Forget about your woman and that water can, Today were working for the man
03.02.2007 - 03.04.2007 10 °C
Ok it’s time for the what, why, how and who of why we have decided to come to an industrial city in Kazakhstan in winter for 2 months….
CR is an aid organization that seeks to meet needs with resources. It’s kind of like a huge Vinnies on a wholesale level, but rather than selling goods, CR gives them away to welfare organisations that reach out to those most in need across the globe. CR started in Hong Kong in 1995 with a handful of people including Andy who is now heading up the Central Asia branch. Hong Kong is a city of excess in a region of poverty and with a little effort the discarded goods of an affluent society can make a huge difference to people in poverty stricken countries. The other key factor is that Hong Kong is one of the busiest harbors in the world and with thousands of cargo ships heading off to every corner of the globe CR has been able to spread the love! So CR can fill a 40ft container and send it to any port and the cost is a tiny fraction of the value of the good it contains.
CR Central Asia was set up to access the harder to reach areas of this region. It has only been in operation for three years and is growing rapidly to keep up with the growth in welfare groups helping people throughout Central Asia. Basically there is way more need than they can meet and hopefully in the coming years CR can close that gap.
A few years ago I went to visit a friend who was involved with CR in Hong Kong. I only had a few days but in that short period of time it was clear that the work they were doing was having a huge impact on thousands of people. Being a tiny part of it was so uplifting that since than I have been waiting for the right time to go back. When planning our trip we were keen to take some time to get involved with aid work and to see what was going on out in the field first hand. A few of our friends have been involved with CRCA and through discussion with them and careful consideration we decided that we could be of use and a few emails later it was locked in.
CRCA consists of 9 full time staff, two from Australia, one Belgian girl, one American guy and 5 Kazakhstanies. It’s an awesome team and we’re really lucky to be able to spend time with such cool people.
The one small hurdle for us has been that the majority of the office work needs to be done in Russian. This has made it harder for us to get involved in that side of the operations, which in a country that loves red tape, is a substantial chunk of what CRCA spends time doing. That being said there is still plenty of work to be done and thankfully lots of it doesn’t require any language at all!
CRCA was given a building and some land in Shymkent by a British aid organization when they first arrived and as the team expands more and more of the building needs to be renovated to house the growing operations. I have been helping Vitalik and Arman renovate the ground floor of the building using my extensive building skills(!) One would think that having a father who is a builder would automatically equip me with a wide range of skills and on one level it has, I certainly think it has given me enough confidence to give anything a crack, but it has still been a learning experience! I have thus far painted, plastered, sanded, tiled, fit doors and cleared land.
Nat on the other hand has been in the more familiar surrounds of the office and the kitchen. She has been mainly helping with the English side of the admin which primarily involves communications and reports although she has also been called on to cook lunch for the team 4 days a week. Her biggest challenge has been coming up with recipes with a very limited range of ingredients and big cost constraints (aim $1 per person per day). Needless to say she has come up with some delightful variations on the standard fare of carrots, cabbage and potatoes (a big thanks to Sal and Tam for the helpful input). The girls in the office have loved having her there and are constantly surprised with the vigor with which she attacks any work she is given (which is normally the jobs they don’t want to do). She has also been involved with the ‘individual help’ department. This is CR’s way of reaching out to our neighbours in Shymkent. Basically the poor of the city can come to the office and we have a room full of all sorts of clothes, school supplies and toys and they are given as much as they need. It does require some background work and sometimes we visit their houses to assess what they need most. Both Nat and I have visited a few peoples houses and it’s amazing how welcoming and hospitable people are. One could speculate that it’s because they are buttering us up and normally I would be skeptical, but in-general we have found the people of Kazakhstan to be unbelievably welcoming, something to aspire to really.
On Wednesday all other activities are ceased for container day, also referred to as going to the Gym. This is where the rubber hits the road. Each week we have a specific objective, for example this week we were going through a newly arrived container and sorting the contents into five containers all going to different places. The most urgent shipment is going to Afghanistan and thankfully today we managed to fill the complete order so after it gets inspected by customs next week it will be on its way! This is particularly exciting for us as it is something that we have been more heavily involved with and also because a few weeks ago it looked like the shipment was going to be delayed or not go at all due to a funding crisis. Fortunately a few of our friends from home stepped up to cover the transport costs and when it leaves the compound next week it will certainly be thanks, in part, to them.
CR does an awesome job and the crew here have all given up a lot to serve the people of Central Asia. It’s an honour to be able to get involved even if it is only on a short term basis. Our time thus far has been challenging, thought provoking, tough at times and but generally, a whole lot of fun. We are really glad we ended up here. I’m already dreading saying goodbye to such an awesome group of people.
If you have any specific questions about CR or what we have been doing feel free to email us or comment and we'll get back to you asap.
In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns.
Lots of love,
Ev and Nat