Art Therapy for Children with Disabilities in Kazakhstan

Article source – Irex.org

What would you do with $3000 and the mandate to do something that benefits your community?

Aliya Zholboldina, an alumna of the Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program, recently made use of the Muskie and UGRAD Alumni Small Grants program to design and implement an art therapy program for children with disabilities in Kazakhstan. The project brought professional art teachers from Almaty, Kazakhstan’s capitol, to an orphanage in nearby Talgar for a series of workshops held two times a week for six months.

As a part of the students’ rehabilitation and social adaptation programming, the program provided kids ages 5-18 with a creative outlet and a bit of fun while training them in craft skills that can provide the basis for their future employment as adults. In a brainstorming session with their teachers, the students decided to focus on building and glazing terracotta ceramic pieces and painting batik silks with free form designs as well as characters from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince.”

Girls practice their painting skills

More than 40 disabled children at the Kovcheg orphanage took part in the project, and several special gatherings were held for to celebrate their successes in the program, including a musical concert and games day, and a picnic with traditional Kazakhstani plov and shashlik, or pilaf and kebabs.

In addition, the program helped to employ 10 young adult assistants involved with the Eldany Foundation – an organization that provides meaningful opportunities for youth with disabilities while also preparing them for an active and productive adulthood (see Troy Johnson’s recent post about Eldany’s work through the IREX-supported BOTA Foundation).

The Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program and the Muskie and UGRAD Alumni Small Grant (ASG) program are administered by IREX and funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State.

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