There are three challenges facing youth in Kazakhstan:
- HIV and AIDS are prevalent but people do not know about the disease, its cause, prevention or treatment. The associated misunderstanding results in stigmatism, shame and isolation rather than compassion and support.
- 10,000 people are trafficked through the country every year. They are lured into jobs with promises of better life and end up in human trafficking.
- On a global scale, Kazakhstan rates very high in suicides - especially amongst youth.
Colleges and universities want to address these issues, but do not have the knowledge or resources to do this.
Through a life skills program Operation Mercy, in partnerships with educational institutions, is making students aware of the dangers of human trafficking, HIV and AIDS and teaches them about the how to work though issues preventing suicide and helping others. Teaching students about these risks, helps them through such personal crises, allows them to help others and teaches them about what risks they are exposed to.
The program is the only one that we know of that is offered in the KAZAKH language (as opposed to Russian) and is therefore critical in schools, colleges and universities which teach in Kazakh.
Potential Long Term Impact
As students are better informed about these key issues, their families, friends and others in the community become more aware too.
One community group testified that through the training they realised how much potential they had to assist a person who was affected with HIV and AIDS who had come to them for assistance.
There have been a number of partnerships with local community institutions. The local city council requested a training workshop on caring for care-givers. A representative from their Head office was able to come out and assist us with the training. The social workers deeply appreciated the training and felt that they were further supported in their work.
The HIV status of those photographed is unknown