Posts tagged AIWC

Former Kazakh Police Officer Writes about Human Trafficking

I LOVE getting comments from my blog readers! Today’s is very well informed about human trafficking in Kazakhstan.  The following is from a Kazakh person who used to be a police officer in Almaty.

“I have a passion for what I am doing with human trafficking, and I am so happy to meet the person like you, who has a passion for what she is doing.

First time I dealt with a trafficking case in 1996, when I used to work as a police officer. I knew that three victims were trafficked to Emirates and forced to prostitution. I knew who the traffickers were. And I couldn’t do anything, because there was no article in the national Penal Code to charge for trafficking in persons, and the victims were imprisoned abroad for prostitution although they were initially forced to prostitution! And my colleagues and I couldn’t help these young ladies to return, just because there was not any agreement of legal assistance between the Emirates and Kazakhstan…

When these ladies served their sentences and returned to Kazakhstan, they rejected any cooperation with the police and didn’t want their traffickers to be charged. They just wanted no one and nothing to remind them about what happened to them in Emirates… I understood them and respected their choice. But I was really stung… Why was I wearing my uniform if I couldn’t protect these ladies?…

In a few years, I left the police force because I had reached my glass ceiling in that career, and also for family reasons, and started working as a lawyer in a defense lawyers’ office. But very soon I realized that I was still stung with that case of 1996, and, as soon as IOM advertized a position of counter-trafficking program coordinator for Central Asia I applied, and was selected for this position. This was really an opportunity for me to contribute into combating human trafficking much more than I could when used to be just a police officer!

Here’s another comment that I could NOT ignore…

“You wrote earlier in your blog that the shelter for victims of trafficking in Amaty “is funded by the Almaty City government”. I am sorry but this is NOT correct, as this statement makes an impression that the city administration (of government, as you like) is covering all the costs of the shelter. This is not true… The only support the shelter in Almaty ever received from the city administration were very modest salaries for some of its staff. These salaries were provided to the shelter staff who were registered as unemployed at the district administrations at the places of their dwelling in Almaty. The city administration just considered the employment of these individuals in the shelter to be a part of solution of the unemployment problem in the city. So, the issue was that the shelter had employed a few citizens who were unemployed before. The role of the shelter as a place to assist the victims of trafficking was not specially considered by the city administration. Moreover, the shelter director never knows whether the city administration would or would not support these salaries in the next year. And, taking in account that these salaries are extremely modest, she needs to look for more funding to cover the whole amount of her staff salaries.

All the other funding is provided to the shelter by non-governmental donors rather than the city administration.  Some of these donors are: IOM, Almaty International Women’s Club (AIWC), and US Embassy to Kazakhstan.
Of course it is good that the Almaty city administration is supporting the shelter. But please take in account this is a minimal possible support.

There are currently three shelters for victims of human trafficking in Kazakhstan. I think people who told you so meant exactly the shelters which serve ONLY victims of trafficking. And there are many other shelters in Kazakhstan, which serve victims of domestic violence, homeless people and other vulnerable individuals. These might be 20 or even more such shelters. Some of these “other shelters” do serve victims of trafficking if this kind of victim is referred to these shelters.  However, in my and my colleagues’ understanding, the nature of the crime of trafficking results in a very serious and specific traumatization, and victims of this crime need very special treatment.

Moreover, the security measures must be doubled for them, in comparison with battered women and other beneficiaries of the “other shelters”. So serving victims of trafficking in a specialized shelter is the best solution for them, while receiving and serving them in the “other shelters” might contribute to their traumatization and vulnerability instead of rehabilitating them.”

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Gauche Tea Party and Debunking Myths about me

What fun to have six teachers over to my flat for a little tea party drinking tea and hot cider out of gauche looking tea cups.  I had to laugh, I now realize that punctuality is a universal value held high among all professional teachers around the world.  My teacher friends showed up precisely at 3:00 p.m. and left my place after we talked, ate and played a game right at 7:00 p.m.  The following are some of the sloppy lies that have been told against me at my place of former employment.  Some are so preposterous, they make me laugh!

Myth #1 – Supposedly I’m wanted by the KNB (new variety of KGB) from the city of Karaganda because of something I wrote in a little conference paper last summer. (more on that later)

Myth#2 – Some people suspect I am a CIA agent.  However, an American when hearing that falsehood offered it couldn’t be true because I would need to be polite to everyone.  Apparently it has gotten around that I have been rude to some of my fellow teachers.  On only two occasions have I gone toe to toe with some who claim that what and how I teach is incorrect, that I am wrong in my thinking.  Compared to my Kazakh and Kazakhstani teaching colleagues, I’m just different as an American teacher but I’m no CIA agent.

Myth #3 – A common alibi to get rid of a foreign faculty member at our university is to claim they are unhappy in Kazakhstan, that they can’t cope with the cultural differences.  Sorry, but I had to diffuse that myth by saying these same sad faced people don’t see me with my friends outside of our institution of higher learning. I have many friends and enjoy happy times away from the pressures of work.  But my happiest times are spent in the classroom with my students.  They give me supreme joy even when I am being beaten down by those over me who should not be antagonizing me but rather supporting me.  That is why I’m thankful for my association with AIWC (Almaty International Women’s Club) and also my friends who have become my surrogate family at church.  Many other foreigners who work outside of education in the business world of Almaty and who are from many different nations have suffered some of the same lies and experienced the “needed but not wanted” phenomenon as I have.

Myth#4 – Another lie used against me akin to the prior one is that I’m supposedly not sensitive to the culture I’m a guest in. Apparently I don’t understand the Kazakh and Kazakhstani culture and insist to have my own American way.  There are several problems with that myth, 1) I am teaching in a “western” institution that uses an American system of education, supposedly.  2) I’ve lived and taught in four different cultures (Philippines, China, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine) with the total of 15 years outside of the U.S.  Therefore, I actually know the surface veneer of this former Sovietized culture because of my seven years of living in Ukraine.  Teaching in Kyiv was a good training ground to teach in Almaty, Kazakhstan because the Soviet mentality is every bit in place there as here.  Obviously I know too much which goes back to Myth #2 and why some think I’m a CIA agent. (smile)

8) To be continued in tomorrow’s blog 8)

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Reading a Book from the AIWC Book Sale

Even though I was in charge of the Book sale for the AIWC Charity Bazaar, I only bought TWO paperbacks.  One book I knew about when I lived in Kyiv, Ukraine several years ago and was intrigued by the title: “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.”  It is a hilarious fiction novel that must have been built around a real life situation.  An author just can not make something like this up.  Layers of Ukraine’s sad historical reality are packed into every page with the development of each character.

Having lived and taught in Ukraine for about 7-8 years and interviewed and befriending older members of the Ukrainian community in Minneapolis, I know a bit about what went into this book.  It’s written from the 46 year old daughter’s perspective who teaches at Cambridge, about her 86 year old Ukrainian father who marries a 30 something voluptuous tart from Ukraine.  The family dyanmics become even more wild when two estranged sisters after their mother’s death fight together to usurp the brassy lady from their father’s home.  I’m in the middle of this book and the tension continues to build.  Funny, funny, but sad really.

I’m looking forward to reading my other nonfiction book once the Christmas vacation arrives but that will happen only after all powerpoint presentations are complete, all grades turned in, all chances of appeals by students elapsed.  Reading books is a nice escape from the funny/sad reality I am living in in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

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GREAT SPEAKERS in my classrooms

scott talking musicThanks to a LOT of help from my friends, I have had some very good speakers come to talk to my three different listening classes.  So far, I have had six speakers videotaped. The students are loving it!!!  These first year and graduate students have heard different accents and witnessed various styles of presenting.  Yesterday I had Scott come to talk about a favorite topic for many young people, “How to Make a Music CD.”  I don’t know how many budding musicians we have that have the same dream as Scott had ,but he was very thorough and entertaining.  I hope I see good, typed up notes from my listening students tomorrow.  video cameraThanks Scott!!!

Yesterday morning I had a former MBA student come to talk about “Women against Violence” at the AIWC (Almaty Intl. Women’s Club) meeting. Katya did a GREAT job, she was very poised in front of about 35 international women talking about something close to her heart. (bride kidnapping, human trafficking, etc.) I finally found out from Katya why this topic is such a passion for her. Her explanation will go into a later blog entry.

 Elena and classThe night before I had another woman who I recently met at AIWC come and talk about something close to her heart.  Elena was originally from Uzbekistan but has her citizenship from the U.S. and received her MBA degree there, then went to Cambridge to receive her MPA degree also.  I wanted her to talk a bit about student centered vs. teacher centered issues since she has experienced both.  Later, she had very interactive discussion with my masters students about consumer rights.

Tonight I will have Kathy Banham’s husband come and talk about his place of employment at Deloitte and what brought them both here from Australia.  I feel very blessed with all those who are coming to my aid during this tough time of tangling with students over their rough draft papers.  Some are pretty unsightly, but by next week I hope to see better final versions from ALL of them.

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GREAT TRUTHS (Part II)

A continuation of yesterday’s blog entry…What I don’t understand is that I’m being flattered by some of my Kazakh teaching colleagues to give talks which will ultimately help them look good in front of their Kazakh students. Yet at the same time some of these same flatterers will run to my boss and say that I’m not teaching according to the syllabus or something else they deem wrong. Words, words, words!!! Other things that have been said against me have trickled back to me. I must rise above the fray.

Yes, I’m being complimented left and right about how I can lead seminars and workshops for my Kazakh colleagues so these same teachers can passively sit back and take it in while I actively put the talks together.  All the while trying to grade the rough draft papers that are supposed to hit my desk within this week and returned to my <100 students by the end of next week.  (My numbers in my five classes have dwindled somewhat dramatically since I gave out some dismal midterm grades several weeks ago.  I have an average of 16-17 showing up in each class that used to have 20 or more.)

Here is my schedule of speaking engagements and topics that I will deliver before the end of the semester:

Nov. 4, Today – AIWC (Almaty International Women’s Club)– “Violence against Women” with my MBA student from last semester presenting on what she found in our library’s electronic databases.

Nov. 11 Next Wed. – will lead 35 potential MATESOL students in a Computer Lab in a hands-on workshop “How to use electronic databases successfully” (Ebscohost, ProQuest, J-Stor)

Nov. 19 – talk to my Kazakh colleagues about the research I’ve done with my ESL, EFL and American students in the last 15-20 years regarding learning styles, multiple intelligence and temperament sorter inventories.

Nov. 24 – talk to these same Kazakh colleagues about the differences between student centered and teacher-centered paradigms

Dec. 1 – willing to talk to my writing teacher colleagues about student-centered learning and assessment.

But somewhere in all this, what is left of our fall semester, I am supposed to also help with Professional Development and explain to my Kazakh peers about the Internet sources I use, such as Thesis Statement Builder, Citation Builder, Ted.com, etc.  I’m not sure where that will fit into my already packed schedule. I want to have these teachers go to the computer lab to learn this for themselves and USE it.  I would rather teach them how to fish rather than give them the fish.

I didn’t mention that I am in the middle of assembling the 50+ wonderful and beautiful photos I got from my <100 students for a Photo contest that I’m sponsoring.  We (I have four judges lined up) will present the winners at the AIWC Charity Bazaar at Miras School on Nov. 22.  I also didn’t mention that I am in charge of the Book Stall at this bazaar where we hope to sell 1,000s of books, DVDs, CDs and other things at this event on Sunday to help raise money for orphans and pensioners. [BTW, for those who live in Almaty, I’m still taking donations of books, etc. to be sold at this special Sunday event.]

I guess all that I do is for charity and is volunteer work if you tabulate the extra hours that I put in as a teacher at my “westernized” university.  Others know that I am doing front line battle with plagiarist students and also with lazy, unmotivated teacher colleagues who have job security while I don’t.  Other foreigners and some of my teaching colleagues help me do battle in this great land of Kazakhstan. Yes, I’m flattered that I am so needed, yet this reverse flattery of not being wanted reminds me of what Ezekiel encountered:

“…do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house.” 2:6

Yes, I am needed but NOT wanted. I have no contract to teach next semester.  Like I said, I have no job security, NONE!!!

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Lecture on Leadership and Volunteerism

PA290071Thanks to my Aussie friend who stepped in to give a lecture to my masters students last night. Kathy Banham (holding the flowers) is the president of AIWC (Almaty International Women’s Club).  She knows of what she speaks as a leader but also working with a group of many volunteers from all over the world.  I appreciated her consenting to be videotaped.  She spoke about her work and leadership experiences from the past that ultimately led her to Almaty, Kazakhstan with her husband’s job, but especially liked hearing her answer my students’ many questions.PA290062

But before Kathy spoke, I showed the class what Kathy’s next door  neighbor, Julia, had talked about the day before, Kazakh carpets.  I was mystified, along with Julia, why the production of carpets had stopped in the mid-1970s.  Kirill, a masters student,  matter-of-factly answered that question.  The Soviets did not want any country within the Soviet Union to freely express their artform of their former nationality.  To be politically correct in the Soviet times, all must see themselves as Soviet citizens and the Kazakh carpet challenged that notion.  Mystery solved but I am still wondering about when bride kidnapping started and why.  Seems that if the carpet had been a tradition for many centuries to be the brides dowry, then to short circuit that meant she didn’t have to make a carpet which took a year to build.  Also, perhaps during the Soviet times, the materials would have been difficult to come by, everyone was suffering.

Back to Kathy’s talk. She covered many points about her favorite place in Kazakhstan was Charyn Canyon (east of Almaty about 3 hours) and that she had been there eight times already.  She said that travel outside of one’s own country is an important stretching experience. Also, if you don’t know the language, a smile goes a LONG way to communicate, along with hand gestures.  Much else was captured on videotape.  I think we all appreciated her strong leadership views and I found out something else about Kathy I didn’t know before.  She is the oldest of six children and has three sisters and two brothers, as do I.

We both already knew that we perhaps share the same birthday even to within a day.  At least we are the same year and month and if we figured out time zone differences between Australia and Minnesota in the U.S. we might have been born within an hour apart.  (We both have not found out from our mothers when the exact hour of our births were to compare) How many people can say they have a birth sister?  Kathy is a very lovely leader who is a Super Volunteer. Thanks Kathy!

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Photos of a Family Fun Day in Almaty, Kazakhstan

PA100571We had a difficult time finding the correct location of the AIWC family fun day according to the directions given with our ticket. This sign shows that we went too far up the hill, outside the city limits of Almaty!!!  We prevailed, however, and you could hear the laughter and squeals of the children within a block of reaching the residence gate.  Photos tell all, it was a beautiful autumn day in Almaty, Kazakhstan.PA100580 PA100579

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