This was our last day in Kazakhstan; it was a quick and powerful trip. In Shymkent, after breakfast, we had an early morning seminar with 10 disability rights leaders, many other people with disabilities, and a couple of NGOs. After the seminar, we had lunch with a disability leader, Igul; she provided additional insight, as we chatted.
I was amazed on this trip the Kazakhstan government or government funded NGOs, tried to present a higher employment rate and positive reports about accessibility. This perspective was not true, based on what we learned from the disability leaders and others who had an accurate view. Based on our experience, there was limited built-environment access; I told Veniamin and Lukerya that Kazakhstan was really the “land of steps.”
We have a lot to do!
I want to first thank the U.S. State Department for sending Mary and me on this powerful trip! Sara Nelson did a phenomenal job of arranging this trip. Sara is professional, passionate and really cares about reaching out to make incredible change.
As I have told you before, Jenifer Boechner, Brandon Lammert and Sara Nelson are helping me impact Asia in reducing stigma and giving hope to people with disabilities…they are true champions. The leadership commitment of the U.S. State Department is what is really allowing me to talk to people with disabilities, who have faced barriers to employment; some people have never even dreamed of employment. Jenifer, Brandon, Sara and others are impacting Asia and other parts of the world with their genuine commitment. I respect, love and admire them for allowing me to be part of this great mission. We also were able to meet with Lance, Kanat, Tracy and Banu, U.S. Embassy and Consulate employees from Kazakhstan. We spent the most time with Kanat, who is very committed to his country and seeing change happen. Thank you Kanat for making us feel so welcome.
As I close, I must applaud Veniamin Abashov for his incredible leadership and outreach. He arranged a schedule with back to back meetings that were so well planned. The translator who accompanied us, Lukerya Lonshahkova, was with me every minute of the trip and she was one of the best. Here is the best part of all of this…Veniamin has cerebral palsy and Lukerya is blind. Wow! I had two people with disabilities, who were with me on every visit and coordinated everything with excellence!
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead