The last two days for group 2 (Jema, Ali, Emily, Alasdair, Jo, Ruth, Hannah and Lucy) have been amazing - so much so that we're going to have to try and fit both of them into this one blog entry. Yesterday we spent the day with 'Rights and Prosperity', an advocacy NGO that campaigns for the rights of orphans in Tajikistan. They work both to improve the legislation as it's written, and to ensure that what is written is actually put into practice by the relevant bodies.
We spent the afternoon visiting two orphanages a little way outside of Dushanbe, and it was clear from these visits just how important the work R&P does is in ensuring the children we met have the chance to live up to their potential. Emily and I (Ali) chatted with a 13 year old boy who was disabled from the waist downwards. He had lived in the orphanage for the last three years and his eyes lit up with hope and contentment despite what we were initially expecting. Half way through the chat he dragged himself down the corridor to find his sketch books, embroidery and examples of his dressmaking skills...turns out he has many talents and a lot of potential. Things were tainted however by the fact that his future is not so sure. Unless laws are asserted, his opportunities when he reaches 18 may be more limited than he realises. The orphanage was basic, but the obvious commitment and love of the staff really shone through. The future may be unclear, but if the staff of both the orphanages and R&P are anything to go by, there's a lot to be hopeful about.
Editors note: you can read a moving story about a visit to another orphanage earlier this year in 'The Inside Truth' . A personal account of the internat visits can be found in 'Cold, Still, and Empty'
Today we went to see our last Christian Aid partner, RAN, an NGO working with those who are particularly vulnerable to HIV in Tajikistan; mainly injecting drug users and sex workers. As with yesterday, we had the opportunity to meet some of the beneficiaries face to face, and hear some of their incredibly moving stories. The stories are all too complex to do justice to here, but one thing that really struck me (Jema) was the incredible attitude of the staff there. Everyone who goes there is treated completely as an equal human being, no matter what their situation or their past - it was the most non-judgemental place I can imagine, and the atmosphere there really did feel like that of a family. It had got dark by the time Lucy was able to drag us all away, we were so engrossed in the conversation!
On the way home, Alasdair and Ruth filled the rest of us in on their conversation with the director of RAN, who had been talking about the problems the organisation faces from various sectors of society because of its work. For bureaucratic reasons, methadone is unavailable in Tajikistan as a way of helping people get off heroin, which makes any rehabilitation work much harder. Despite this and other problems, we left knowing this was an incredibly special organisation and we were very privileged to have been able to spend time with them.