Today I am in Astana! This is the Capitol of Kazakhstan!

After we arrived and checked in at the Hilton Garden Inn, we met Sabina Ismail, a human rights leader who studied in the ADA Program with Veniamin in 2017. She is now working at an NGO with children with disabilities. She explained how children with intellectual disabilities have been kept at home. The great discrimination comes from the Soviet Union days. She is working to change that stigma.

Kunayev College, a private college, was our next visit. We spoke with the director, professors and administrators. This is one of the only colleges in Kazakhstan focusing on inclusive education, including students with disabilities. They have the goal of working with U.S. colleges to obtain best practices. I will make sure I work to help refer them to the right professors and schools.

We next went to a center for independent living; these centers are not the same as we have in the U.S. It is really a design and repair shop for wheelchairs. This is a government NGO called DOS. Everyone we met had a disability and used a wheelchair.

The Organization of Young People was our next visit. While they are doing good work, they had a strong focus on only one job role for people who are blind, massage. I explained wide spectrum of job roles for people who are blind. I hope I helped them to realize that people who are blind can, and in the U.S., do work in so many professional roles.

We next had dinner with three mothers who had sons with intellectual disabilities. Their passion for finding employment for people with disabilities is overwhelming.

I will be contacting them about best practices for advancing rights through further education and a creating a culture focused on employment first.

I love them and will not forget them!

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