A better future with a little help from a Volunteer

Only a few weeks of self-exercise. That was the time that it took for Madina (14) to sit-up straight and change her life forever.

By Nursultan Abdilov
Madina and Eri
UNICEF/Kyrgyzstan/2019

05 December 2019

Only a few weeks of self-exercise. That was the time that it took for Madina (14) to sit-up straight and change her life forever. She lives in Suzak, in the South East of Kyrgyzstan and was born with cerebral palsy. Up until her chance encounter with a young volunteer from Japan, she was not able to walk, or sit-up straight by herself.

Eri is examining Madina
UNICEF/Kyrgyzstan/2019

On a scheduled home visit 2 months ago, as part of a UNICEF supported newborn home-visiting programme by health care workers, she crossed paths with Eri Nakamura, a United Nations Volunteer (UNV) working for UNICEF in Kyrgyzstan. Eri, a trained and experienced physical therapist, noted the presence of a child with a disability in the home of a new mother being visited that day. Madina´s grandmother, Nasiba, who takes care of her, explained to Eri that her granddaughter couldn’t go to school with other children, as she cannot walk to school and transportation was rarely available. After initial observation, Eri explained to Madina which exercises to do to strengthen and develop her muscles, and how to use everyday devices such as pillows and chairs to help with her movement and daily activities such as eating, watching TV and going to the bathroom. With the right exercises, she may even one day walk by herself.

Volunteers such as Eri make a real difference in the lives of children who most need it. Eri decided to move to Kyrgyzstan as a volunteer of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2016 to expand her experience. In two years, Eri learned to speak Kyrgyz fluently and started playing the komuz, the national musical instrument of Kyrgyzstan. This connection with the country and her interest in working with children made her to return to the country and join UNICEF as a UNV in 2019.

Erin with Nasiba, Madina's grandmother
UNICEF/Kyrgyzstan/2019
Nasiba, Madina's grandmother, now believes a better future is waiting for her grandchild.

When Eri returned one month later to Madina’s home for a follow-up visit with the home visiting team of the Ministry of Health and the Suzak family medicine centre, she was met with a fantastic surprise. With her advice and guidance, Madina used her exercises and everyday devices and was now able to sit-up straight, using a supporting pillow on her chair and one under her feet. This helped to strengthen her backbone, and she even started walking with only a little bit of help from her grandmother. Within only a few weeks, Madina was able to smile thanks to her progress.  Nasiba now believes a better future is waiting for her grandchild.

Madina still has a long way to make her dream happen - to be able to walk to school - but the hope brought by Eri has helped her to reach her dreams, one step at a time.

#ForEveryChild the right to dream.

Eri Nakamura, a United Nations Volunteer (UNV) working for UNICEF in Kyrgyzstan
UNICEF/Kyrgyzstan/2019
Eri Nakamura, a United Nations Volunteer (UNV) working for UNICEF in Kyrgyzstan

Eri visits communities, households and rehabilitation centers, as part of her work with UNICEF. Through the programme on home visiting for newborns, and the Early Identification and Early Intervention programme for children with disabilities, Eri plays a valuable role in the Child Survival and Development programme.