British Teacher Combats H.T. in Kazakhstan

I haven’t written for a while in my blog and apologize for that to my avid readers. Instead of my stats diminishing, they have increased.  I guess I have ample material with enough keyword searches on the subject on Kazakhstan that I will continue to get “hits” whether I write much or not.

As an earlier blog indicated, I thought I was finally returning to Astana but it didn’t work out.  Hurricane Sandy had something to do with my passport being delayed so that I missed my first flight. My passport was stuck or held up for over a week in New York.  When I was ready to take my second, rescheduled flight once I DID get my passport back, the visa read: “NO RIGHT TO WORK.”  So, the whole point of my going to Astana was to teach English and I would have had to do it for FREE with that kind of bureaucratic stamp in my passport. Truth be told, I have felt like a “slave” in the past when I taught at a “westernized” university in Almaty.  Well, it wasn’t that bad, but as a professional I was not paid well and treated disrespectfully.  But I know I wasn’t singled out as an American, those  in “control” of teachers did the same to my colleagues, their own Kazakh teachers.

I am glad to read what a British teaching colleague is doing about human trafficking in Astana.  He has become very active in the movement and I KNOW he will leave a lasting impression on many he leaves behind.  The following is how David sees himself fighting the good fight against human trafficking in Kazakhstan. May his tribe increase so once he does leave Kazakhstan, there will be many more who follow in his footsteps combating human trafficking.

“It has long been my custom to give away clothes, etc when leaving any country I have been working in (Kz is the 10th I lived & worked in) to this end on my arrival in Astana, I searched for & found a charitable organization here in Astana and organized a clothes collection to pass on to them. The end of winter gave me the opportunity to de-clutter my colleagues’ wardrobe (ok, closet for Americans) and help those in need!

I have been involved in volunteering over many years both when I was younger in the UK with social causes (Adult Literacy, Youth work among other areas) and in more recent years in sport as a coach/referee (especially in fencing). I had never been involved in the area of trafficking & in all honesty knew little about it when I first became involved as I have begun to learn much more about the area I realize what a horrific crime against humanity it is & I should do what little I can.

The organization I became involved in is the International Organisation for Migration which deals with migration & human trafficking around the world. I visited the offices here in Astana & they are in need of clothes and/or domestic equipment. The majority of cases in Central Asia are concerned with labour trafficking & the majority of victims are men which is very different from the overall global picture! When someone is rescued from conditions of servitude/slavery they usually have nothing but the clothes they are wearing. IOM operates hostels for escaped/rescued victims around the country (Astana, Kokshetau, Petropavlosk & Almaty) which I have visited and can tell you, at first hand, how welcome our donations have been.

You should not compare the donation of clothes to victims here in Kz with giving clothes to a high street charity shop in the UK. All donations go directly to help victims (i.e. are NOT sold through a shop) so help to change lives & ‘re-humanise’ victims recovering from a traumatic situation. Even the donation of an old handbag will help give a victim some sense of self-worth as they have something that is ‘theirs’.The other area I have focused on is awareness raising at Nazarbayev University where I work as an English teacher. The students at NU are frequently told they are ‘the future leaders’ of the country and thus are the sort of people one needs to educate!

A series of film shows, seminars, lectures & other activities such as card making/bake sales have taken place over the last 18 months which has helped to make the students (& staff!) of NU much more aware of this issue than they were. NU has donated domestic equipment which had been written off (eg mattresses, towels, etc). Some of the students have responded magnificently as you can see from this video made after a student-organised run in aid of victims earlier in 2012.It is difficult to have more direct involvement as there is an obvious language barrier as well as the need for security in the healing process which is part of the 3 Rs approach (Rescue, Rehabilitation & Re-intgration).

I have to confess that the work has grown out of all proportion to what I had originally envisaged (there is a permanent large box in the student residence for donations that I clear very regularly) but awareness is growing (several students did research projects on aspects of trafficking year compared with none the previous year!  I suppose that when I finally leave Kz I will look back on this work with most pride & satisfaction.”

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