Sam Collins UK

Do you want to spend a 2 hours bumping along a precarious potholed mountain road?

Do you want to swim in a beautiful azure lake with an overweight Kyrgyz taxi driver?

Do you want to be kidnapped by a middle-aged Kyrgyz women trying to force you to drink vodka?

If you answered yes to all of these questions volunteering in Kyrgyzstan is for you!!! (and you should probably seek psychiatric help)
The project is located in the foothills of the beautiful Tien-shan mountains in a small nursery. The location is stunning, surrounded by pristine birch forests and alpine meadows. The work can be tough but is rewarding as you can see the fruits of your labour. Generally it consists of weeding around the nursery, tidying up large areas that they simply don't have the manpower to do themselves. The location is kind of forest park is a occasionally visited by families having 'picnics'. The family picnic and gathering can be somewhat different from what your home county expectations, particularly the amount of intoxicating liquor drank. However Kyrgyz people are very hospitable and will waste no opportunity to tell you how thankful they are for you volunteering in their country and how much they respect you for doing so (typically following by a non-optional sharing of beverages). This is what really made the project for me (the hospitality not the alcohol, honest). To be a volunteer always means to really understand and explore the culture in the way that a tourist cannot and this is very true of Kyrgyzstan. People that may at first appear quite reserved and private open up and share fascinating insights into their lives and cultures. To see and hear how grateful the Kyrgyz people are on top having some fantastic adventures makes for a truly incredible experience.

Julie RodeJulie Rode


During one month, between mid-March and mid-April 2018 - I was part of the long term volunteering program of ‘Leadership Karakol’ youth organization. I was living in a host family in Ak-suu village, 15min away from Karakol and my goal was to teach English in this village orphanage.

This orphanage gathers children of all age. Nonetheless, I only worked with children from six to around twenty years old. There, the oldest kids went to school on mornings and so, during these times, I had only the youngest kids in my class, and reciprocally during afternoons.

In this orphanage, children can choose their activities and so, every day I had a different and unpredictable number of children who came and went as they wished. Moreover, their English level’s was very variable, with anyway a low average. Only the oldest kids had a good English level whereas the youngest kids could only spoke Kyrgyz. With them, communicating was hard. With the others we could interact in Russian as it was our common tongue – even if it was harder for me. Hopefully, I had in parallel Russian and Kyrgyz lessons with Kauhar and Aitilek (thanks again!) who helped me improving my Russian and learning useful words for communicating in Kyrgyz. And, of course, living in a Kyrgyzo-Russian-speaking context is better that any at home lesson for improvement!

With children, when I had big groups (around ten) we worked together mostly on some grammatical points with the oldest kids and on vocabulary with the youngest. When I had small groups, I was doing tutoring more than actual lessons. We were reading, writing or translating English texts with the youngest children and speaking with the oldest ones. I must say that I preferred tutoring. For instance, I had some very interesting conversations about Kyrgyz history and culture.

And sometimes, no one came! So, I learned to wait and let time fly!

In the evening, I was going home in my host family in Ak-suu. I had a room in their house for resting, working and sleeping. Nonetheless, I spend hours with them in the dining room, eating and playing with the youngest kids.

Being integrated in a family who is not ours is a rewarding experience even if it’s not always easy. In my case, I had the chance of adapting myself quite easily, and so, participating to their everyday life.

Week-ends were dedicated to Karakol town and surroundings exploration but mostly to these bewitching mountains that are the Tian Shan! I also had the occasion to go kayaking on Issyk kul lake, to participate in a test meal of ‘destination Karakol’, to go to a museum and to do some gardening. All these, thanks to amazing meetings!

At the end, during this month, I met very interesting people either in the Leadership organization, in Ak-suu orphanage, in my host family and while hitchhiking to go back to Ak-suu when it was too late for machrutkas!            

So, this time again, it was for me a very fulfilling experience in this beautiful country. Again, all my thanks to my host family,Ak-suu orphanage and Leadership organization – especially Nastia, Kauhar, AitilekandAltynai–for welcoming me! And thank you to Nora and all the other for the week-end’s excursions, your kindness and every moment of fun and laughter!


J’ai participé au programme de volontariat de l’organisation pour la jeunesse Leadership Karakol pendant un mois entre mi-mars et mi-avril 2018. Domiciliée dans une famille d’accueil à Ak-suu, petit village à 15min en voiture de Karakol, j’avais pour mission de donner des cours d’anglais dans l’orphelinat du village.

Cet orphelinat rassemble des enfants de tous âges. Je n’ai cependant eu l’occasion d’avoir en cours que des jeunes de six à une vingtaine d’années. Là-bas, le matin les plus âgés vont à l’école et j’avais donc les plus jeunes en matinée. Et réciproquement l’après-midi.

Dans l’orphelinat les jeunes ont le choix de leurs activités et j’avais donc chaque jour un nombre indéterminé d’enfants qui allait et venait comme bon leur semblait. De plus leur niveau d’anglais était très variable avec une moyenne tout de même relativement basse. Seuls les enfants les plus âgés avaient un niveau correct alors que les plus jeunes ne parlaient parfois que kirghize. Avec ces derniers la communication était plutôt compliquée. Avec les autres le russe permettait d’avoir une base commune – même si la dite base était parfois un peu faible de mon côté. Heureusement, j’avais en parallèle des cours de russe et de kirghize de la part de Kauhar et Aitilek (merci encore à elles !) qui m’ont permis soit de consolider mes connaissances en russe et d’apprendre un minimum de mots pour communiquer en kirghize. Et puis la vie dans un contexte kirghizo-russophone permet mieux que n’importe quel cours de s’améliorer !

Avec les enfants, quand j’avais de grands effectifs (c’est-à-dire une dizaine) nous travaillons ensemble en général des points de grammaire avec les plus grands et de vocabulaire avec les plus petits. Avec de petits effectifs les cours prenaient plus la forme de soutien où nous travaillons sur de la lecture, de l’écriture et de la traduction avec les plus jeunes et de la conversation avec les plus âgés. Je dois dire que j’ai largement préféré ce format ! J’ai notamment eu des conversations très intéressantes sur la culture et l’histoire kirghize avec certains groupes de grands.

Et puis parfois, je n’avais juste personne qui venait. Pendant des heures. Cela aurait été également une école de la patience et du lâché prise.

Le soir, je rentrais dans ma famille d’accueil à Ak-suu. J’avais une chambre dans leur maison dans laquelle je pouvais me reposer, travailler et dormir. Cependant, j’ai passé une bonne partie de mon temps avec la famille à partager les repas et des temps de jeu avec les plus jeunes enfants.

Etre intégré dans une famille qui n’est la nôtre est une expérience enrichissante mais pas toujours facile. Dans mon cas, j’ai eu la chance de m’être relativement bien adapté, participant pleinement à la vie de la famille.

Mes week-ends étaient dédié à l’exploration de la ville de Karakol, de ses alentours mais surtout de ces envoutantes montagnes que sont les Tian Shan ! J’ai également eu l’occasion d’aller faire du kayak sur le lac Issik-kul, de participer à un repas test de ‘destination Karakol’, d’aller au musée et de faire du jardinage ! Et ceux, à chaque fois grâce à de belles rencontres.

Au final, pendant ce mois, j’ai rencontré beaucoup de personnes très intéressantes que ce soit dans l’organisation Leadership, dans ma famille d’accueil, à l’orphelinat ou en faisant du stop pour rentrer à Ak-suu parce qu’il n’y avait plus de machrutkas !

Cela aura donc encore été pour moi une belle expérience dans ce pays. Merci encore à ma famille d’accueil, à l’orphelinat d’Ak-suu et à l’organisation pour la jeunesse Leadership – et tout particulièrement Nastia, Kauhar, Aitilek et Altynai - de m’avoir accueillie ! Et merci à Nora et tous les autres pour les excursions les week-ends et les moments de détente, de joie et de rires !

Experience at Community Based Tourism and Leadership - Kyrgyzystan

At first, I started to learn a lot of think about Karakol as a city but also on Kyrgyz tradition and people.

About CBT, I worked with a Kyrgyz volunteer. The aim was to develop two brochures about Karakol: for the summer time and the winter. We choose pictures and took the other pictures in the city to have visual brochures and add some comments with each picture.

I wrote a PowerPoint about deforestation and pollution. The aim was to make aware people in a village, where some of them cut trees illegally, of these problems and their consequences. I have to present it in English with the translation of my college in Kyrgyz.

With Leadership, I translated some tourist information from English to French. I completed some documents about a guided tour from Karakol in thirteen points of interest: a flyer and global information that the guide need to know for the visit. I realized a first visit with colleagues before proposing official visit to tourists. I had activities on the website trip advisor.

Kayaking trips  on lake Issyk-KulMoreover, I did other thing as taking pictures during the Child ‘Day fair. I participated also to activities: celebration in the honor of Pushkin, manifestation for women’s rights, sharing my experience with young volunteers... I had also the opportunity to do kayaking on the lake and to follow several Russian courses. The team was really kind.

In fact, I lived in two host families and with them I discover several things: Issyk Kul Lake, Mountains around Karakol, beverages and foods, celebration at the end of the Ramadan. And obviously, we discussed a lot about our countries and lives.

During my free time, with a friend, French volunteer, I discovered Jeti Oguz, Arashan Valley, Issik Kul Lake, Animals Market, and History Museum.

From this experience, I retained several interesting meetings and discussion. Kyrgyzystan is a nice country with a lot of contrast: weather, nature, culture (crossroads of several influences: kyrgyz, Russian, Turkish, Chinese ...)


I had an incredible and amazing experience with both Leadership and Eco Trek. Both Organisation have welcomed me from the first day as part of the team.
With Leadership I had the chance to give french class, participate in activities with young volunteers... It was a great occasion to be in contact with local population, especially the youth. I really appreciate the work of Leadership, what they do for the young people of Karakol but also for the city. I wish I could participate more in their activities but it is always difficult when you come for a short time. I believe also I could have proposed more initiatives although Leadership has a lot of activities already going on. My only regret was not to have done enough to help :)
With Eco Trek, it was really interesting to see the other side of treks. Seeing it not as a tourist but as organiser. It gave me the occasion to better understand the role of porters, guides, cooks, to understand their work, expectations... I had the chance to see a bit of the country and that was really nice. I believe that if I was more physically prepared, I could have gone to more treks and I believe that for future volunteers that wants to do more trek, Eco Trek could be a great partner.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time as volunteer in Karakol and Leadership is a great partner with a lot of ideas to implement. Any volunteers would be happy to collaborate with such organisation. They could learn a lot from them.

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