If there is a reason why I joined the Peace Corps it was the experience of the last few days. I conducted an ICT training for students from the southern oblast of Jalalabad where I am not allowed to travel due to Peace Corps regulations. Since I could not go to them, they came to me! Many of these students had never touched a computer before and their only interaction with the internet was what they could access through their cell phones and using text-based messaging service. While covering the basics of the internet, search, social media, research and MC Office, these students all picked up the taught basic skills right away. They were truly incredible.
We also organized a tour for them of the local Sierra Coffee bean roasting facility and a number of universities so they could see for their own eyes what entrepreneurial and educational opportunities existed in Kyrgyzstan.
Camp organizer, Meerim Mamyrbekova, wrote a fantastic final report so rather than try to redo what she has so well done herself, I have just given you some photos and included the text of the final report below.
Between July 1 and 12, 2012 the Multidisciplinary Summer Camp with the slogan of “Stay hungry. Stay foolish” (Steeve Jobs) was held for village kids, who lack motivation, information, leadership skills, English and Computer knowledge. Realization of English and Leadership trainings for the students had happened in the territory of Kyzyl Tuu school in Aksy region, Jalalabad oblast. Project was accomplished with the participation of 15 Kyzyl Tuu high school students, 1 UGRAD alumna, a 5th year student-volunteer and a Peace Corps volunteer. 2-day IT training was held in Bishkek due to unexpected changes, where American Corner in Karakol, Issyk Kul refused to provide camp participants with IT class since U.S. Embassy came up to conduct their own trainings there, although we had their support letter promising to give us a computer-equipped classroom. In addition, a project collaborator Marziya Davlyatova was not able to participate due to her unexpected family issues.
Multidisciplinary summer camp’s primary goal was to break the barrier that prevented many village kids from competing with more privileged city kids; many of current village students care more about working in the fields rather than studying. They stopped believing in the “fairy tale” that they could get full scholarship at the university, study abroad, be successful leaders, participate in different trainings, activities and use Internet for academic purpose. For instance, there is not a single student from Kyzyl Tuu high school who has won a school competition on the regional level, leave alone national one; FLEX, UGRAD fellowship and university full scholarships. The summer camp was aimed to motivate school kids and assist them in choosing their career path and right universities, which for sure would cause in bringing up future promising figures and leaders of the Kyrgyz Republic. The information and advertisements concerning the universities were limited in that region, which could reduce ambitiousness of the school kids. By offering such opportunity, the students may come up with variety range of ideas, choices and goals.
My big contribution to the implementation of the project was realization of multidisciplinary summer camp which seemed impossible in the beginning not only for Kyzyl Tuu community, but also for my friends. While having 10-day summer camp I found myself being a manager, trainer and a tour guide. My responsibilities were bigger than other trainers’ since I was a project manager and I had to make sure that everything was going according to our plan and mainly to make primary goals of the project be accomplished.
10-day Multidisciplinary Summer Camp contained three trainings: English, Leadership and IT.
15 school children took part in it, who earlier were selected through essay competition. Each applicant applied by writing 2 essays, one in Kyrgyz “The future of my country” and the second in English “I am a leader of my community”. Panel included Duishon Tursunbaev, a school principal, Judson Moore, Peace Corps Volunteer, Marziya Davlyatova, Tajikistan UGRAD alumna and Meerim Mamyrbekova, Kyrgyzstan UGRAD alumna.
Summer camp lasted from July 1 till July 11, 2012. Trainers went to Kyzyl Tuu village school, Aksy region, Jalalabad oblast to conduct 7-day English and Leadership trainings. 2-day IT training was held in Bishkek and 1-day tours to Bishkek universities were realized in Bishkek as well.
We will try to give a summary of each training and describe some interesting activities.
Trainer Aigul Samudinova, a 5th year student of International Ataturk-Alatoo University (IAAU), Simultaneous Translation Department.
Aigul has experiences in teaching kids at language course center in Bishkek. Her method included Communicative, Direct, Suggestopedia, Translation methods of teaching. Starting from the first day trainer Aigul encouraged students to speak English although they had big language gap. The trainer used the book called Embassy English Coursebook: Top Notch 2A Workbookand Take-Home Super CD-ROM by Joan Saslow and Allen Ascher. Each Aigul’s class started with warming up activities to wake up kids and be involved in the class. They were “Name Association”, “Sing a song”, “Simon says”, “Chef” and “Poem River”. For instance, “Simon says” is an activity which can be used to train kids to learn words related to movement and body; “Chef” is a very good activity, where students in a team set a table and cook dish with their imaginations using ingredients and verbs.
Trainees started English class from To be, English nouns and verbs, Past, Present and Future Tenses. Explanation of grammar was always accompanied by different exercises. Aigul was not really stuck to a book; instead she shared her own prepared handouts and exercises. Each class was planned beforehand and therefore, each activity was logically related to each other. It was student-centered class, where every other time pair work and group work helped much to involve kids, who were a bit shy from the rest.
Kids’ preparedness showed how they were interested in class and how they waited the next day to learn something new. Aigul did not load students with heavy home assignments, but only asked to work on exercises from work book. However, kids themselves eagerly absorbed each new information.
Her easy-going character and openness did not cause any trouble to deal with village kids. Her personal story and creativity motivated each student to be more creative and start their own academic journey.
Students realized how learning could be fun if they were offered various interesting activities. Trainers did their best to reach each student by asking and approaching individually to check if they were catching up.
Trainer Meerim Mamyrbekova, a graduate of IAAU and UGRAD alumna
For seven days after English class in the morning, Meerim held leadership training afternoons. Training started with explanation of a leader and the next exercise that followed was defining a leader with the help of adjectives for students associated a leader only with a politician.
Leadership course included topics as “Who is a leader?”, “Leadership styles: authoritative, persuasive and delegative”, “Focus: task-focused, people-focused and dual-focused leaders”, “Need for better listening”, “7 fallacies about listening”, and “types of listening.”
Each class gave an opportunity for kids to have the floor to speak; firstly, to fight against their fear and secondly, always to have their own opinion since according to Soviet style classroom, students were never asked about their feelings. The book on Leadership “Listening Effectively” by John Kline was a center of attention in this class. Meerim, has personally taken J. Kline’s class in the US on Leadership.
During the lesson Meerim organized different activities which helped to strengthen students’ ability to become a leader of their community. Activities included “Choosing a leader” (3 teams drew their 3 leaders and defined their leadership styles) and “presenting leaders’ pictures” (students guessed names of leaders). In addition, special attention was paid to Steve Jobs for trainers borrowed his words to make a slogan of the camp, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”. The trainer covered S. Job’s biography, creations and his Apple. Students listened to his commencement speech at Stanford University with so much enthusiasm, when Meerim translated it into Kyrgyz. Obviously, speaking is nothing without writing, so one day students learned how to write an essay following English standards.
On the very last day of the training Meerim shared her own adventures and stories of being a leader in different situations: her being a finalist in the English language contest on the national level, being ranked the second among entire university based on her high GPA, becoming UGRAD finalist, travelling alone in New York, combining school and work, and making a lot of friends, inspired kids more than other stories. They asked tons of questions where Meerim answered with so much joy.
Trainer Judson Moore, a Peace Corps Volunteer, Web developer
IT training which was planned to be held in Karakol, Issyk Kul at American Corner was conducted in Bishkek at National IT Center. Karakol’s American Corner refused on the last day to host this summer camp due to the US Embassy’s upcoming training.
However, we did not lose our hope and were lucky to find a real IT class in Bishkek. We rented a class with 15 computers; it had internet WiFi, AC in that hot summer, a projector and a nice board. Each student had a chance to use one computer.
Judson Moore, IT trainer charmed students with his simple method of explaining the topics. Meerim served as a translator when kids had difficulties in understanding some computer terms. Judson taught kids step by step for typing, Microsoft Word, Excel, opening email in www.mail.ru, Youtube, Google, Wikipedia, Skype, Facebook and Twitter.
Within 2 days camp participants were able not only to type, but also how to surf on the internet; kids voted unanimously to open accounts on Twitter. Moreover, Judson explained how social networks could be useful in education. He spoke about the advantages of Facebook and Twitter over Mail Agent, which is a social network for CIS. Meerim’s friends Jyrgal Ormonov, Raimaly Narjigitov and Nurgazy Zhusubaliev assisted Judson in order to reach every student and help if they had difficulties.
Jyrgal Ormonov, an active tweeple, shared advantages of using Twitter. Moreover, a skype talk with Murat Zhigitekov, a graduate of Mississippi College who currently lives in Texas diversified our training. For 15 minutes Murat spoke about his way of becoming a leader, how is to study in the US and shared a couple of inspirational moral and personal stories.
Even a school principal, Duishon Tursunbaev enjoyed typing and surfing on the internet.
During lunch we ordered different types of pizzas; students were exposed to try famous American food which seemed so delicious to them.
As we mentioned previously very different activities, role playing games and contests colored our summer camp. The most memorable games were “Who is the smartest?”, “Talant show” and Jengo. In the first contest students had to answer various educational questions, that touched almost every field. After each round, students voted to make one player to be out of the game. Rakhat, a winner was given a purse as a prize. During Talant show every participant showed their talents, some of them danced, read riddles, played the komuz, made paper flowers, drew and made a salad. The winner Asel Akmatalieva, who showed her ability of being a host of TV show, received a monolingual English dictionary that Meerim brought from the US. Jengo is an American game with wood sticks cheered kids very much.
Also, we had an amazing presentation of Bred, who is the founder of the coffee company Sierra, about how he launched Bishkek Coffee Roasters, which definitely touched everybody. To be honest, almost none of us had seen how coffee that we buy was prepared.
Another fun was at Bishkek’s Panvilov Park, where kids were taken after IT training.
On July 11th our group visited many state and private universities of Bishkek. Almost each university gave a guide to conduct a campus tour and tell what faculties and departments they had. Each camp participant was given brochures about the universities.
Results and Impact
Overall, summer camp influenced students from the positive side. Kids overcame their fear and after camp we could notice their readiness to compete with city students. Many of them learned beneficial information about universities and exchange programs. Another, people to impact on kids were Meerim’s international friends who believed in changes and supported the camp living in other parts of the world. For instance, Irina Tsumareva, UGRAD fellow from Belarus and Meerim’s best friend, sent a special letter addressed for kids to inspire them to dream big and always try to accomplish their goals.
Pluses and Minuses of the camp
Pluses were that in short days we could cover a lot of effective information. We taught how to communicate in English, practiced it with a native speaker, learned leadership qualities and basic computer skills.
Minus was to hear refusal from American Corner on the very last day. It was a good lesson for the project manager to learn for the next. It was hard for trainers to inform kids this bad news who had already imagined themselves seeing a great lake of Kyrgyzstan. In addition, trainers could not arrange something before their arrival to Bishkek since it was weekend. Monday morning for the first day of IT training Meerim ran back and forth and finally could overcome this obstacle by finding an amazing IT center and start the training on time with the help of Judson Moore. However, it showed our flexibility and ability to deal with spontaneous changes.
We’re on TV
During IT training a correspondent Ali Toktakunov from Azattyk, Liberty Radio came to interview us for their upcoming TV show about young leaders. After a week we were shown on TV on Kyrgyz Channel One in the video reportage part. Also, Judson Moore, our IT trainer is writing an article about this summer camp for the journal of Louisiana State University, which hopefully will be published in fall. Here is the link for video from Azattyk http://www.azattyk.kg/media/video/24647888.html;
Upon starting summer camp project it began to bring changes to Kyzyl Tuu school. A school teacher who was so involved with our project has shown his own positive work abilities that later was noticed by a mayor and a head of regional schools and ended up with an appointment of Duishon Tursunbaev as a new principal of Kyzyl Tuu school. We could see changes in the eyes of the students as well. Now they see a lot of opportunities around them and try to better their community.
The project brought changes to me as well. I hope my gained managerial skills will help me much in my work. During my UGRAD years in the US I learned to dream big and to be able to realize it no matter I see obstacles in my way. My current ability encouraged me to be the first person to hold a summer camp in entire Kyzyl Tuu village.
Camp participants came up with an idea to continue this summer camp after ASG completion by opening a club for young leaders at school. They unanimously voted to continue this great project by educating and sharing their gained knowledge and experiences with other school children. I agreed to provide them with books, training materials, brochures and even attend some of their trainings. Also, I will do my best to bring international guests there for them to exchange information.
We greatly thank IREX for supporting our project by making our dreams come true. Thanks to our friends-contributors Lisl Trowbridge, who sent free English books for camp participants from the US, Nurseit Maksatbekov, contributed money voluntarily, Mr. Wayne Locklar, Troy University Professor, sent American crayons to the trainees. Special thanks to Meerim’s Kyrgyz and international friends for believing in changes and supporting this project from the very beginning.
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