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Strangers become Family in Kyrgyzstan

Building a Habitat neighborhood creates lasting bonds

When they left their native village, Janbolot Beishebaev and his wife Seingul hoped to find new economic opportunities in the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. What they found were low-paying jobs and crumbling flats.

Even working several jobs each, they soon found themselves raising their two children in a one-room flat. They had no bathtub or shower and shared a toilet with four other apartments. With no gas heating in the building, winters were difficult, and there was little to protect the Beishebaev family from the extreme cold.

Luckily, Janbolot heard about Habitat for Humanity, and the family soon joined a growing community on a piece of land given to the organization by local authorities. By spring 2002, the district was already known throughout the city as a Habitat neighborhood, and a dozen houses were being built to join the original 10 constructed two years before. As the Beishebaevs worked alongside volunteers and new neighbors — building, dining, resting — those who were strangers slowly became family. The bond is still strong after all these years.

Steffan Hacker
Children play with friends in their close-knit Habitat community in Bishkek.

Families visit each other during holidays, arrange communal spaces and generally help each other in times of hardship. Since then, the community has expanded with children and grandchildren, the birth of the first child in the new neighborhood a warmly remembered cause for celebration.

“I hadn’t believed that an organization like Habitat could exist and that it could really help us,” Janbolot says, “but now I live with my family in the house we built ourselves with the help of Habitat.”