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No more nightmares: Protecting the psychological health of children in Kyrgyzstan

unicef kira/dubanaev
© UNICEF/kira/dubanaev/2006
Captions: Street and working children share their emotional experiences at a UNICEF supported art-therapy counciling class at the municipal shelter.

Jyldyz, a 12 year-old Kyrgyzstani girl, visited her psychologist without a prior appointment. She came not as a client but as a friend, with a sense of pride, for she had something to present: her 6th form graduation diploma. To some, it seemed impossible that she might graduate, much less earn good grades as she ultimately did, as Jyldyz was classified an “at risk” child – out of control and aggressive, not the same cheerful and bright little girl that her parents once knew. 

Fortunately for Jyldyz and her parents, help and support came just in time, thanks to the intervention of Dr. Ageeva and a UNICEF-supported programme that promotes psychosocial well-being of youth in Kyrgyzstan. Over a series of sessions, Jyldyz was encouraged by Dr. Ageeva to use her creativity to invent stories and fairy tales, draw pictures, play various games, all in order to help her work through her trauma and pain. Within five months, Jyldyz began to improve in school and she eventually caught up with the rest of her class.

For 30 years, Irina Ageeva has dedicated her career to helping youth overcome issues of drug and alcohol abuse, violence, and sexual abuse. She serves as faculty chair of Psychology at one of Kyrgyzstan’s most prominent universities, Kyrgyz-Russian Slavonic University. Last year, Dr. Ageeva approached UNICEF with a very specific goal in mind: to develop a partnership that would target capable local and international psychology professionals for an education and skills programme on the specific treatment of traumatized youth and troubled families. A summer workshop was planned, and ultimately a large contingent of professionals and students from around the globe came to Bishkek for a week-long experience. Now, a year later, some of these professionals have actually provided direct psychological support to a wide variety of youth: children in institutions, recently deinstitutionalized children, children in conflict with the law, street and working children and children affected by violence, abuse and exploitation.

“These summer workshops are an effective tool that allow us to fully concentrate on the learning process, to exchange views. We are very happy that UNICEF pays attention to the issues of psychological rehabilitation of traumatized children. Today, psychology services in schools is experiencing a second birth. The benefits are being recognized – psychological consultations at school have helped to keep children at risk of dropping out in school. There is a great need for professional psychologists for these children, and teachers and parents need help to increase their ability to support the needs of these children. The school system needs to be humanized – to be oriented to children, to their potential and needs,” says Irina Ageeva. 

With funds from the Japanese Government, UNICEF has been able to continue its support of the training workshop and direct service programmes. Next week, professionals and students will convene again at the Kyrygz-Russian Slavonic University and sessions will address psychological consultations and psychotherapy for adolescents from dysfunctional families. For those attending, there is much to look forward to, and great inspiration ahead, as noted by one former participant who wrote a poem about the workshop:

... Нам повезло, мы получили (… We were fortunate to receive)
Богатый опыт, новый взгляд... (The richest experience and a new approach…)
... Неделя пронеслась как сутки  (A week passed as a single day)
Работа только в радость нам была (The work was full of joy)
И в знаньях сократились промежутки (Making us closer in knowledge)
Настало примененья их пора... (And now it’s come to put it all to practice…)

Equally inspired is Jyldyz, who today has decided that she would like to give back to those who have helped her, perhaps even becoming a psychologist or therapist and helping children like herself. This is the sort of dream she has now, for thanks to Dr. Ageeva, the nightmares have stopped.

 

 

 

 

Russian version

Больше никаких кошмаров: Защищая психологическое здоровье детей Кыргызстана
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