Co-working space for children with special needs opens in capital

NUR-SULTAN – The Karabekov Foundation opened May 7 a children’s inclusive co-working space in the Kazakh capital as a part of its Pryanik project to socialise children with special needs.

The space welcomes children to participate in master classes in arts and cooking as well as in movie nights. The project attracts volunteers, who help children develop personally and professionally.

“Unfortunately, our society sometimes doesn’t accept such special children. Separate schools, separate centres, of course, this is good, but only different children being together help each other to become friends and just to love life,” Astana Medical University (AMU) Professor and Karabekov Foundation’s Head Roza Karabekova told The Astana Times.

She decided to start the Pryanik project in April 2018 after being inspired by a visit to a rehabilitation centre in Copenhagen.

“In Copenhagen, in the rehabilitation centre, I saw a kitchen for children, where they cook different tasty pastries themselves and acquire communication skills,” she said.

When Karabekova started the project, she rented a café in the capital and organised master classes every Saturday, where children with special needs and volunteers communicated and spent time cooking.

“The Pryanik project makes a big positive contribution. Children cook by themselves and see the results of their own activities,” she said.

Later, participating in the Astana Social Entrepreneurship Company’s programme, the foundation got the co-working space free for five years, where now it can organise master classes in arts, cooking and other types of events.

“We plan to have movie nights as well, so that children would be able to express their opinions and think critically,” said Karabekova.

The prices of the master classes are 500 tenge (US$ 1.31) a month for children with special needs and 5,000 tenge (US$13.11) a month for other participants.

Along with that, Karabekova plans to organise meetings with non-governmental organisations and public funds from parents, who also are able to have their projects in the co-working space.

“We also want to let organise other projects (in the co-working), which would help children to have career guidance, which means we would be a first step for choosing their future career,” she said.

“We all have equal rights and have chances for a healthy and happy life. Thus, I want children to acquire here a lot for themselves,” she added.

The foundation has many volunteers, among whom are the AMU students. Some of them are planning to become paediatricians.

“There is a volunteer’s team, which learn mercifulness (here), especially young people, who should find their place in society and feel like they are needed in it. This is important, because they will become professionals in the future. As an educator, it is important for me to raise a dignified generation of medical intellectuals,” stressed Karabekova.

“Roza Agabekovna is our mentor who helps us in the charitable and volunteering direction. The Pryanik project is a cool place, because children communicate with each other here independently of their limits in life from a social and health perspective. We help them to communicate, cook and develop. The project helps children to develop fine motor skills… We try to cheer them up, create a comfortable atmosphere. I think that volunteering is one of the important directions where doctor should develop… You come just to dance, sing and have fun with children, but for them it’s like a celebration,” said volunteer, AMU student and Shanyraq Ambulance Youth Movement member Aizhan Abzalbekova.

The project also has volunteers specialised in the arts.

“I met Roza Karabekova just recently. I saw her centre and I really liked her idea that interesting master classes will be organised for children with special needs as well. For all children. I am an artist. I paint on clothes… The picture (on clothes) can always be near you… I wanted to have charitable actions in my activities,” said volunteer and artist Oksana Marchenko.

The foundation’s partners and mentors attended the opening ceremony of the co-working space. Among them were the Ambassadors Spouses Association (ASA), the Spina Bifida Public Association, the Ana Zhuregi (Mother’s Heart) Fund and Nazarbayev University’s Medical School representatives.

“This is a great opportunity for us to get involved in the community in Kazakhstan and to help people in need. We had a good time here (today in the co-working space) with warm-hearted people. I wish we could do more in the upcoming Christmas Charity Bazaar,” said ASA member and the U.N. Resident Coordinator’s spouse Hitomi Shimomura, who cut the ribbon during the opening ceremony.