ASTANA – The fourth children’s handmade fair held March 12 featured about 220 items crafted from beads, wool, wood, textiles, as well as paintings and books by more than 80 children from orphanages in Akkol, Sandyktau and Uryupinsk. Wicker goods created by individuals with physical challenges at the Green TAL social workshop were also exhibited.
The fair is one of the events organised by the Best for Kids (BFK) public fund and its team. BFK President Saya Kakim shared why she left her prestigious banking career and spoke about volunteers in action in an interview for this story.
Kakim recalled the pleasant memories of her first visit to the Akkol orphanage in 2011 where she gave a presentation on setting goals.
“The children were so open and fragile. I had an inner sense that regular trips and communication with children could be very useful. Further, we organised the trips to two orphanages and the first children’s handmade fair. I found new friends and like-minded people who were ready to share their knowledge and skills for the benefit of others,” she said.
Born in Atyrau, Kakim received a degree in economics from Moscow State University and has financial consulting experience with leading Russian and Kazakh companies. She was motivated, however, to change her course.
“The life of a volunteer who is closely involved in the activities of the fund changes and the picture of the world changes, too. Volunteer experience gave me the impetus to come out of my comfort zone. I quit my job and decided to go on a trip to Asia,” she recounted.
“I feel my desire to contribute to the development of the country and society and help others through involvement in social projects. Much of my time I devote to the coordination of activities at BFK. The president has the same duties as other volunteers and, of course, you should be more responsible and persistent,” she said.
BFK has its origins in young peoples’ visits to the Akkol and Zholymbet orphanages in 2010-2011. Kakim became the fund’s first leader in 2012 and active volunteers Kopzhan Musrepov and Nikita Shabayev led the organisation until 2015.
The fund’s mission is to create conditions for the children to adapt to post-orphanage life. The members have been working in eight directions, including organising visits to orphanages in Akmola region, professional orientation, charity events and social entrepreneurship.
“In April, the graduates of the Sandyktau orphanage were invited to the BI Group construction company to get acquainted with such professions as builder, mechanic, welder, bricklayer and electrician. At the same time, the girls participated in a cooking master class at a café. The special visit was organised with the support of the Akniet fund and partners,” she said.
Training for volunteers and human resource management for recruiting and motivating them, cooperating with orphanage graduates to organise seminars, meetings and trainings for graduates and replicating the BFK experience in the regions are also of great importance.
“We are collaborating with four orphanages in the Akmola region. We provide free consultations on alternative forms of children’s adoption. The effective model of working with volunteers, principles of project management and a broad base of partners in Astana contribute to the fund’s stability. There are eleven coordinators in all eight directions, 30 active members and more than 100 volunteers,” she added.
Searching for social projects, Kakim was introduced to the idea of social entrepreneurship while travelling in Malaysia. At the same time, fund vice president Emin Askerov decided to implement a unique project on social enterprise.
“The Green TAL social workshop of wicker furniture was opened thanks to the personal efforts and support of the trustees of the fund. The socially vulnerable strata of the population such as the graduates of children’s homes, people with disabilities and single mothers can enroll in a basket weaving course and find a job. We also have plans to implement a series of events for the development of social entrepreneurship and the initiation of social projects in Kazakhstan,” she said.
The meetings with volunteers and children are a source of inspiration, positive energy and strength, she added.
“I believe everyone deserves a better life, especially children left without parental care. Being indifferent means to think about the common future in a world where everyone has the opportunity to grow and become a better, stronger and kinder person. Children in orphanages are very talented, kind and curious. They wait for our arrival and are happy to communicate with volunteers. Every person can visit our website, fill out a form and receive an invitation to participate in charity events,” she said.
Positive emotions and tonnes of smiles are the best rewards for the volunteers.
“The opportunity to create things with their own hands and receive money for this is a true happiness for children. Once, a girl from the Zholymbet orphanage, being inspired by the results of the exhibition, decided to learn knitting. She was able to buy a smartphone with the money raised at the event. This is a good example of increased self-esteem in children and how they can achieve their goals through work. Our main principle is ‘Give a fishing rod instead of fish.’ Our activities contribute to the children’s development through their participation in creative workshops, sports activities, career guidance workshops and communication with trainers and volunteers,” said Kakim.