Curiosity Drew Me from Dashoguz to America

        On behalf of S.M. who is currently pursuing his Associate degree in Applied Sciences in the USA:

             Everyone has a story to tell, whether it is a story of love, friendship or family. My story relates to a pursuit of educational dreams, which started in my hometown Dashoguz a few years ago.  I remember seeing tourists in the local bazaar, listening to them speak in a different language and being completely fascinated with their language and background.  I tried to understand what they were saying and where they were from. My curiosity later transformed into a passion for English language.

In my teen years I was lucky to meet influential individuals who helped to transform my life forever. Those influential individuals were Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV). They taught me various ways of communicating from formal English to American slang, all of which I appreciated immensely.

        However, there were also a number of hardships that I faced. Not having a book for my beginner level English was a significant obstacle. All I had was an old Russian-English dictionary, which I treasured immensely. After months of memorizing words from the dictionary, and most importantly trying to use them in class, I started forming basic sentences. Derek Wood, a PCV, and my first English teacher told me that I had to master Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to be accepted to US schools. As our English club had only one TOEFL book, we had to rotate the book among students. I was excited about my turn which always fell on weekends because it meant that I could practice TOEFL for a few days.

            It took me years before I was comfortable with TOEFL. Shortly thereafter I applied to multiple US colleges and was accepted to a few. However, the next biggest hurdle was finding the funds to pay for my education. Surely enough those were schools that were international student friendly and offered financial aid or merit-based scholarships all of which were extremely competitive. After few years of unsuccessful attempts, my second English teacher, and a good friend - Kenyon Weaver, also a PCV, suggested that I take a detour: apply to American University in Central Asia (AUCA) located in Kyrgyzstan. I applied, and unfortunately was rejected because of my “incomplete” high school degree. Turkmenistan used to have a nine-year educational system, which was not accepted by many international universities, and required additional preparatory training prior to applying.

        Upset and heartbroken, I continued on to mandatory service in Turkmenistan's military.  AUCA was still my goal. However, the obstacle was still there: my high school degree did not suffice. 

With the support of Arzuw Foundation, I decided to enroll into AUCA’s preparatory program, which covered my first year. There were no funds for the following years of the program, but I decided to take that first step. Due to political instability in Kyrgyzstan at the time, I was forced to withdraw from the program and seek other options.  A year later, I left to Russia, but my dream of studying in the US followed me. Shortly thereafter, through another PCV named Owen McMullen, I found out about a new program supported by US Embassy, called Prep4Success. The program prepared students for admission to US colleges and universities. Six months after completing the program, I attempted to apply to several U.S. Universities again. But this time with one big difference: I had financial aid from Prep4Success. I applied to schools in Texas and Minnesota. One of the main factors, I chose Universities in those states were friends who were willing to help with housing.

Today, I am happy to announce that I am proud student at a community college in Minnesota. My friends have become my second family here. Their names are Larry and Patty Longards. For almost two years now we have shared one roof over our heads, and exciting new adventures.

S.M's trip to Glacier Hike in Alaska

S.M's trip to Glacier Hike in Alaska

              Closer to the end of my second year in Community College, my scholarship from Prep4Success was exhausted. Yet again, I was lucky to receive Education Bridge Fund Award from Arzuw Foundation. The scholarship and zero-interest loan provided to me was extremely helpful in continuing my Associates degree in Applied Sciences.  Thanks to these programs, students like me receive hope that achieving our simple dreams of higher education are possible.

           Looking back, I realize how lucky I am to have the support of my family and friends. My friends inspire and empower me. Ironically, I now live 30 minutes away from Derek Wood whom I met in Turkmenistan. Only this time, we are half way across the world our original location.  Derek often tells me “What you have done is incredible!” The odds of me receiving higher education were slim, but my perseverance helped. I hope my story empowers those who feel that everything is irrelevant because they face significant financial hurdles.

           My story of educational pursuit will come a full circle when I return to Turkmenistan with a Bachelor’s degree at hand. I look forward to the days when I can give back to my family, community, and friends. I am also grateful to such an organizations as Arzuw Foundation, US Embassy, and all the supportive people in my life. They keep reminding me that as long as the dream is alive, they will be there to support us when needed.



From Krasnovodsk to Budapest : A success Story of an Arzuw Alumnus

Rustem A., an AUBG alumnus and a recipient of multiple Arzuw Foundation grants. Rustem A. is currently working at Global Operations Finance Center at General Electrics in Budapest, Hungary.

Rustem A., an AUBG alumnus and a recipient of multiple Arzuw Foundation grants. Rustem A. is currently working at Global Operations Finance Center at General Electrics in Budapest, Hungary.

I am Rustem A. from Krasnovodsk, Turkmenistan.

         As a man who started working at the age of ten to financially support my family, early in life, I realized the hardship of everyday life in Turkmenistan.  The desire to become a worthy man of my family has been constantly pushing me forward to achieve things that would seem impossible in my society.  Since my mom neither had money nor connections, I knew the only possible way for me to get a good life was through proper education.  I recall the times when I was learning English or preparing for the entry exams to the university, people would say, “Why do you study? Why are you trying? It is useless anyway unless you have money.”

        My desire to study and to get a high- quality education was so strong, that I was ready to experience any type of difficulties in life. My plan simply consisted of two parts: learning English and getting accepted to a university abroad.

        When I started learning English at the age of fourteen at the special languages center (which lasts for four semesters), I realized that I might not be able to afford it after the first semester. My wish to learn English was so immense and strong, that I managed to reduce the course payments by 50% every time-as I was a top student in all four semesters, and still paid other half myself by working overtime at my grandparents shop every day after school time.

        When I got accepted to American University in Bulgaria, it was one of the happiest days of my life. Yet, it was under a big question whether I could allow myself such a high-quality and pricy education or not. The only way of making my dream possible was through multiple student loans and long sleepless summer working days in the Unites States. During those four summers in the US, I had to work around 100 hours a week and sleep barely 3 hours a night. Additionally, during university years, I used to be part of  “financial pyramids” game with my peers and friends. In other words, I and my friends would contribute a certain amount of money to so called “bank” and each month one of the participants will get the whole amount of mutually collected funds. This method worked for me in some way or other.

         Regardless of all these efforts, I still encountered the times of financial difficulties due to high cost of AUBG education and high fees of Work & Travel Program. I was on the brink of leaving the university. During those moments, Arzuw Foundation was the only organization that tremendously helped me with such programs as Education Bridge Fund, CIEE Work & Travel Scholarship and Work & Travel Loan program.  I was granted Work & Travel award in 2014, which allowed me to go to the United States for one last summer. As a result, I managed to reach my set goals that I am highly proud of, such as closing all my three student loans and sending my brother to study to Russia.

         Currently, I am working at Global Operations Finance Center at General Electrics in Budapest, Hungary. Within a short period of four months, I created a strong image of a hardworking man with outstanding process-improvement skills. Since the first day I joined the company, I tried to go above and beyond by simplifying multiple financial and non-financial processes in my team as well as in other teams. As a result, I was recognized with two Simplification awards. But I am still working to get more and bigger company-wide recognitions.

          Regarding my future plans, I am planning to relocate to GE Capital in UK by the end of 2015 for the better career perspectives. Afterwards, I might switch to investment banking as it has always attracted me. I have a dream of doing Masters at Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania (One of Top Business Schools in Finance worldwide). I believe in my heart that I will reach my goal within the next five years.

            My advice for Turkmen students studying abroad would be to appreciate their privileged situation as there are many others who can only dream about such things. “Appreciating what one currently has is what very persistent people do.”  Not less importantly, one has to make sure to gain as much relevant experience as possible while at school as it will allow one to stand out from the crowd upon graduation.

            To sum it up, I am very grateful to Arzuw Foundation for believing in my potential and for assisting me to become who I am right now. My accomplishments would not be achieved if not Arzuw’s programs which support young Turkmen students in their pursuit of education.

Thank you so much, Spasibo Bolshoye, Tanry Yalkasyn!

 

Karakum Leadership Forum - Paving the Way for New Youth Led Programs

  “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”-Helen Keller.

            On August 20-21, Arzuw Foundation successfully gathered 15 young Turkmen leaders and scholars in Washington, DC for Karakum Leadership Forum. The purpose of the forum was to design and implement youth centered programs and opportunities for ambitious Turkmen youth in and out Turkmenistan. Motivated KLF participants arrived not only from the East and West Coast of the United States, but also from Europe and Turkmenistan itself.

           On the first day of the Forum, KLF participants held an action-oriented discussion on the importance of Youth-Adult Partnerships with Amy Bernath, IREX representative. The discussion involved various approaches of Youth-Adult partnership and mentorship for the future advancement of Turkmen community. Furthermore, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkmenistan and a founder of International Media Solutions, Mike Clarke engaged participants on the role of modern technology in shaping young people’s social involvement, precisely the power of social media in changing the way we interact and respond to social issues. “It was great to meet so many young, ambitious Turkmen leaders. They give me hope for a bright Turkmen future,” Mike C. said. The first day ended with powerful brainstorming sessions for improvement of youth demand-driven programs and delivery of youth voice and influence within the Turkmen society.

          On the second day of the Karakum Leadership Forum, the participants held discussions and talks about the importance of digital security, learnt about social entrepreneurship as a mechanism for economic empowerment, and attended meetings with key development institutions in Washington DC, that are established precisely for enhancement of youth participation and execution of numerous programs for youth leadership. During the meetings, our Turkmen scholars gained knowledge on youth social entrepreneurship, youth civic engagement and youth initiation.

“The KLF forum was amazing and useful, also it gave hope seeing educated and talented students who are passionate to help the people back home. It was motivational and helpful, which offered connections and networking,” one of the KLF participants said. Indeed, our young Turkmen scholars are full of passion, aspiration and motivation, the traits that gradually transform into powerful actions for youth development and social engagement.

         In addition to the diverse conversations and discussions, two of our Arzuw scholars, Dursun H. and Jahan T. presented their already implemented research in comparative analysis of youth challenges and opportunities in Turkmenistan and Myanmar, along with studies on Internet influence on Turkmen girls’ personal and social development.

              The final result of Karakum Leadership Forum was the development of demand-driven recommendations for Arzuw Foundation and building Karakum Scholars Network that will assemble like-minded Turkmen leaders, intellectuals and scholars who aim towards a common outcome.

            “Karakum Leadership Forum was a great opportunity to meet enthusiastic, dedicated and inspiring young people from my country. For a long time, I felt like I was isolated from the community. I was looking for support from people who believe that certain things should be done, improved, changed and introduced in Turkmenistan. I hope that newly established Karakum Scholars Network will grow both in numbers and influence and serve as a solid ground for productive youth engagement and effective communication,” said Ali H., KLF participant.

 

 

 

 

Education Bridge Fund Became a Connecting "Bridge" for a Turkmen Student in Texas.

Aygul

At times pursuing education is not only an enjoyable journey, but also a challenging endeavor.  For those who need a little boost, or help in supporting them through their educational journey, Arzuw Foundation provides various grants and scholarships. The goal is to help young and aspiring individuals stay on track of achieving their dreams and obtaining quality education.

In May of 2015, Aygul A. graduated from Collin College with an associate degree in science in Dallas, Texas. Aygul A. comes from Mary, Turkmenistan. Prior to coming to the United States, she was a finalist of Arzuw’s Turkmen Mentors Program and an active volunteer at the American Corner in Mary.  

Aygul’s outstanding academic excellence and active community engagement in Collin College enabled her to receive an almost full scholarship to continue her education at the University of North Texas. However, despite being awarded the scholarship, there were several hardships Aygul had to encounter. “My transfer scholarship covered almost all of my tuition fees, but I still needed a little more. I also needed to cover my health insurance. I applied for Education Bridge Fund and was awarded a scholarship to be able to continue my education this coming fall,” said Aygul.

In the fall of 2015, Aygul will start her junior year at the University of North Texas, majoring in Linguistics and Law. During the interview with Arzuw Foundation, Aygul shared that “without Arzuw Foundation’s assistance, I would’ve not been able to start my school on time and follow my dream of becoming a United Nations representative and a language professor at a University.”

Arzuw Foundation supports and provides a number of opportunities for ambitious, diligent and passionate young leaders.  Aygul A. is one of them. As she states, “Invest your time in non-stop learning and service. Whatever field you are in, give it the full dedication and be the best at it. Always remind yourselves that you are the future leaders.”

At Arzuw Foundation, we believe that the future depends on the skills and realization of the dreams of Turkmenistan’s young generation. Looking toward the future, we will continue to ensure that today’s late teenagers, and early 20 year olds are educated and employed into careers that can give them an opportunity to contribute to their country’s economic growth and social development.

Education Bridge Fund is one of many programs enabled by Arzuw Foundation, which provides emergency financial assistance including internship grant awards and work and travel loans. For more information go to http://www.arzuw.org/bridge

 

           

 

 

 

Interested in a Learning Experience? Hurry Up!!!

When one thinks of pursuing higher education, having the right financial backing to achieving that dream can be one of the most significant hurdles in that process. Being a full-time student and maintaining good grades in college is often not enough, and most of the students look for various job opportunities to cover college fees and other personal expenses.

Thus, Arzuw Foundation encourages students to partake in a number of educational and professional opportunities that can provide an excellent learning experience for future Turkmen leaders. We have put together some scholarships, grants and internship programs which maybe beneficial to students from Turkmenistan. We will continue to provide updates to this list on a regular basis, so please stay tuned with our blog.

This list contains a wide range of opportunities for pursuing higher education and achieving career goals.

1.     Scholarships to further your education with August deadlines.

 http://jlvcollegecounseling.com/2015/07/01/scholarships-with-august-2015-deadlines/

2.     Full tuition for student who are seeking Master’s Degree.

http://www.westminster.ac.uk/study/prospective-students/fees-and-funding/scholarships/january/westminster-international-scholarships

3.     Free summer academies for those who study architecture, Law, information Technology, business and other related majors.

http://sa.ubt-uni.net/

4.     International contest for journalists worldwide.

http://blog.hostwriter.org/apply-for-hostwriterprize/

5.     Grants for international students who want to pursue higher education at a University of Shanghai for Science and Technology. 

http://isoe.usst.edu.cn/s/17/t/69/66/06/info26118.htm

6.     Research Associateship Program for STEM majors.

http://sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/RAP/PGA_050491

7.     Internship and job opportunities at United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

http://jobs.undp.org/cj_view_jobs.cfm

 


 

 

 

 


Turkmen Students Represent Turkmenistan at a Multicultural Night in Boston, MA

Multicultural Night in Boston

Many will ask, “Turkmenistan? Is it Russia?” Majority of Turkmen students who study abroad are familiar with this question.

As a young, independent country, Turkmenistan offers its hospitality to many cultures around the world. Many Turkmen students who are enrolled in Universities abroad take part in various international events, representing Turkmenistan and its rich culture.

On July 2, 2015, a group of Turkmen students studying in Boston took part in a “Multicultural Night” at Cambridge College. The purpose of the event was to demonstrate the diversity of international students, increase awareness and promote multiculturalism. More than 10 cultures were represented at the event.

During the event, presenters displayed their cultures by featuring posters, wearing traditional costumes, and performing cross-cultural group dances. Turkmen students performed their traditional dance and engaged their host community in national dance known as Kusht Depdi.

One of the event’s highlights for many students from Turkmenistan, was meeting Igor Y., another Turkmen fellow who has lived in Boston for more than 10 years.

“You guys brought so many memories. I feel like I just arrived in Turkmenistan,” Igor Y. said.

The night ended with a storm of applause, a vibe of positive energy, and many joyful smiles on people’s faces.

Arzuw Foundation strives to support Turkmen students studying abroad and any opportunity for them to take part in the promotion of Turkmenistan’s rich culture and history. These multicultural events raise awareness and respect, and bring a piece of home to Turkmen students who at times go without seeing their families for years.  We believe that creating a positive educational experience built on mutual respect and appreciation is crucial to the development of caring and successful leaders of tomorrow.   







The Giving Lens opportunity enabled by Arzuw Foundation

A year ago, Arzuw Foundation enabled one of the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) students, Mayya K., to take a life-changing trip to Jordan through Giving Lens Organization. This experience opened a door for her to experience a new world through photography. The Giving Lens (TGL) is a unique organization that combines a range of opportunities for people, who love photography and travelling, explore different communities and portray the lives of people through photography.

As Mayya  K. quotes, “if not having a passion for all these things, then TGL is a wrong place, unless you are trying to change your life, and take a step to get out of your comfort zone. But whatever the reason is, TGL trips do challenge and do change people. Well, I came back inspired and motivated.”

Soon-to-be graduates and professionals: Dovran, Natasha, Ruslan

Natasha, Dovshan and Ruslan have worked hard to receive their education in one of the best universities of the regions of Eastern Europe and Central Asia and now they are ready to start their after-college lives.

“Studying at AUBG was one of the most memorable moments of my life, and the closer the day of the commencement ceremony, the more I feel like I’m on the edge of making a huge step towards my dream,” says Dovran.

Our alumni are creative, talented and now have educational background that will allow them start their successful careers.  While it is very hard to decide what will be the best thing to do after the graduation, Dovran, Natasha and Ruslan are very optimistic about the asset of knowledge and skills that they have developed during their years of undergraduate degree.

 “Education alone cannot offer me a well-paid job. But it gave me a set of skills and qualities that I use to define my future. I gained confidence in the next day and I became persistent in my quest for the best job opportunity. If I didn't study at AUBG I would be working on individual entrepreneur without any promotion perspective. Today I see more career options than four years ago,” reflects Natasha who is going to pursue a career in marketing and advertising.

The success stories of our alumni inspire many young people in Turkmenistan to be persistent in their search for knowledge too. Natasha’s younger sister has now decided to apply for a university after three years of hard work in her home city in Turkmenistan. Just like her many other young people need a bright example of the successful academic path that leads active and creative students into their post-college lives.

Education is the guarantee of the bright future. It is also a very long and uneasy path to take. With the inspiration of their parents, donor support and continuous involvement of Arzuw community, our alumni have passed through this long road and now ready to explore new horizons.

Dovran took a word to thank all our donors for their contributions that we have received throughout these last four years.

“Since my childhood I’ve been told that education is my number one priority. And due to the kindness of individuals like You, I had this wonderful opportunity to earn my bachelor’s degree at this prestigious university. Thanks to You, I have been greatly motivated to keep on pushing forward and always dream big.”

Just like our alumni, Arzuw is and will remain persistent in pursuing the goal of educating outstanding young scholars who will further the values of the foundation in spreading the knowledge and educating young people from Turkmenistan.

Human is the greatest capital: Arzuw Alumni reunion

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Hurray dear donors, volunteers, friends and supporters of Arzuw!

Arzuw has come to the time when its activities are now reflected in the actions, goals and career paths of the young people from Turkmenistan who have been inspiring us for the last eight years of our work since 2006.

Arzuw has held its first Alumni Reunion with participation of the 15 most outstanding young people who have been actively involved into Arzuw’s projects. We planned this tremendous activity to sum up results of our programs, discuss our future plans and set up new goals that will inspire more work and higher results. Our alumni are now taking the leading roles of Arzuw project coordinators, mentors to the younger generation of students and developers of the new sets of values and ideas promoted by the among Turkmen community.

During three days of the reunion our alumni held idea labs and discussed how to improve our existing projects, what new projects we want to be implemented, what it means to be a college graduate and what expects us in our common future. Our alumni also made a media project on how education has changed their lives. The reunion created a platform where young Turkmen leaders get together for networking and discussion of the ways to work with Arzuw and independently with each other on issues related to the professional and personal development of our community.

We have screened the film “Girl Rising” and set up the context of the event as education that drives us into the future. Our alumni were very active in discussion of the topics related to how to promote, help and encourage young Turkmen use all existing educational opportunities within the context of Turkmenistan.

We are looking forward to our next reunion and new great ideas put forward by our alumni. 

Welcome new Work and Travel season

Arzuw always welcomes new initiatives that extend opportunities for young Turkmen scholars to continue and complete their education. One of the initiatives that were made in 2011 was to open more opportunities for Turkmen to participate in the popular Work and Travel program. Through the Work and Travel Loan Program Arzuw provided scarce and precious self-funding opportunity for Turkmen students. We have also expanded these opportunities with the help and a generous donation of the 10 CIEE scholarships that allow us to send more students to the United States to take advantage of this exchange program.

Arzuw continues to improve the work of the Work and Travel loan program. Our program manager Anna Poplasky helped develop “care package” component of the Work and Travel loan program. This summer we'll be offering volunteers the opportunity to send care packages to Turkmen students while they are in the US and away from friends and family.  Anna says she is happy to see students getting as much as possible out of the program. A summer abroad might not be the first time when Turkmen students leave their home country, as many already study in foreign countries. However, it is a great learning experience.

Arzuw is determined to bring Turkmen students closer to their dreams of higher education. This year we plan to distribute $6,000 in no-interest loans and 10 CIEE scholarships. Current application and detailed information about the program can be found at http://www.arzuw.org/watloan or contact director@arzuw.org with any inquiries.

 “We hope that WTL recipients enjoy their time in the USA during the program and take the most out of it. First of all it is a great cultural exchange opportunity for them and we hope that they will learn a lot from it,” says WTL program manager Anna Poplasky.

Congratulations on International Women’s day – Empower women!

Every March 8th half of the world celebrates International Women’s Day. The equivalent to Mother’s Day, March 8th is a celebration of the role of women in our society. It is also a celebration of spring and new beginnings.

Arzuw is keen on women's empowerment in Central Asia. We have held a first student-led conference “Women and Globalization” in 2012 with participation of young women from all around Central Asia including Afghanistan. During the 2013 alumni reunion we have screened the “Girl’s Rising” movie and continue to stress the role of women in daily changes that occur in our community.

Arzuw urges its alumni, volunteers and friends to help us promote education for girls around the world and empower young women of Central Asia.

Meanwhile, have a look at this inspirational video of Girl Rising.

Good start, big ambitions and a lot of expectations! - Internship grant program

Arzuw has granted its first internship through the new Internship Grant Program. The grant aims to help young Turkmen become professionals through participation in the work of  world-known organizations. Arzuw has already announced that its first internship grant was given to a student currently interning with an environmental NGO in the Middle East. Good start, big ambitions and a lot of expectations! We decided to share this exciting experience of our scholar through the interview that he gave to Arzuw.

To protect the privacy of the student, his name and organization are not disclosed.

Arzuw: Hi and thanks for giving us this interview.

Participant: My pleasure.

A: Tell us little bit about your major and did you choose it?

P:  I study political science. It is a fascinating field and I believe I can make a change. By change I mean I can contribute to the development of my country. I think our government is in need of good specialists and needs to develop and advance relations with foreign countries too, which is what I aim to do.

A: Where do you see yourself working in the future?

P: Either as a politician or any person working in our government.

A: How did you find your NGO that you are interning with and what made you interested in them?

P: I found it through my friend who worked in AISEC before. He helped me a lot in finding this internship. I was interested in anything that related to politics. Environment is a big field directly linked to policy making. Any environmentalist company needs to talk to politicians in order to implement its projects. So I thought, maybe I can make a bridge between these two. 

A: Was it difficult to get an internship with them?

P: No. But technically it might have been hard for them to choose, as they dealt with interns throughout the world. I personally did not see any candidates. Just when I arrived in Oman, I saw my colleagues with whom I work now. I think my English and my acting skills was an asset. They said they needed it.

A: What are your main duties and responsibilities and which is your favorite part?

P: My general duties include going for school sessions, holding awareness campaigns in malls. It was all about protecting the environment in Oman. My favorite part of my internship is school sessions. We once went to Indian school and kids there were very sweet and smart. Teaching them was an amazing experience. 

A: Do you find it challenging to intern abroad?

P: Not at all. I would say my language skills, particularly English helps a lot. 

A: What kind of professional skills have you already developed?

P: My majors, understanding international politics, knowledge of world history. Interning abroad is a unique experience. I cannot say that it was particularly challenging, but it is useful for my future work.

A: What is your plan for return? Do you plan to continue working in this sphere?

P: I'm already back to my homeland. I will apply gained skills everywhere I can, because it is all about saving our environment.

A: Thank you and good luck!

 

Need $ for an Internship? We can help!

The Internship Grant Program is now accepting applications---this program provides Turkmen students at any level of higher education with funds to help them participate in professional internships.  Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and funds can be used to pay for airfare, living expenses and more.  

Apply today!

 

Letter from Sari post Iron Man Race!

To the most wonderful group of supporters ever,

Now that it has been one week since the triathlon, I wanted to take a minute to thank you once again for your support of the Arzuw Foundation and our amazing students. I had plenty of time during the race to think about the hard work and sacrifices of these students, and their dedication and persistence in the face of many obstacles was a huge source of encouragement for me. 

I hope you will consider ongoing support of the Arzuw Foundation. It only takes a moment to become a monthly donor at http://www.arzuw.org/donate/. Every single dollar you donate goes to helping Turkmen youth.

Now about that race...I'll keep it brief, but it was a long (6 hours) hard (70.3 total km) wet and cold slog through gorgeous Austrian countryside and little towns. There were very few Americans racing (and very few women overall - only 350 out of 2,200 racers!), so when I raced by spectators, they saw the U.S. flag on my race number and would shout "USA! USA!" It was very cool, no doubt! It was incredible having my guy Aaron there along with my parents, and even though I saw them just a handful of times on the long course, it was so motivating to know they were there. In the end, I came in 41st for my age group, and was the 2nd female finisher from the U.S. overall, so that's pretty cool! :)

For now, I'm taking it easy and slowly getting back into yoga/Pilates before hitting the roads again. The 2014 race season is just around the corner - gotta be ready for that!

Thank you again for all you've done in making this race mean so much more than just a race. For the Turkmen students depending on our fundraising for their fall and winter tuition this year, it means everything.

Take good care, and I hope we can all stay in touch!

All the best,

Sari

 

Check out her race photo here! 

Natasha Looks Forward to Graduation

On September 2nd Natasha began her final year at AUBG and spent time talking with new freshmen students about their concerns going away to college for the first time. Listening to their concerns made her think how far away they were, and how far she had come in her educational journey. Natasha’s major at AUBG is Business Administration with a minor in Information Systems and she enjoys the design aspect of the field more so than the programming.

Looking back on how far she has come, she reflects on the skills she has learned and how this experience has shaped her life.

“ I have become more organized in that I have developed my time management skills,” she says. “I don't panic that much when I look into the future. Most important, I have become more stable emotionally.”

Natasha says this year she is mostly looking forward to making special final memories of school with her friends, traveling, raising her GPA, and of course graduating. She says the biggest challenge she has had to overcome when she transferred to AUBG has been adjusting to the intense workload.

“I had to do several presentations, two essays and in-class writing assignments for a class at AUBG, compared to AUCA where I had to only write two papers for a course during a semester,” she says.

Although the workload is tough, she thoroughly enjoys her design classes, even though they caused her some sleepless nights. She also has immensely enjoyed playing Ultimate Frisbee and a new academic center that is “a little student haven.”

Now she is looking forward to graduation, and her prom, and thinking heavily about graduate school and finding a job.

“Right after graduation life can turn in any direction,” she says. “Basically, here is the plan: I see myself working in a Design/Advertising company with creative community.”

“I will truly miss AUBG community, Blagoevgrad and all places in Bulgaria that I visited,” she adds. “I want to thank the Foundation and its sponsors for making my student life happen which I am going to miss very much.”

Natasha as a baby at home in Turkmenistan---and now ready to graduate from AUBG.  

Education Bridge Fund Keeps 3 Students in School

The Education Bridge Fund provides no-interest, emergency awards to Turkmen students, with the goal of this program to enable already resourceful students to remain enrolled in university by allowing them to overcome short-term financial obstacles to completing their education. 

The program is flexible in how emergency is defined but generally they believe an emergency to be an unforeseen and usually unavoidable situation that creates a temporary financial obstacle for a student to pay for their education.   It can also help buy books that might be beyond a student’s budget, help with rent for a month, get them home for a family emergency, etc. 

The program generally doesn’t help pay a student’s tuition unless they are close, say within hundreds of dollars, before they can "bridge" the gap.

Applicants must be current Turkmen citizens and must be undergraduate students enrolled in full-time studies at a college or university accredited by a recognized regional/international body outside of Turkmenistan. Sometimes there are exceptions for graduate students.

Applicants also must have completed their freshman year of studies before applying.

Tim Moench, a long-time supporter of the Arzuw Foundation, has been volunteering with the Education Bridge Fund since Spring 2013.

“We've come across some incredibly resourceful students,” he says. “It is good to know that we've allowed a small number of students to stay in school and finish their education.”

 Although they have a small budget and some students have been turned away, Tim says they do their best to get the word out to do what they can for the students.

“We'd like to help every Turkmen student who comes to us, especially those brave ones who come to study in the US,” he says. “We are all volunteers, and come from many different backgrounds.  What we all have in common is a great desire to see Turkmen students succeed.”

In the first round of Education Bridge Fund awards the program was able to help three students with awards of $1,000.  One student had earned less than expected at his summer job, another needed assistance paying rent before his campus job paychecks began arriving.  These are the types of gaps this fund hopes to continue to be able to fill.  Learn more.

 

JLo Should Sing for the Dreams of Turkmen Kids from “The Block”

This weekend, Jennifer Lopez flew to Turkmenistan to put on a concert for an oil company where the country’s president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, was in attendance. JLo’s singing happy birthday to Berdymukhammedov has made a lot of news for a country that most Americans cannot find on a map.  Reading the news of the concert, I wanted to throw my computer out the window.  But in all honesty, we should start by saying sag bol (thank you in Turkmen) for the attention she has brought to this rarely discussed corner of the world.  JLo has taken a lot of criticism for her concert there, but truth be told she has a solid record of using her voice for the voiceless as she demonstrated just this year by her performance in the Chime for Change Concert.  Now she has a chance to do the same for young Turkmen. 

JLo’s birthday song may have made the headlines, but what isn’t being talked about are the challenges young Turkmen face trying to lift themselves and their families out of poverty with a college education.   The Arzuw Foundation, has spent years mentoring and supporting Turkmen students who want nothing more than to get an education.  Arzuw means dream in Turkmen because that’s just what an education is and remains for most young Turkmen unless we can help them. I met a student named Batyr who so desperately wanted to learn English, he would travel four hours by bus three times a week to take an English class with a Peace Corps Volunteer.  I spoke to a Turkmen student just this week, Sheker, who is working 80-90 hours a week this summer to earn enough college tuition money for next semester. 

Four years ago as the son of a single mother earning less than $300 a month, a student that we’ve supported with a scholarship couldn’t even dream of going to college.  Today Myrat (name changed) has nearly a 4.0 GPA and is planning to become a teacher back home in Turkmenistan. Myrat is a just a kid from the block in Dashoguz, Turkmenistan. He has big dreams and so do so many other Turkmen students.  But they can’t do it alone.

JLo knows what it’s like to dream, to ache for a different, better life.  And she knows what its like to break free of the constraints that can hold a young person down.  Turkmen students don’t often get a voice, but JLo you can give them one.  You can sing for them, their futures, their dreams.  Turkmenistan can be a place for these young people to thrive as entrepreneurs and innovators.  But the country needs talented, educated and thoughtful Turkmen to pour their energies into their country’s development.  Education is the key to Turkmenistan’s future. 

JLo can use her star power to send young Turkmen like Bayram, Maral and Risalat to college to become business leaders, teachers, and engineers in Turkmenistan.  JLo knows their story, because she’s lived it, and now she can make their dreams of a college education a reality.  It’s time to sing for the dreams of every young Turkmen, so hit it JLo!

Sarah Lange

Executive Director

Running for Turkmen Students!

This September the Arzuw Foundation is taking fundraising to a much more intense level with an Iron Man Competition in Austria and then a half-marathon  in Nashville, TN. Development Director Sari Long will be competing in the Iron Man Competition on September 1st in Zell-am-See, Austria, and Executive Director Sarah Lange will be running the Nashville half-marathon on September 28.

The goal of these events is to raise the rest of the funds necessary to pay the tuition bill due this August for Arzuw scholars Ruslan, Dovran and Natasha. Between the two of them they hope to raise $3000.

Long says she has a very specific training program to prepare for the event, including an 18-week plan that involves one day per week of just running (an hour and a half each time), one day a week of just biking (up to 50 miles) and three days per week of combined swimming biking and running.

Lange has a similar training plan with a goal of running the race in 2 hours and 15 minutes, and is running and average of 15 miles per week.

Lange says they are advertising about the fundraiser through Crowdrise so that donors and supporters can be updated directly through the site.

“One hundred percent of donations will go to pay for these students’ scholarships,” Lange says. “People can visit the website directly and even sign up to run their own race to help out our cause.”

Both competitors agree that the main challenge is training in the hot weather, and are looking for other people to join in.

“I am working on convince my neighbor to run with me,” Lange says. “I might have to buy her a nice bottle of wine to talk her into it, but I think she’ll be up for it.”

 “I have a few friends in the DC area who train for a variety of races, so maybe I can convince them to go on some long rides with me,” Long says.

Long says this isn’t her first IronMan competition and has done triathalons in the past, and Lange says she and her husband have done half marathons together as a team.

“We spend a lot of time apart so we will pick a race to train for, even if we’re on opposite sides of the globe, and then look forward to race day together.”

For more information about the event, please visit www.crowdrise.com/arzuw or www.arzuw.org/marathon to get involved.

 

Get Involved with Work & Travel

Since October 2012, Work and Travel Program manager Anna Poplasky has been working hard to help students find jobs and housing for the summer in the US. The thriving program has worked to give students the opportunity to practice their English and broaden their work experience in the U.S. Through the program she says this year they plan to organize cultural activities for J-1 students, send care packages to Work and Travel participants throughout the US and constantly stay in touch with them to make sure any help is needed.

Anna says that volunteers can be great inspirations for students involved in the program.

“The care packages could be a great way to motivate Work and Travel students and let them know they always have support from our volunteer,” Anna says. “Those care packages would also include little gifts and trinkets students could take home with them.”

Anna says she is happy to see students getting as much as possible out of the program.

“They get excellent cultural experience and share their experience with American citizens,” she says. “Facilitating such multicultural exchange and seeing how happy students are when they learn something knew is always rewarding.”

Since the Work and Travel program is often students’ first time being in the United States, the experience also tends to inspire them to travel the world and meet new people as well.

The program also has its challenges as well, in that unfortunately some students were unable to obtain visas to participate in the program. Also, another large problem faced is finding affordable, safe housing for students.

In dealing with challenges and continuing support for students involved with Work and Travel, Anna says the local community is extremely important.

“To get more people to participate, we should raise awareness that the program exists and it is a great opportunity to meet people from other parts of the world,” she says. “An excellent way to do so is to host a J-1 student and we will try to facilitate this process starting this summer.”

Anna says being a part of Arzuw Foundation has been very rewarding for her.

“I have traveled a lot and understand that it could be quite difficult to be a foreign student in a different country. Arzuw Foundation does a fantastic job in helping out the students and fostering young talents.”  

More information about how you can get involved in supporting Work and Travel students will soon be available.  Check our Facebook page for updates! 

For more information, contact wtloan@arzuw.org

 

Arzuw Offers Grants to Fund Internships

The college experience isn’t just about getting your degree---it’s also about building up a network of contacts and a resume of experience that will help you get a job or get accepted into graduate school after graduation.   But internships cost money.  Whether its an airline ticket to get to the city where you’ll be interning, paying for housing and food over the summer, or even being able to buy professional clothing to wear to an internship, it’s not an experience everyone can afford.

Last year Executive Director Sarah Lange had an idea to start the Internship Grant Program based on a program that she had benefitted from during her own college experience.  “When I was an undergrad at Tufts University, I wanted nothing more than to intern at the State Department over the summer.  After a long application process I was offered a summer internship in the Office of UN Peacekeeping and Counterterrorism, but it was unpaid.  Not many college students can afford to live in DC and work for free for three months.”  Lange describes the program that helped her finance her internship, “My university offered a competitive internship grant program to students with limited financial resources, and that funding allowed me to complete an amazing internship that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.  I wanted our students to be able to have those experiences that will shape their goals and opportunities in their professional lives.” 

Set to begin accepting applications in mid-July, the Internship Grant Program will provide grants to Turkmen students who want to intern over the summer or winter breaks.  Grants will support any type of internship in any field, so long as it relates to the student’s long-term professional goals.  The applications will be reviewed by a three person volunteer committee.   For more information, check out the Arzuw Foundation Facebook page for updates and program announcements.