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“And Therefore Hope Lives Indelibly Within Us“ (Aitmatov)

Kyrgyzstan: 28 volunteers founded Ümüt-Nadjeshda (meaning Hope) in 1989. Two years later, Chinghiz Aitmatov became Honorary President of the initiative. Despite many obstacles and barriers, several institutions devoted themselves over the years to protect and care for children with disabilities. In addition to residential families, an integrated kindergarten, a school and a therapy centre, there are workshops that allow the attendance of people with special needs, even after they finish school. On June 9, 2009, the founder, Karla Maria Schälike was honoured with the German Federal Cross of Merit.

The first child of the married couple Schälike was born in 1985 and with it the impulse that would soon be taken up by the young mother, and thus change the reality of people with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan. For in the moment of deepest joy about the birth of her son, Karla Maria Schälike witnessed how the doctors immediately threatened her hospital roommate, after giving birth to a child, to renounce in writing from her responsibility for the newborn child with disabilities. Such children are not welcome in society and should therefore be hidden. After the death of her own child, Karla Maria Schälike began with full force to put her impulse to help children with disabilities into immediate practice.

The political changes in Kyrgyzstan threatened Nadjeshda with a permanent insecurity during the years after its founding in 1989. In 1990 a building was provided by the state, in which a kindergarten was established. But already in 1992, a law prohibited the promoting of children "not eligible for education" in government buildings.

When the first grade of Nadjeshda Waldorf School should have been solemnly inaugurated, Karla Maria Schälike found herself in a garbage-cluttered room instead of a decorated venue. At this point Nadjeshda was on the brink of closure and Karla Maria Schälike and her family returned to Germany, the country from which they came. When the Kyrgyz President, Askar Akayev, tried to convince the Schälikes to come back to Kyrgyzstan during a visit in Germany, only her husband followed the request. In 1993, Karla Maria Schälike eventually followed him, after she received the shocking news that one of the children she had cared for had died in a government home.

The Fruits of the Work

With the help of many people and organizations it was possible to rebuild the initiative step-by-step and acquire land and buildings. Thus, the kindergarten and the residential community found an accommodation in a new building as well as the curative education school and a therapeutic centre, which moved into buildings close-by. A wood workshop, a computer room, a kitchen and more classrooms are located In the Bender Building. Additionally another therapeutic centre, which provides children massage and other treatments, is situated in Kogjar village. Finally, the Janusz Korczak centre was established in 2001 and dedicates its work to the promotion of young adults.

The achievements and the success of Nadjeshda speak for themselves: three of twelve former Nadjeshda kids, supposedly "not eligible for education", are now studying at university, two have graduated at a state school and two more have received scholarships for the U.S. Not to mention all the people with special needs, who attend kindergarten and school and work at the workshops of Nadjeshda.