This week we continue our Giving Tuesday series, How I See Change, with the story shared by Burulai Aitikulova, an educator from the Kyrgyz Republic in Central Asia. See how your support helps people like Burulai achieve a better quality of life. For more photos and stories of the Aga Khan Foundation’s partners, click here. Do you have a story to tell? Share with us how you see change by submitting a #HowISeeChange selfie!

For Giving Tuesday, Burulai Aitikulova from the Aga Khan Foundation – Kyrgyz Republic Shares How She Sees Change

How do you see change?

For me, the image that comes to mind is children enjoying the materials we created and developed: colorful story books and an animated TV series full of joy, reaching every family in the country. The picture shows a two-year-old child in the yurt kindergarten established by AKF, playing with a puppet character from a fairy tale. The children perform the fairy tale and draw and paint different scenes on the stones. The kindergarten is in the most remote jailoo (pasture) in the mountains of Naryn province, at an elevation of over 12,000 feet, on the border with China. About 25 to 30 children attend this jailoo kindergarten for three months a year when they are in the summer pastures with their families. Far from schools, they still have access to storybooks and learn through playing and performing stories from the storybooks. Jailoo kindergarten is an excellent opportunity to keep their education going while they are away in the high pasture. The children learn about nature, culture and traditions.

What first inspired you to get involved with the Aga Khan Development Network?

Education is my passion. I always feel strong and confident as an educator, and I enjoy working with children. When I see children’s eyes full of interest in what I’m doing with them and that they like it, I don’t feel time passing. This inspires me to move forward and to create.

Did benefits emerge that you didn’t foresee?

Yes. I couldn’t imagine that our example would help to change the preschool system across Kyrgyzstan and that after 5 or 6 years that communities would start their own program models for early childhood development (ECD) that are affordable for all children regardless of their parents’ social and economic status. It amazes me that our Reading for Children project has become a model for other AKF Education Programs too. I also didn’t anticipate establishing revolving funds while creating Reading for Children, but the revolving fund model helped to make the storybook publishing a self-funding initiative. The program has grown beyond ECD to reach higher-grade children in preschool to primary schools, and now approaching secondary grades. All this means that the model will sustain itself and continue within the education system after the project reaches its end.

Is there one person who inspires you about change?

One person who inspires me about change is Mrs. Caroline Arnold, Education Program Director, who has always encouraged and supported me to try new initiatives and move ahead.