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Sep 9, 2020

COVID-19 Emergency Relief

When COVID-19 hit Central Asia in early April, the situation quickly escalated into a crisis. CAI responded quickly. We were in touch with our overseas partners daily to identify the most pressing needs of families and communities we’ve long served. Recognizing their vulnerability to the pandemic’s impacts, we moved fast to put together emergency programs to address food insecurity, the lack of PPE, and financial support for teachers who were suddenly without a salary when schools closed. We also worked to develop distance learning programs for children stuck at home with no access to books, computers, or the internet. New forms of support were put into place and existing ones modified to allow us to respond to the crisis at hand while staying true to our mission. All this was possible thanks to the steadfast support of our donors who showed extraordinary compassion and generosity at a challenging time.


Food packs feed thousands


Throughout the world COVID-19 has taken away jobs and income. Workers who rely on day labor to buy food for their families are especially vulnerable to food insecurity and hunger. We assembled ration packs with enough cooking oil, rice, sugar, lentils, salt, and black tea to help feed a family of seven for 15 days. To date 4,000 food ration packs have been distributed to impoverished families in the areas we serve.


PPE protects frontline workers


The lack of personal protective equipment was a huge issue from the start. We assembled hundreds of PPE kits containing an N95 mask, gloves, shoe covers, a body cover, goggles, and sanitizer, and distributed 340 PPE kits to health facilitiesAnother 9,250 surgical masks, 4,250 pairs of gloves, 425 bottles of sanitizer, and 912 extraction kits went to first responders.

PPE Packages
Salary support helps teachers and non-teaching staff pay rent and buy food


When the schools closed, teachers, support staff, and guards were suddenly without a job and without a paycheck. With COVID emergency funds we were able to pay the salaries of 188 teachers and 29 non-teaching staff members from 60 schools for the remainder of the school year (through May 2020). The 60 schools are located across six districts in areas served by CAI and our partners.


Better hygiene and sanitation when schools reopen


Looking to improve the conditions at schools once they reopen, we’ve taken advantage of empty buildings to make repairs and add facilities. Workers have repaired 24 washrooms and built 38 new latrine stalls. Access to hand-washing facilities is needed now more than ever to curb the spread of the virus when classes resume.


Children learn via radio and social platforms
Children learning

With schools closed and no clear indication of when it will be safe for them to reopen, children are at serious risk of falling behind in their studies. Of particular concern is a pattern seen in other disasters wherein girls who are unable to attend school for an extended period of time are less likely to re-enroll when classes resume. One way to prevent girls from dropping out is to keep the pattern of education and learning going.

Towards this end, CAI sponsored a distance-learning radio program that ran for six weeks, ending this summer. The program was broadcast on radio as well as shared on Facebook, YouTube, and other social platforms. The curriculum was designed to increase literacy and math skills for students in grades 1-3. Educational games focused on general knowledge and famous personalities; quizzes on health and hygiene added to the fun.

The radio program targeted 400,000 students ages 5-9 years. It consisted of 30 total episodes, with two subjects covered per episode. A similar distance-learning format with 40 episodes covering six subjects is planned for grades 4 and 5.


Printed materials help children learn at home
Printed Materials

With CAI support, a team of educators is developing student learning packets designed to build literacy and math skills for children in grades 1-3. Their teachers will receive tablets preloaded with an academic calendar, lesson planning tools, supplemental content from the distance-learning radio program, and assessment tools to measure student progress. More than 3,000 children and teachers are earmarked to receive the packets and tablets later this summer. We’re excited that despite the challenges that children continue to face while schools remain closed, distance learning is proving to be a viable, effective solution.


Looking ahead


With COVID cases surging in the region, schools will likely remain closed for the foreseeable future. Given the risk that children, especially girls, who experience gaps in their education are less likely to resume their studies, we’re exploring additional ways to continue to support remote learning. We’re looking at the feasibility of expanding distance-learning programs to more grade levels and possibly more geographic areas. Providing educational programming so that girls can continue to learn is one of the best ways to keep them—and their families—focused on staying in school.

Stay tuned for news about our next wave of innovative support in the weeks and months to come. In the meantime, know that your steadfast support is bringing hope to thousands of families and children at a dark time, and allowing us to stand together with them to fight this global crisis. Thank you. We couldn’t do what we do without your support.


May 20, 2020

Principal Thanks You For Helping Kindergartners

An Old School Transformed

In 1989, Kindergarten #5 was a brand-new building situated in the center of Khorog, a sleepy little mountain town nestled in the Pamir Mountains. Back then, Kindergarten #5 was a state-of-the-art facility, especially for such a small community, and recognized by the locals as the “the best kindergarten in town.”

Sadly, time hasn’t been kind to Kindergarten #5. With more than 300 children aged 2 to 5 passing through its halls each year the school experienced a lot of wear and tear. Eventually, it fell into disrepair. The walls and floors rotted, windows cracked, and the sewer system broke. The building became a hazard. Someone needed to intervene. That someone would be Mahbuba Qurbonalieva, director of Central Asia Institute Tajikistan (CAIT).

In 2014, Mahbuba heard how desperate parents and teachers were to renovate Kindergarten #5. She jumped at the chance to help. With the help of donors from around the world, Central Asia Institute Tajikistan has since repaired the school’s exterior, overhauled classrooms, replaced broken windows, fixed the sewer system, renovated bathrooms and kitchens, installed a boundary fence, and much more. Today, after all of the improvements, Kindergarten #5 is hardly recognizable.


Read the full story here.


Jan 24, 2020

Traveling to the field makes all the difference

Robert Thelen
Robert Thelen

If you’ve read Three Cups of Tea, you’re aware that Central Asia Institute was founded on the belief that sitting down with people and drinking tea together is the essential first step to accomplishing great things. Without those face-to-face exchanges, change is nearly impossible in that part of the world. Relationships of trust must be built before plans can be drawn for a new school, a teacher receives training, or a child walks into a classroom to begin her education.

In the spirit of our founding philosophy, Robert (Bob) Thelen, Central Asia Institute’s new director of international programs, journeyed to Afghanistan and Tajikistan in November to meet with our partners, visit schools, and listen and learn from our colleagues on the ground and the people we serve. Bob is a veteran to international development work. He’s lived and worked abroad for a good share of his career including three years with an international non-government organization (NGO) in Afghanistan.

Despite his familiarity with the region, the trip this fall had its share of adventure, beginning with the flight from Kabul into Ishkashim district, a remote province in the mountains of northern Afghanistan.

“We couldn’t travel by ground because the roads aren’t secure. There’s a commercial flight, but that’s also not safe. So we flew in a six-seater plane run by a company that flies NGO staff into hard-to-access locations. I sat in the co-pilot seat with oxygen tubes in my nose – we all had them in case the pilot needed to fly higher to avoid turbulence over the mountains. We landed on a short and bumpy dirt runway. There’s only one flight a week.” The time and risks involved in the journey underscored for Bob why support from Central Asia Institute is so needed. “These are places that don’t get a lot of attention from the central government or the international community because they’re so remote and marginalized.”

Read Robert's full report here


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