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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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,, 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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Effectual Dreaming about “Effective Management”


PA060563Last night for my masters class of “English Speaking and Listening” we had as our guest speaker, Daniel J. Connelly talk about “effective management.” He represented CITIbank. He has been with this same organization for 27 years, living in Atlanta, Georgia; Irving, California; Seoul, Korea; Indonesia, Russia and currently in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  I know his wife Julia Connelly, from AIWC (Almaty International Women’s Club)  She has made every move with Dan and sees it as a great adventure.


Dan shared about their organization’s pyramid with four tiers and how people at CITIbank can move to the next level up called “turns.”  From M.O.S. (managers of self) to M.O. (managing others) to M.O.M. (manager of managers) to finally the peak of the organization M.E (executive manager or Manager of the Enterprise). Dan admitted to a question posed by one of my more inquisitive students, that he was a M.E. in Kazakhstan.


Dan talked afterwards about Citibank’s goals or standards, just five of the 10.  These were enough to think about and some of what he said dovetailed with what Marielena from Chevron had spoken on earlier to my class concerning “Change Management.”  Dan claimed that in his organization people always want more information. Communication is BIG, especially when there are changes.


Second, employees expect and want more feedback about their performance (positive or negative) Thus, they can improve if they are found lacking by the time their performance review comes up.  Third, managers should be able to explain how they rank an employee (there should be enough documentation to show why someone received a rank of 1 or 2 rather than a 3 or 4).  Fourth, a manager must have the ability to make tough decisions; finally the fifth, need an understanding of a bigger picture at any level.


Hearing these goals or standards at Citibank made me wonder: how does one come in from the outside as a manager to fix a department that is broken?  I’m not a manager and am happy to stay at the lower tier level of teaching. I suppose there are certain skill sets that people have to move up to the next rung in order to be EFFECTIVE!!!  I’d like to see more of those goals or standards implemented in my own insulated department where I work.  I can effectively dream, can’t I?


Finally, the best thing Dan said in answer to a question about his background was that his undergrad was in English Literature.  He is a reader and analyzed things early on in his career of finance which lent itself well to his first jobs and even now.  My KZ students need to know that reading is the key in order to become better writers.  I want both for them.  But that takes hard work. Some of these masters students need to work hard as well. I caught some cheating last week when they took their midterm on our four prior speakers.  Very enlightening to find out that perhaps over half the MA students were from outside our western university culture.  This place tries to drill it into their students by the fourth year that cheating and plagiarism is verbotten.


I’ll be giving the mid-term exams back to my students tomorrow along with a little pep talk before mid-term break about working on their papers.  I really want them to find out how important it is to read academic journal articles.  You have to have substance in order to be able to have a good final product.


I think my masters students appreciated yet another GREAT speaker who was candid enough about his background and experiences and willing to share his valuable time with us.  Maladetz! Dan! Thank you!!!

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Photos of AIWC Spring Fair Entertainment

Indian dancersI believe many people enjoyed the AIWC Spring Fair on Saturday. Despite the fact that it had to be relocated inside the Intercontinental Hotel Ballroom instead of being outside by the tennis courts due to “iffy” weather. The following are some photos of the entertainment we enjoyed! The Golden Fish playUkrainian singersolder singersKathy with leader of singersAIWC Singers

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Trickle Down Thoughts (Part II)

p50600341Many nations are represented in the Board of the AIWC (Almaty International Women’s Club) which do many “good works” in Almaty and beyond.  Australia, Bulgaria, France, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, U.K. and U.S. are among those countries, did I miss anyone?  Many of these women volunteer long hours to do different charitable activities for the good of orphans and widows.  I appreciate being a part of this volunteer group because I see how organizations can and DO work under healthy leadership.  Of course, there are many frustrations that our hardworking AIWC president and others go through due to different cultures butting heads and language snafus that inevitably come up.  To be a part of this team you have to have an infinite amount of patience and grace towards those who might think snarky thoughts about others’ “differentness.”  Enough said.

A continuation of my “trickle down thoughts” from yesterday, here are today’s “stream of conscience.”(pun intended!)  I wish the same civility and grace could be exhibited amongst my own colleagues where I work during team meetings.  One-up-manship and yelling at each other seem to be the order of the day for some of the meetings I’ve attended at my Center.  We need strong leadership from above  to sort out the problems amongst my colleagues, not authority figures that continue to exacerbate them.

BTW, I do “volunteer” work too every time I set foot on my campus.  What is not understood by my Kazakh colleagues or even the women I work with at AIWC is that the salary I receive every month just covers for airfare to and from the U.S. and high rent costs along with ever increasing inflationary living expenses in Almaty.  What is not known are the continuing expenses we pay at home with insurance and taxes.  I’m actually a “glorified Peace Corps volunteer” since I don’t have a Ph.D. as others do at our institution of higher learning.  I have a terminal M.A. degree with over 20 years of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) experience which should count for something.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the HUGE privilege I have with interfacing on a daily basis with some of Kazakhstan’s brightest and most promising students who will one day make an impact on Kazakhstan’s future.  What I see as terribly unfortunate is that the Ministry of Education is on one of the lowest rungs of the ladder when it comes to allocating money to improve teacher education for the benefit of the whole country of Kazakhstan.  I have Kazakhstani colleagues who will continue to teach the way they were taught (Soviet style and teacher-centered).  Yet there is a vast, globalized world beyond Kazakhstan that is going full speed ahead digitally.  Older Kazakh teachers don’t even know what they don’t know!!!

If companies and corporations come from other nations to “help” Kazakhstan explore all the rich, natural resources they have, then educating the Kazakh teachers needs to happen FIRST in order for the younger generation to have a leg up.  “Poverty” of education is happening not just at my institute of higher learning but is far, far worse in many other universities right within Almaty due to cheating, plagiarism, bribery and corruption.  As they say about felons who go to prison to serve their term, they usually are released knowing more about committing crimes than when they went in.  Hopefully, the same should NOT be said about Kazakhstan’s schools and universities, where the Kazakh students learn from each other and their authority figures to lie, cheat and steal in their grades and once they graduate go out into the business world employing the same strategies.

I guess there are map5060035ny diverse views about my university where I “volunteer” my time.  Some may think it is filled with spoiled, rich kids who have so much compared to Kazakhstan’s pensioner widows and orphans. Though there are many sad stories, Kazakhstan has so much more going for it than other Central Asian countries.  So, I disagree, I see amongst my teaching colleagues and students alike, hope for the future of Kazakhstan. If my students learn by the example that AIWC has set, to give to the poor instead of looking out for only number one, then things will hopefully improve. I have had students who see the need and are trying to help with orphans, they have a very high respect for older people.  However, there are so few of us volunteers and a world filled with so many needs.  We can only do the next thing and that will be the AIWC Spring Fair Day on May 16th at the Intercontinental Hotel, all proceeds will go to charity.

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