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Jun 10, 2016

Helping and empowering

Love Kazakhstan volunteers doing what they do best
Love Kazakhstan volunteers doing what they do best

As you will be aware by now, we at Salem Social Village love helping people. However, our focus isn't on just assisting those in need; rather, it's about empowering people who can empower others. That's why our projects include education, humanitarian aid, volunteering, a cafe - it's all about passing something on to those who can bring incremental change.

A good example of this is a recent shipment of humanitarian aid that we were able to send to the Almaty-based non-profit organisation ‘Love Kazakhstan’, an inspiring outfit dedicated to helping the most vulnerable groups in society – whether single mothers, the disabled, or anyone else in significant need.

One of the families that they helped recently, the Mamyrbaevs, had just escaped from severe flooding that destroyed their home and almost everything in it. Using items from our shipment, supplied by Crossroads in Hong Kong, Love Kazakhstan was able to help them set up their lives again in a new home.

One of the most inspiring things we found in all this was one of the volunteers with Love Kazakhstan, Almaz, who shared his life story with us. After a very difficult childhood, including a father who walked out on the family, he became convinced of the need not for revenge but of finding joy through helping others.

"I was filled with new feelings, new needs – I wanted to do more, something kind and more important!” he told us. And he's now working to get help to those who need it most. Now that's the kind of people we love to empower.

The Mamyrbaev family with their new furniture
The Mamyrbaev family with their new furniture
They now have something to sleep on at night
They now have something to sleep on at night
Some of the clothes that were also donated to them
Some of the clothes that were also donated to them

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Jun 1, 2016

Taking off

Everyone having fun at the birthday party!
Everyone having fun at the birthday party!

You know something's going well when it doesn't need much looking after any more.

For a long time, we ran English Conversation Club three times each week in our cafe, where a native English speaker facilitated conversation practice for local students. However, when we weren't able to continue it earlier this year due to staffing issues, we hadn't expeted that it would nonetheless continue.

Some of the students decided that even if we weren't able to organise anything, they would just get on and organise it themselves - and they do! Each time, one of them comes prepared with a topic for everyone to discuss, and they sit there having all sorts of debates and conversations, in English, even welcoming new-comers who turn up.

We've always had a vision for our cafe to be a place where a new kind of community is built - something where people feel welcomed, empowered, safe, and given the freedom to express themselves whilst discovering a new way of looking at the world. The decision of these students to keep coming, keep talking to each other, keep choosing our cafe to hang out in and practice English together, shows that this place is really taking off!

Last month we also welcomed a musical due from Almaty who performed at the birthday party for one of the members of World Without Limits, the social club for disabled people that meets in the cafe. Everyone had a lot of fun, as you can see from the photos! However, our cafe is still at risk until we can get a new roof on it. We still have a significant amount to raise in order to put the new roof on, which we'd really like to do this year.

Please consider whether there's anything that you or your friends could do to help us - we really don't want to be in a situation of having to close the cafe, just as things are really taking off.

With love from everyone at Salem Social Cafe, especially our friends and clients!

Live music always draws a crowd
Live music always draws a crowd
...and then everyone wants to dance!
...and then everyone wants to dance!

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Mar 18, 2016

Using the space

A disabled child getting a wheelchair in the cafe
A disabled child getting a wheelchair in the cafe

"You've given us confidence that we didn't have before."

It's pretty tough bringing up a disabled child, though of course every caring parent knows there are nevertheless wonderful things too. But in the culture here, where disability is often seen as a curse, a shame to be hidden away, the burdens are multiplied.

This particular mother, whose son is confined to a wheelchair, didn't stop there. "We love life," she said, "and don't see disability as a sentence. We love having the chance to spend our free time with our friends in your cafe. We want to be seen as equal members of society. And we're just so grateful to the Social Village and its volunteers, whose work is priceless."

As you know, our cafe isn't just a cafe - it's far more. As a key community space for World Without Limits, our social club for people with disabilities, this meeting space is a lifeline to so many, including our growing band of volunteers who also use the cafe each week.

Thank you for helping us to get a new roof on our cafe - we're not there yet, but we're really hoping to be able to get the new roof on this summer. It's not just us you're helping; there are many other grateful people whose gratitude we also want to pass on.

And another
And another

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