Social responsibility with no time-off

Baloons deflated, guests have left on their urgent businesses and sweets will soon be gone. Only the bigger presents like the TV sets, videocameras, home appliances, furniture, clothes, shoes and maybe even a car or a bus, will remind the children for a long time about the holiday. The first of June holiday is similar to the Eighth of March in this sense: this day gives grown-ups a chance to say something kind to children, make something important and much-anticipated and to express their feelings that they may be ashamed of at other times. It gives children the chance to feel loved. Holidays were invented to make the routine brighter thanks to their energy and memories they leave. This is especially true for an orphanage. Warm feelings that filled the day will be remembered a long time into the future, maybe for children’s whole life. To children who have their parents near them, the 1st of June holiday is just one of the days filled with general cheer, amusement and other must-haves of a holiday, in addition to their parents’ love and care, just like at New Year. It does not carry much ideological content for them. To children living outside of their families or in disadvantaged families, the idea of a International Children’s Day and the opportunity to know that they are not forgotten and are cared for by the society is important. Their adult friends or chaperons will come to the orphanage as usual on this day and will give gifts together with their love. Childhood passes quickly but it is memorable. Days like this will stay as memories for the rest of their life.


Parents’ love for their children is not a one-day event. It does not have days-off or shifts, no matter whether the child lives in the family or in an orphanage, with their parents or social workers.  I know many people who have dedicated their entire lives to children left without parents. They stick to the principle: «do not switch off the love in your heart». I heard legends about one of these people, legends told with sincere admiration by locals on the way to Shymkent. They told me that once this woman’s orphanage was inspected following a complaint of a «well-wisher». To their surprise, inspectors did not find financial violations but found that when there was not enough money in the institution’s budget, she spent her own money on children and forgot to get a refund. They say that this was the first time in the professional practice of inspectors that someone «confused pockets» in this way by taking from oneself and giving to the public. They say that President himself named her Big Mama. Now everyone calls her this way. Maybe it was the other way around. During the decades of work in the orphanage, she brought up several generations of happy children who moved to various places in the country and who spread their love and gratitude to her everywhere they went. And that is why her nickname, Big Mama, reached the president before it hit the media. Awarding her with well-merited state prizes, he also assigned this highest title to her. It is not important who was the first called her like this. More importantly, this nickname is well-deserved and sincere. It is also known that children call her in their own way – Galina Mirakhmedovna although her passport name is Khnimbuvi Mirakhmedovna Abdukadirova. She has been heading the Sayram orphanage #4 for over 25 years. Maybe the name was changed due to the fact that the orphanage is home to children of 15 ethnic groups and it was the first generation of Sayram children who put this name together each giving their own warm meaning to it.


The short trip to the orphanage confirmed many of the tales about her. As a real mother, Galina Mirakhmedovna does not talk about what she or her colleagues have done for a «happy childhood» in the orphanage because children’s happiness is more important than the statement of efforts. That is why she talks about children and their fates as all mothers do. She speaks about the boys studying in a ballet school and first places taken by the orphanage’s children in artistic competitions. She speaks about university students and about scholarships for tuition granted by the mayor’s office and businessmen. She says that up to 90% of the orphanage’s alumni do well in their lives. She speaks about the girls who got married. I remember that at that meeting she spoke about Lola, Alfia and Malika who found their happiness, and about the boys who promised to return to the orphanage soon driving SUVs, symbols of their success. 

Meanwhile, I was thinking that this success does not come only from pedagogical work but is added to by sincere parent love. She did not just spend her workshifts in the orphanage but, as a mother and in the same way as her colleagues in the orphanage, she made sure that the children were prepared for the big life outside. She made sure that they wouldn’t get lost once they step outside the orphanage. She told us that a youth house was opened in the city for the orphans to have a home after the orphanage. She told us about almost fifty apartments that were allocated to children, and about the social teacher who made sure that nobody appropriated these children’s property and that all the documents were filed accurately and on time. She told us about these children’s banking accounts where all money, that are addressed to them, including financial aid from various companies, is accumulated.


She told us that the children would have a small but necessary starting capital when they leave the orphanage. This money will not be enough for business but enough for life. She said that it was important for the children to be able to properly use this money. That is why they are given pocket money every month while they are still in the orphanage. Some of them spend this money right away, some save it up for something while others set long-term goals. It is important for her to know how their lives will turn out to be in the future and all pedagogical tricks and methods serve this purpose. «Are the orphans ready for life? Are they ready to live independently? It is no secret that some orphans develop a dependence on constant aid. We let them know that they will be helped in difficult moments but they are responsible for themselves and for their lives. Our children are different but we try to bring them up in a way that they would not be just consumers», Galina Mirakhmedovna said, or, to be more exact, stated the concept for educating children as if transferring principles of family education to the entire orphanage. «We teach them to use their money, to save up and spend on something important. We have clubs – Arman for boys and Kyz Zhibek for girls. We teach children to solve family issues. We teach them to cook and other crafts. For example, girls buy food products and learn to cook. There are almost 15 interest groups in the orphanage where children learn the necessary skills», she said. This may seem unimportant at first sight only. But there is this simple test that many orphans do not pass –the tea brewing test. It all seems to be so simple: you lay the table, clean up the room, cook supper, sew up buttons and clean shoes? The Big Mama’s children do not have problem in this aspect. She succeeds in lots of things, like setting up friendships between the orphans and children who have parents. She organizes these meetings. It is important that once her children become adults, they won’t feel this separation between them and the rest of the world and that they learn to overcome it in childhood when all horizons are open and that they do not feel fear before life’s obstacles. Of course, this is not easy, especially in childhood, to see the difference in the life of a family and an orphanage and to accept the fate as it is. But it is even more important to overcome this psychological barrier and understand that everything is in your hands. These children need to achieve goals and they will be successful because they will always have their Big Mama nearby. Her love and motherly strictness help to see life in its true light, to set high goals and not to fail. She also manages to find people who think like her or to convert many people to «her faith» of motherly wisdom. The Sayram orphanage #4 has many friends. Of course, they can be called sponsors – but sponsorship presumes one-off actions while friendship, like motherhood, is not a short-term event. PetroKazakhstan is among these friends. In addition to the annual memorandum on social support to the region for the amount of over 1m dollars signed with the regional mayor’s office, the company has been supporting the orphanage for 17 years. The children are grateful for its help and financial aid, and they want to show to their grown-up friends what they have learned. They share their discoveries and newly acquired knowledge with them, same as children who have parents would do. This is a mutually enriching process. That is why concerts for friends and competitions, self-made items and tea parties are traditions of this orphanage. By no accident, friends and sponsors of the Sayram orphanage admit that a formal approach does not work there, everything is based on the principle: friendship is friendship; love is love without any formalities. They are unacceptable when you bring up and love children. Big Mama will not allow people to be formal…Baloons deflated. It does not matter. New ones will be put up for a new holiday. What matters are people who can make life brighter, create a holiday and just be friends in ordinary days…


/Olga Lanskaya/

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