After 7 years worth of field research and work in Central Asia, I’ve decided that this NGO in southern Tajikistan has by far the most efficient, beneficial and useful programmes: The SWORDE-Teppa English & Education Centre.
The school was profiled recently in The Guardian, and they only mentioned about half of the reasons why this place is so great.
I have met many kids in southern Tajikistan who are suffering. Since my first visit in 2009 there have been so many times where I meet local teens and children who smile broadly and who are so happy to meet you. They are kind and generous with what little they and their families have. But when you get to know them, you realise the scale of their problems in what is the poorest region of the poorest former Soviet state. There was a civil war here that nobody knows about. Little of the Soviet social support system still operates. So many of the young men here are depressed. Most of them express a complete sense of hopelessness. Young children have the worst health in the former Soviet Union. The young women have so few opportunities. My old friends from this area are mostly in Russia, struggling on some construction site or in a kitchen of a restaurant.
The SWORDE-Teppa library:
So much need to be done here to help these kids (especially with regards to education). But I keep seeing hugely expensive “humanitarian aid” and “poverty reduction” programmes in Tajikistan that just funnel money to foreign experts or into wasteful bureaucracy. In 2014 I sat in on a Skype call with an NGO in a rich western capital city demanding at least $1,000,000 of a local project in Tajikistan go to their home headquarters. If I could have given it all to SWORDE-Teppa, I would have.
A Fun Day for the youngest kids:
This non-profit education centre has done so much for the local youth. I see kids learning English and then earning foreign scholarships based on that skill, I see regular sports programmes keeping the kids active, I see health and ecology programmes improving their lives. But SWORDE-Teppa never seems to be eligible for larger grants or funding schemes. So now the school and its programmes are now suffering. They do so much with so little here. I see the director Paul Marchant regularly. He lives on cheap instant noodles and black tea. He has no salary. He hasn’t visited home in 8 years (plane tickets are expensive). His tiny per diem goes towards food for himself and doggie snacks for the 6 dogs.
A student sketches in the Ecology Lab:
Staying open here is a struggle, and it’s not just the money. But at the moment, money is what is needed. So if you can, please donate:
They do so much with so little here at SWORDE-Teppa.
If you missed it, you can find the school profiled in The Guardian.