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Counselling eases the pain for troubled children in Kyrgyzstan

© UNICEF Kyrgyzstan/2006/Dubanaev
Troubled children share their emotional experiences in a UNICEF supported art-therapy counselling class at a municipal shelter in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

By Galina Solodunova

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, 13 July 2006 – Jyldyz, 12, recently visited her psychologist without an appointment. She came not as a client but as a friend, with a sense of pride, because she had something special to show: her sixth-grade diploma.

To some, it seemed impossible that Jyldyz would graduate, let alone earn good grades, because she was classified as an ‘at risk’ child with out-of-control and aggressive behaviour – not the same cheerful, bright little girl her parents once knew.

Fortunately for Jyldyz and her parents, help came just in time via the intervention of Dr. Irina Ageeva and a UNICEF-supported programme that promotes the psychosocial well-being of young people in Kyrgyzstan.

Over a series of sessions, Dr. Ageeva encouraged Jyldyz to use her creativity to invent stories, draw pictures and play various games. The activities were designed to help her overcome her trauma and pain. Within five months, Jyldyz began to improve in school and eventually caught up with the rest of her class.

Education and skills programme

For 30 years, Dr. Ageeva has dedicated her career to helping children and adolescents overcome issues of drug and alcohol dependence, violence and sexual abuse. She serves as faculty chair of the psychology department at the prestigious Kyrgyz-Russian Slavonic University.

© UNICEF Kyrgyzstan/2006/Dubanaev
Counselling sessions provide children with an opportunity to invent stories, draw pictures and play games – activities designed to help them overcome trauma and pain.

Last year, Dr. Ageeva approached UNICEF with a very specific goal in mind: to develop a partnership for an education and skills programme on the treatment of traumatized youth and troubled families.

UNICEF agreed to the proposal and a summer workshop was planned to kick off the programme. Ultimately, a large contingent of capable professionals – as well as students from around the globe – came to Bishkek for the first week-long training session.

Counselling prevents drop-outs

A year later, some of those same professionals have provided direct psychological support to a wide variety of youth, including:

  • Children in institutions or recently deinstitutionalized
  • Children at odds with the law
  • Street children and working children
  • Children affected by violence, abuse and exploitation.

“These summer workshops are an effective tool that allows us to fully concentrate on the learning process,” explains Dr. Ageeva. “We are very happy that UNICEF pays attention to the issues of psychological rehabilitation of traumatized children.”

Today in Kyrgyzstan, the doctor adds, psychological services in the schools are experiencing a rebirth. “The benefits are being recognized,” she says, noting that in-school counselling has helped keep many at-risk children from dropping out.

“There is a great need for professional psychologists to help these children, and teachers and parents need help to support their needs,” says Dr. Ageeva.

From nightmares to dreams

With funds from the Japanese Government, UNICEF has been able to continue its support of the training workshops and direct service programmes.

This week, professionals and students are again convening at the Kyrygz-Russian Slavonic University for a series of workshops on psychological consultation and psychotherapy for adolescents from dysfunctional families.

Today, Jyldyz says she would like to give back to those who have helped her. She even contemplates becoming a psychologist or therapist to help children like herself. This is the sort of dream she has, now that the nightmares have stopped.



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