One of six independent Turkic states in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is remote and beautiful, landlocked and mountainous. Travel with me from the capital of Bishkek along the southern shoreline of Issyk-Kul Lake to the mouth of the Barskoon Valley. There we will build alongside a Kyrgyzstan family in need of simple, decent and affordable housing. If you are interested in one of the most rewarding humanitarian efforts, learning about a new culture and sharing with others on a similar journey, then join me! Your hardworking hands, a willing attitude and open spirit are all you need to bring.
Officially known as the Kyrgyz Republic, Kyrgyzstan shares borders with Kazakhstan to the north, China to the east and south, Tajikistan to the south and Uzbekistan to the west. Although landlocked, its culture has been shaped by the nomadic tribes that traveled the Silk Route in prior centuries.
Known for the breathtaking natural beauty of the Tien-Shan Mountains, it has some of the highest mountains and lakes, as well as remote wilderness. Despite its natural wealth, the country has suffered severe economic problems since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Although the country has suffered many difficulties, its people have retained a sense of confidence about the future as they transition to more democratic governance.
This Global Village team will be working in a village called Barskoon located five hours from the capital city of Bishkek. It is located close to Lake Issik-Kul, the world’s second-largest mountain lake – and the fifth deepest lake in the world.
About Habitat for Humanity Kyrgyzstan
Barskoon has a population of approximately 7,000 people and has a cash economy. Habitat Kyrgyzstan expanded to Barskoon in 2004. During the build there will be opportunities to visit various points of interest.
For more information, visit the Habitat Kyrgyzstan website.
Types of construction for volunteers
The houses in Barskoon are made of big clay blocks. The foundations are poured cement and the walls are made of large clay blocks, which are plastered with a mixture of clay and straw, and then a mixture of clay and sand, which becomes cement-hard when dry.
Volunteer tasks might include: leveling site, digging and pouring foundations, mixing cement and clay, raising walls, setting roof trusses, stucco and painting as well as landscaping. We will do whatever work is helpful when we are in Barskoon. Construction experience is not required, but a willingness to do “whatever” is necessary.
Day 1 (typically Saturday): Depart the United States.
Day 2 (Sunday): Travel day.
Day 3 (Monday): Arrival in Bishkek; welcome and orientation with Habitat Kyrgyzstan staff member.
Day 4 (Tuesday): Travel to Barskoon; dinner; welcome orientation with local staff.
Days 5-8 - Work days (Wednesday-Saturday): Breakfast; work from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. with lunch on-site; dinner in house; special events throughout the week.
Day 9 (Sunday): Free day: cultural activity in local community.
Days 10-13 Work days (Monday –Thursday): Breakfast; work from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. with lunch on-site; dinner in house; special events throughout the week.
Day 14 (Friday): Travel to Bishkek; farewell dinner.
Day 15 (Saturday): Departure day.
We will stay in local houses. Some houses have traditional western beds but some have traditional Kyrgyz beds made of mats and blankets on the felt carpet on the floor. Linens and towels are included. There are outhouse toilets. The shower facilities are limited, so after work, volunteers will use a steam room to bathe (like a Finnish bath). Meals will be modest with breakfast in the house, lunch on site, and dinners will be cooked by family members. The last night in Bishkek, the team will stay in double-occupancy rooms in a hotel.
(For more details about what is included in this cost, visit Global Village program cost.)
Increase your impact: Take the GV Challenge
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Karen Sturnick has worked for Habitat for Humanity as an executive director, and for Habitat for Humanity International in the U.S. area office for the last nine years, assisting affiliates to grow with the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. Her interest in combining world travel and service began as an archaeology student in Doar Na Negev, Israel and the Alaska arctic, followed by an assignment with the United Nations World Food Program with the Peace Corps in Sierre Leone. In the U.S., she has served the public interest through her career in Alaska with the National Park Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior AIDS Association and other nonprofit assignments.
In her home state of Washington, she explores the trails of the Olympic Peninsula, and volunteers with the local chapter of the American Red Cross in disaster services. She has worked on several Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Projects overseas and in the U.S. She has lead four GV teams in the European/Central Asian region (Tajikistan, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and Romania) as well as teams to Africa. You can email the team leader for more information at KSturnick@habitat.org.