation.
«Thank you, to everyone who helped and continues to help us in this difficult time. I can say with confidence that during these days we had a super team of super people. Our work continues. We call on everyone who cares to join in helping to rebuild our beloved city,» she said.
In the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan, there was a single Volunteer Coordination Centre that provided information and organizational support to volunteers to help people in need. The country’s other regions also followed the example by helping police officers in the protection of administrative buildings as well as delivering food to law enforcement officers.
Citizens in the capital also expressed their willingness to assist law enforcement agencies in maintaining and ensuring peace and order. Among them were athletes, doctors, entrepreneurs, teachers, and volunteers.
«We can all see what's happening in the country. Peaceful demonstrations have turned into mayhem and mass acts of looting and violence. We are worried for our city and for our country. That's why we came together to protect our city against possible violations of law and order,» says one of the volunteers Alibek Mukataev. Athletes were the largest group among these volunteers.
In the Akmola region, volunteers organized the delivery of hot drinks to law enforcement officers standing at checkpoints across the city’s perimeter.
Besides these efforts, volunteers also helped Kazakh citizens living abroad to get in touch with their family members and friends in Kazakhstan when the internet was not available. Almaty resident Kunekei Nurlan created a Telegram chat to help Kazakh citizens living abroad connect with their family members in Kazakhstan. The chat, which is called Bauyrmen Bailanys, now has more than 10,000 followers.
According to Almaty volunteer coordinator Nursultan Bekkairov, volunteers were also preparing food baskets for those in need.
«Right now, we're just forming lists and gathering information about Almaty residents who need help. Nearly 500 volunteers in the city were ready to help as much as they can in eliminating the aftermath of the unrest,» he said.
Development of volunteering in Kazakhstan
In 2016, Kazakhstan adopted a law on volunteering that paved the way for the more sustainable and systemic development of volunteering. Three years later, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declares 2020 as the Year of the Volunteer.
All measures aimed at promoting volunteering are envisioned in the nation’s roadmap adopted by the government in April 2021. They include developing a favourable environment for volunteer activities, developing infrastructure for volunteer activities and increasing its capacity, and expanding the participation of citizens in volunteer activities.
«The fact that the state pays attention to volunteering has to do with the increased involvement of the society in decision making, making state policy understandable for the population, and facilitating their joint solution. Volunteerism has been developed to address acute issues including protection of animals, environmental protection, support for socially vulnerable populations. Through such initiatives, the state can identify weak areas and take measures to address them. Volunteerism gives a chance for people to be heard and gives an opportunity to people to be involved in addressing different issues,» said Madiyar Kozhahmet, Chair of the Civil Society Committee at the Kazakh Ministry of Information and Social Development.
Danara Saranova, a volunteer with vast experience from Shymkent, said that the Year of Volunteer in Kazakhstan 2020 surprisingly coincided with the outbreak of the pandemic.
She began involved in volunteering in 2007 after participating in a U.S. Embassy program that teaches English for free. She currently leads a youth volunteer organization in her hometown Shymkent and is one of many UN national volunteers worldwide.
«Volunteering for me is a lifestyle, my favourite hobby that helps me develop, morally and spiritually, and help others. (...) Up to this day, wherever I am, I try to volunteer. Volunteering is not only about helping others but also about raising young people and the people who surround us. It is a resourceful help. We devote our personal resources, be it emotional, time or intellectual. This is very precious,» she said.
According to her, the pandemic encouraged many caring citizens to help other people in need. «People understood the real essence of volunteering as a really important component of civic engagement,» she added.
Tasks and challenges moving forward
In their analytical report for 2021 developed by the National Volunteer Front Office, experts note that based on the results of the work and monitoring of the volunteer movement, it became clear that the nature of volunteerism has its own unique features in each region of Kazakhstan, and the development of volunteering depends on the social and economic conditions, territorial, geographical, ecological and many other factors in the regions. This makes a comparative assessment of volunteering in the regions by numerical indicators extremely ineffective.
There is a need for qualitative analysis of volunteering in Kazakhstan, which will include continued awareness-raising efforts about volunteering, building a mechanism for interaction between the volunteer sector and government agencies, as well as strengthening the capacity of volunteers themselves and volunteer leaders in organizations and initiative groups.
They also note that volunteers are not necessarily only young people.
«Because volunteerism development in the regions began without training all of the departments and employees involved, initially the establishment of front offices on the basis of Youth Resource Centres led to a number of systemic mistakes and difficulties, including the mistaken assumption that volunteers are people of young age only,» said the report.
Written by Assel Satubaldina