The Central - Asian University in Naryn, financed by Аga-Khan Fund, within the framework of the program on training guides in mountain region, holds three-phase workshop.
22 young men and girls aged between 20 and 30 are trained in ethics of development of tourism and drawing up a geographical map of the region, informs “Almaz-Naryn”.
The first stage of the workshop will end on August 12. Studies for participants of the workshop were carried out in a historical museum and art gallery of the city of Naryn. Other stages will be conducted till the end of this year. Participants will receive certificates.
The key moment of cooperation between Aga-Khan Fund and Kyrgyzstan is creation of the Central - Asian University within the framework of the Treaty, which signed by Prince Aga-Khan, Presidents of Tadjikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The treaty is ratified by parliaments of these republics.
A summer adventure: FOCUS Hike4Life in Kyrgyzstan
Also see related photo gallery.
“Kyrgyzstan? Where in the world is that?” my friend asked me when I informed him that I would be travelling to Kyrgyzstan, for the summer 2009 FOCUS Hike4Life.
A double rainbow greeted the participants on their first day of hiking. Photo: Alim Nagji
The Kyrgyz Republic is a landlocked country in Central Asia that shares borders with Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the south and China to the east. It is highly mountainous, with some 80 per cent of the country covered by the Tian Shan mountain range, and includes within its borders Lake Issyk-Kul, the second largest mountain lake in the world.
The eight-day hike took us approximately 100 kilometres through the mountains surrounding the lake, before ending along the shore of Issyk-Kul for a relaxing evening of local musical entertainment in Cholpon-Ata.
I met my fellow hikers for the first time when I landed at Manas International Airport, in Bishkek, the country’s capital. There were 40 of us from various countries around the world: Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Dubai, France, Ireland, Kenya, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Although exhausted from the long flights, we were eager to start hiking. Our journey began with a brief introduction to Kyrgyzstan and the work of the Aga Khan Development Network in the country.
A view of Lake Issyk-Kul in the distance. Photo: Alim Nagji
For most of us, one of the real eye-openers was a video walkthrough of the University of Central Asia campuses. Founded in 2000, the UCA — the first internationally chartered university in the world — will eventually have three campuses in three countries: Naryn in Kyrgyzstan, Tekeli in Kazakhstan, and Khorog in Tajikistan. It will focus on providing quality education in fields relevant to the unique needs of the mountain populations of Central Asia.
We also learnt about the Aga Khan School in Osh, which offers a multidisciplinary education with expertise in English, Information Technology, Economics, and the Humanities. It is a world class facility, featuring computer labs, gymnasium space and classrooms dedicated to inspiring and educating future leaders. The staff at the AKDN office in Bishkek showcased the region’s famous hospitality, welcoming us and offering an insight into the role that AKDN plays in supporting the development of civil society in the region.
Focus Humanitarian Assistance has been active in the region for many years. Last October, a devastating earthquake in the Osh oblast destroyed the village of Nura, killing 74 people. FOCUS worked with AKDN and its Mountain Societies Development Support Programme to deliver aid and improve disaster preparedness in the region.
The FOCUS Hike4Life Challenge is a longstanding effort that couples awareness and fundraising with an opportunity for personal growth and networking. Previously held annually in December, our hike was the event’s summer debut.
The FOCUS Hike4Life women participants gather for a photo at the highest point of the hike, 3800 metres. Photo: Alim Nagji
The hiking trek appeared to be a microcosm of Kyrgyzstan, reflecting all its diversity. We crossed rivers on horseback, negotiated steep vertical inclines and scaled rocky mountain passes. Whether we were aiming to reach a glacier peak, a snow ridden summit at 3 800 metres, a natural hot spring, or our campsite, we each had a balanced desire to push our personal limits with the necessity of working together to ensure that everyone made it safely to the end.
It was a challenging journey. Our group ranged in age from 20 – 66, and the conditions were a drastic departure from the first world lifestyles that many were accustomed to.
But we read a hopeful sign in a double rainbow that greeted us along the way: It foreshadowed that our spirits would not be broken by any challenge that lay ahead. We met unforgiving hail and chilly nights, but found comfort in huddling around a campfire, mesmerised by the strumming of a komuz, a traditional Kyrgyz stringed instrument.
Between a mountain and a waterfall, the group commences its descent. Photo: Alim Nagji“
It was an enriching and a humbling experience as we trekked up the mountains, some slower than others,” said Dr Fatima Mawji, former Vice-Chair of FOCUS USA. “Of course this was not a race, but a hike for life — a hike to help save lives and make disaster resilient communities.”
As a frequent traveller and physician working at the Roshan Clinic in Afghanistan, Dr Ashnoor Nagji was no stranger to new environments. She felt that the hike provided “a very tangible reminder of our innate power and the urgent need for us to harness our potential for our personal and collective betterment.”
For me, it was a unique opportunity to leave Canada behind and explore a completely different culture and landscape — one that was seldom touched by man and astoundingly beautiful. Education often focuses on what you learn in the classroom, but opportunities like these enable firsthand discoveries about culture, civilisations and how drastically different the world can be.
Members of the group pose for a photograph in front of the campsite. Photo: Alim Nagji
Nishma Momin noted that the challenges of the hike created a tighter community: “At first, it was strangers helping strangers, but by the end it was family helping family.”
The next Hike4Life takes place in Uganda in December. Participants will be challenged to climb the twin peaks of Mt Elgon and Mt Kaddam in Eastern Uganda. For more details, please visit www.focuschallenge.org.
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