Recently, a group of photojournalism students from the University of Nebraska come to Kyrgyzstan for three weeks for what must be the coolest class assignment ever. Through my connections at AUCA, I was put in touch with them and was invited to accompany them as they traveled around and took photos for some of the stories they were pursuing. Since I don’t actually have any photojournalism experience (Really? Yeah. But you taught photojournalism? Yes, I know.), I happily tagged along. Here are some photos from the first trip.
We drove to a village called Tuz, located about 30ish km east of Bishkek, to visit a working farm for recovering alcoholics and former homeless men and women.
The students had been working on a story about homelessness in Kyrgyzstan and had already visited the farm, but were invited back for lunch that day. The men prepared a giant pot of plov for us.
The center is run by an organization called Teen Challenge, and even though its Statement of Purpose is “to evangelize and disciple those with life-controlling problems,” religion didn’t appear to be a defining characteristic of the rehabilitation program. One of the center’s employees said some of the participants do convert to Christianity, but it’s not the primary focus of this particular center.
Below, one of the center’s students reads a passage from the Bible.
The men I met and had lunch with seemed nice. One older man, Batbek (below, left), seemed to really enjoy talking with the female student (although she doesn’t speak any Russian), telling her about his days in the army. He relied on me to translate for her and, strangely enough, decided Kirstin was too difficult (as he explained to me) and changed my name for the day to Katya.
The participants take care of cattle, horses, chickens and rabbits on the farm. There are plans to expand the farm later this year.
Despite the frigid cold, everybody was in good spirits and I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to meet some of the people running this center and some of its students.