20 September 2011

Looking for the Good or the Bad in Kyrgyzstan?

After posting a relatively positive bit about Bishkek yesterday, a not-so-positive post from a volunteer in Bishkek came across my reader.  (I'd link to it, but sometimes I can't pull up blogspot blogs on our current internet connection and this is one of those times, so maybe I can add it later.)

Yes.  There are problems here.  There are people who don't have places to live, or enough to eat, or any way to find work or to educate their children.  Some days you think you can't stand it anymore and wish you could fix everything.

But sometimes it feels as if some of the humanitarian people, the volunteers, the missionaries, aren't trying to figure out what's working here or they just don't see it.  And there is a lot that works in Kyrgyzstan.  My husband's research here isn't specifically about solving humanitarian problems, but he has learned a lot about how problems in general are resolved, whether it's a dispute with a neighbor, a house that burns down, or a family who doesn't have money to buy coal for the winter.  It doesn't surprise me to hear that when a family is robbed, their neighbors bring food and clothing, or give them money.  It doesn't surprise me to hear of a woman whose house burns down and the neighbors take care of her and help rebuild. Neighbors take care of each other and so do families.

Even in places that are very poor, there are local social systems, often informal, created to help people.  There are wealthy people in this country who donate significant amounts of money to make sure their neighbors aren't freezing, to rebuild public spaces, and to help individuals who ask for money.  It's not enough, but it's far from non-existent.

The NGOs and missionaries and whatever are important.  A person living here has to be part of those social systems to get help and people who are outside them are the ones whose situations are desperate and need help. NGOs can make a big difference for those people and there are many wonderful examples of the things they have done

But please, don't try to convince me that the people of Kyrgyzstan aren't doing the best they can for themselves and each other.  I believe that they are and often they do a very good job.

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