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February 27, 2015
A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step
“We all want a beautiful courtyard, but who among us has painted the playground on a Saturday, avoided parking on the gas, never thrown a cigarette from the window? Are we waiting for help from aliens? Come to a clean-up day in the courtyard – in two months we can improve our public space for ourselves and our children!” read the announcement on the door of apartment building No. 64 in Atyrau, surprising its residents. The note was a message from the “Sunshine in the Window” initiative group. The idea to create the group struck Irina Gorbachenko years ago. Five years ago she moved to Atyrau from Moscow. At that time, the view from her window was a disappointing one.
When she learned about the project “Our Public Spaces”, organized by the Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia with financial support from Tengizchevroil, Irina knew that her dream was a clear goal that could be achieved. She created an initiative group, submitted an application to participate in the grant competition, and won. A mini-grant and additional funding of 120 000 KZT collected from local residents went towards the creation of an extraordinary corner in an otherwise ordinary courtyard.
“Our courtyard has become a blooming garden of flowers made from old tires, and whimsical mushrooms, gnomes, and ladybugs made out of old tree stumps and crockery” said Irina Gorbachenko, project coordinator for “Sunshine in the Window.”
The “Sunshine in the Window” project warmed the hearts of many in the neighborhood – attracting volunteers, local businessmen, and the local apartment-owner’s cooperative.
“We helped them run a watering system, and installed a water hook-up so that people can water the garden. When you do it all yourself – when you go outside and water flowers in the morning – you feel like this is your work,” noted Valeriy Khan, head of the apartment-owner’s cooperative “Vostok”.
Most importantly, the project hit a note with the residents of the apartment building. A common goal – to improve their common space – united everyone from retirees to children.
“It’s all changed here. We helped, looked after the flowers. Poured water, carried water. In the future, we’ll take care of everything that’s planted here,” promised neighborhood supporters.
The main organizers of the project are hoping that the physical change in the neighborhood brought about a change in the relationships between neighbors, and their view of the space in which they live. The project was made possible by love, kindness, and – most importantly – willingness to work together.