Kazakhstan - Independent Life of Paralyzed People
Primary thematic focus: Sub-national capacity development: local solutions, national strengths
In a Nutshell:
Kuralai Baimenova and other disabled people united and organized NGO the “Society of Protection of Paralyzed People of Aktobe city, Kazakhstan” to help themselves. In the last ten years their organization has become a support center for more than 1200 disabled people and their families.
The Society of Protection of Paralyzed People of Aktobe city, Kazakhstan is a non-governmental organization that was registered ten years ago in Aktobe, the center of the north-western part of Kazakhstan. The saying “a big river starts from a tiny brook” fits this well known Aktobe organization. Twenty years ago the leader of this NGO, Kuralai Baimenova, found herself paralyzed after a car accident. So it was in 1989 that she found herself in the company of the thousands of paralyzed people already living in Kazakhstan. It must be said that those were the Soviet Union breakdown years. The collapse was an event that took the wind out of everyone’s sails. And nobody cared what problems Kuralai was facing—those were problem for her and her family. Kuralai spent many years in hospitals, at alternative medicine centers, and meeting other individuals that were also paralyzed. And this huge “army” of seriously ill people was not organized—there was no information, no rehabilitation centers, there was nothing at all. By then, Kuralai had developed professional experience in organizing people, and added that with motherly experience, all multiplied by good education. So, she decided to create a non-governmental organization to help people with problems with which she had first-hand knowledge. She targeted young paralyzed people, inspiring them to unite to solve their own problems, as well as the problems all the paralyzed people of Aktobe!
At first it was difficult for people even to understand the concept of an NGO, and few people believed that the whole situation could be changed. In hindsight, Kuralai says today: “Our public movement, along with other public institutions, correctly, without populism and being engaged in pointless debate, has been putting questions and finding answers for them, giving life support to disabled people and their families. We started with the clear mission / idea—to create an organization for rehabilitation, personality growth, self-awareness, and professional growth of the paralyzed people of Aktobe. We have become a support and development center for disabled people and their families with such structured programs as public reception, medical offices, sport department, volunteer program, wheelchair assembling shop, invalid taxi services.”
One of the examples of a successful project is “Independent Life.” Kuralai said about 4 years ago: “I have a dream. I imagine a big house that would be equipped for people in wheelchairs, and our people would live in it and have access to all services, and it’d be very nice.” Last year the first apartment building for disabled people was built in Aktobe and another 3 will be opening their doors in 2010 and 2011. The key to the success in all activities is the approach—building the organization itself and relationships with the constituency, government, public, donor organizations, and media is based on such fundamentals as being helpful, transparent, competent and honest. Today the Society of Protection of Paralyzed People of Aktobe City, Kazakhstan serves more than 1200 disabled people and their families in Aktobe. And this is not a big organization - it consists of five people. All the staff of the NGO are disabled people themselves and each staff member is a professional with a higher education. For example: Gulmiram Srazhova is a lawyer and the executive director of the NGO, Sport Master of Kazakhstan; Maral Nuralina is an economist, the accountant of the NGO, and the Director of the volunteer club DAR.
Results and Critical Factors:
The NGO has stable programs and a strong reputation, support from local government and donor organizations. It would be easy at this point in the organizations development to become more relaxed and rely on past achievements to propel the organization forward. But Kuralai and her staff understand that the situation at rural sites is much worse. They get phone calls and visits from disabled people in villages and it’s clear what a huge demand for help is present at these rural sites. Disabled people at rural sites don’t know their rights, face problems getting support from officials, and there are no NGOs in existence to help. Kuralai and her team are planning to start projects in the surrounding Aktobe villages. They will visit the villages, talk to the people there, ask about their needs, and teach them how to solve their problems by themselves. It will be challenging, it will be hard physically and mentally, but this organization has proven itself to be strong and committed. Kazakhstan announced its independence in 1991 - less than 20 years ago. And in the last 10 years the Society of Protection of Paralyzed People of Aktobe city, Kazakhstan has changed the approach of Kazakhstanian people towards disabled citizens. They have changed the behavior of disabled people and helped them to feel as if they are truly citizens of their own country.
Name of Primary Contact Person: Kuralai Baimenova
Title of Primary Contact Person: Director