Spotlight on Oasis Kyrgyzstan
The Oasis Youth Centre is a hub for young people who have been brought up in government institutions (orphanages) and who have moved on to living independently in Bishkek once they have left. The young people come to take part in planned activities such as cookery classes, life skills training and English language club. They are able to spend time with and talk to trusted adults, and are simply able to come and ‘hang out’ in a safe environment.
As well as coming to the activities at the centre, each of the young people that we are in contact with are ‘allocated’ to a case worker, who keeps in regular contact with them, sometimes meeting them at the centre, but at other times going to see them at their school or accommodation, or accompanying them as they are dealing with government offices or getting some of the vital documents that are needed for employment and education.
We first met Salima when she came to a watermelon party we held to introduce ourselves to children and young people who were soon to leave the orphanage where she was living. We had a little initial contact, but for a long time we rarely saw her because she was studying at a technical school to become a cook. However, some time later she began to have problems at the school and started coming to us regularly every week. We heard from others at the centre that something bad had happened, and she later shared that her brother had raped her. Gossip about what happened spread around the technical school and the school administration expelled Salima for "doing indecent things". She and her boyfriend now live in the apartment of one of her friends, who is letting them stay for free. She hasn't turned 18 yet and so she is having difficulty finding a job. Her boyfriend also does not work and so they have no income to live on.
One Tuesday Salima came to the Youth Centre to pick up a food parcel. Oksana, a member of the Oasis team asked how she was doing. She very sincerely thanked Oksana and other staff members working at the youth centre for how much they helped her through the time she was expelled from school and had absolutely nothing to eat and was literally dying from hunger. Salima said, "I can come here, drink tea, and hang out with you. I can share my pains and trust you, and because of this my burdens are lighter and my life easier."