This week has been a busy one for Mikey and me.
I have had a variety of volunteer opportunities since arriving in Dushanbe. Both projects I have contributed to have been working towards creating an infrastructure for the social and educational inclusion of disabled children. Most recently, I worked with Caritas Switzerland on a multi-component grant proposal. This was an amazing learning experience.
With this project I visited one of the two public schools in Dushanbe that provides inclusive education. Under the Soviets special education did not exist, so the idea is a novel one here. I have heard that at least 50% of the Tajik population is under the age of 18. This leaves a lot of kids to be educated. The local school system manages the masses by creating shifts. There are 3 shifts each day (approximately 2 hours each) for 6 days a week. Around 40 students per class. At the school I visited the teacher had amazing control of her students. Working with 120 students per day for 6 days a week, makes Tajik teachers among the most patient people on earth...and the teachers who are willing to put forth the extra energy to provide inclusive education spots are truly worthy of admiration. (Especially when they're making less than $100/month)
The project proposal had 6 components:
1) Early intervention
3) Primary education
4) Community rehabilitation
5) Government support for inclusion
6) Capacity building for NGOs
The hope is that the majority of the objectives set will be accomplished in a two year time frame, and that Tajikistan's government will have a stake in building and maintaining an infrastructure for inclusive education. From the ground level up, change is happening.
As my involvement with this project concludes, I am moving on to other things. I am hoping to start an internship with Mercy Corps in Tajikistan. The internship, if it comes together, will be focused on youth initiatives in two rural regions: Shartuuz and Garm. I am excited to travel outside the capitol city and have more chances to practice my budding language skills.
Mikey and I will leave this Sunday to travel to GBAO, Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, home of the Pamir Mountains, this region is where the term "roof of the world" originated. Getting there is suppose to be an adventure in itself. Mikey made a tough decision to pass up a ride on the Aga Khan Helicopter to Khorog in order to stay here and meet with our St. Mary's professor (Michael Cain) to hash out the specifics of his research plan for the year. Things are coming together, and adventures abound.
This Tuesday, November 16th, is Eid Corbone. From what I gather it's a holiday thats celebration is kinda like Halloween and Thanksgiving combined. Halloween because the children go from home to home asking for candy, sometimes singing as they make their requests. I was told "Do not be surprised if the children come early, I mean 7 am early." And like Thanksgiving because every family makes a feast that takes more than a day to prepare. The feasts are shared amongst the community as neighbors visit one another to share in the holiday. Eid Corbone is the holiday where mourning ends. For those individuals who have lost a family member or friend in the past year, this is a day of remembrance and release. We are excited to take part in our first Muslim holiday.