Helping people is what Rotarians around the world have been doing since the Rotary Club, one of the world’s largest nonprofits, started back in 1905. The mission of the club is reiterated at every meeting of every Rotary Club around the world. More than 1.2 million members, including our humble Rotary Club of Astana, do their best to live up to the motto that binds us into one giant, decentralised yet structured organisation: service before self.
Since I started attending Rotary Club meetings a little less than a year ago, the weekly gatherings have inspired a sense of community that, frankly, is felt in very few institutions outside family and friends. My fellow club members are starting to feel like extended family. And the things they do collectively, like paying regular visits to an orphanage more than 100 kilometers away from the city, or volunteering time and resources to help socially vulnerable children learn English, make me proud to wear the gilded little badge with a cogwheel.
One of the most ambitious projects our club has undertaken is borrowed from our sister club in Omsk. It started, like most things in Rotary International, with a conversation. When a Russian delegation came to visit EXPO 2017 last summer, some of the Rotarians met with our club and candidly described a project that engages disabled children through play. The discussion gave life to a vision, and that vision became a plan. After a reciprocal visit to Omsk to inspect the experimental playground first hand, our club began drafting letters and cost calculations for a similar inclusive playground to be built here in Astana.
To put things in perspective, more than 50 percent of children with cerebral palsy (ICP) have stunted mental development not for medical reasons, but due to a lack of social interaction and the absence of opportunities to practice communication, enhance their motor skills and attend classes. And there are currently more than 150,000 children with disabilities living in Kazakhstan, with more than 19,000 children suffering from cerebral palsy. The club hopes that the playground becomes a vibrant example of how a little attentiveness to issues of accessibility can improve society as a whole.
The Akimat of Astana has generously provided an excellent site for this playground in the Almaty district of the city, and we are very grateful for their support. We have identified companies that can make customised playground equipment accommodating wheelchair users and take into consideration other circumstances that may exclude disabled children from interacting with their peers.
We invite everybody to support this project by attending a fundraising charity ball that will take place May 11, 2018. Tickets cost 35,000 tenge (approximately $100) and include dinner and entertainment. Project sponsors will receive significant community recognition for supporting the first inclusive playground in Astana and will have the option of sponsoring specific pieces of equipment in the playground. Detailed information regarding the project and the equipment to purchase can be found online at rotarypark.kz.
The Rotary Club of Astana is taking full responsibility for this project and guarantees accessibility and transparency of all information. All necessary reports will be published upon completion of the project.
As members of a shared community, we hope the readership of The Astana Times takes note of this project and can contribute to its success.
The author is a member of the Rotary Club of Astana.