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October 11, 2017
We all have a choice
Evgeniya, from Stepnogorsk, Kazakhstan, believed that her childhood was the ‘worst-case’ scenario. “Disfunctional family seemed to be our permanent status,” says Evgeniya. "I live with my mother. After my father died many years ago, I lived in pretty poor conditions, but I still loved my mother very much (which I am only now beginning to understand). However, in return I only received insults and disagreements.” Evgeniya was often left alone at home, and had trouble connecting with her classmates at school. She didn’t want to go home after school and felt more comfortable on the streets. When teachers offered to help, she refused, for fear that the whole school would found out.
Oksana Volkova-Mikhalskaya, project coordinator for “ZUBR” in Stepnogorsk, described the challenges she observed when she first met Evgeniya’s family.“Their situation didn’t improve for a long time because the mother needed to resolve a number of issues independently, but she couldn’t ‘get around to it’. It was during this time that the child drifted further and further away, under daily psychological pressure from her mother.”
One day a social worker at school told Evgeniya about a group of local specialists that could help her family with integrated social services. Evgeniya convinced her mother to meet with the team of specialists. “They talked to her not about the problems we were going to have, but about the opportunities we have to make our lives better. They explained to us about the benefits we could receive for having lost the breadwinner in our family, how we could both undergo a psychological evaluation, and about other specialists who could help us. I was so excited when my mother agreed to get help for both of us!”
The interagency social service team provided Evgeniya and her mother with timely and professional psychological and legal support, and eventually helped them find a way out of their critical situation. The team was created through the initiative of non-profit community foundation “ZUBR”, and brings together representatives of the Departments of Social Protection, Education, Public Health, and Law Enforcement to ensure that vulnerable citizens receive coordinated, efficient, and effective public support when they need it most.
Now, Evgeniya receives free meals at school, and her mother is registered for unemployment benefits and is currently attending a job-training course. “Svetlana and Evgeniya have their whole lives ahead of them, but it is important that they know the right path from the wrong path,” notes Oksana. “This way, the choice is theirs.”
Integrated special social service teams are promoting positive choices for vulnerable citizens across Kazakhstan - a total of 13 inter-agency teams have been established to date in Astana, Almaty, and five regions of Kazakhstan. Their work is made possible by the Good Governance Initiative Fund, a project of the Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia, with the financial support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The Fund awards grants to traditionally underserved CSOs in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan to improve governance practice through improved public service delivery, public policy, and legislation.