ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: OSCE AiB alumna-initiated grassroot project to save hundreds of lives in remote Tajikistan

Sabrinisso Valdosh is an alumna of the MA Programme in Economic Governance and Development of 2017 from Tajikistan. She is a winner of the ‘Best MA Thesis’ award during her studies at the OSCE AiB for analyzing the production structure of Tajikistan’s economy with the focus on quantifying the inter-industry linkages and their impact on the economy. She is also a former Research Fellow of the Europe-Central Asia Monitoring. Sabrinisso co-initiated a grassroot project to save hundreds of lives in remote areas of Tajikistan and shares her story with us.

Pamiri Youth Network is an incredible team consisting of 8 powerful and passionate girls including myself. A couple of months ago we initiated a fundraising campaign to purchase an oxygen generator that will provide oxygen to hospitals in three remote areas of Tajikistan, namely Rasht, GBAO and Khatlon.

We are all very well aware of the endless repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemics worldwide, and it is particularly now that oxygen production equipment (oxygen generator) and personal protective gear are extremely vital for these regions. As a result, we are cooperating with the Community Initiative Programme of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for matched funding. Subject to all reporting requirements met, all donations were supposed to be DOUBLED by EBRD! According to our research oxygen generators cost over £100,000, but as the total amount was to be doubled, we just had to collect at least £50,000.

To reach our target, we collaborated with numerous artists, singers, dancers, bloggers and many more amazing individuals. Some of the wonderful highlights had been the online concert by a Latvian music band singing Tajik songs. It was joined and supported by thousands of online-users. Moreover, a recent dance workshop led by an international dancer who taught Tajik dance to the audience has left great impressions both on us and on our audience. We would have never anticipated that so many people would not stay aside and would give a helping hand during such uncertain times for all of us.

I am more than certain that haven’t we had all the required skills and knowledge, and of course passion and compassion, we wouldn’t have been able to successfully collect 50,000£. Since we all come from a different professional background, we utilized our background knowledge and skills while working on this project; however, we also developed a set of new skills since the project has been quite demanding. In my case, my six-year experience in marketing and sales has enabled me to manage our social media pages and their content. In addition, we had many brainstorming sessions to come up with creative ideas in order to promote our campaign. Our favourite ones are “#123Challenge” and “#IDonAteToday”. The strategy was to collect a small amount, but to involve a large number of people in the campaign. In  #123Challenge people would recite any poem that is close to their heart; while in the second, people would say NO to any of their favourite treats and donate their money for a good cause instead.

Our collective women-led network was created as a response to the COVID - 19 by eight girls from Tajikistan, who currently study and work in the UK, Canada, and France. The whole story started when the outbreak of coronavirus was announced in Russia. As everyone knows, the COVID-19 outbreak eliminated even the basic income stream of migrant families. Talking to friends and relatives about the problems caused by COVID-19, we heard many heart-breaking stories and decided to act.

Everything started through our Whatsapp chat where we often address “important matters”. Gulazor, one of our fellows, shared a story of a migrant family in Moscow where a young mother had to make her child’s baby food with water because she was financially unable to buy milk. Since both she and her husband are migrants, during the quarantine they lost their jobs and had no access to any state benefits. Very saddened by this story, we decided to send some money to support migrants in Moscow. However, we also understood that this amount would be a drop in the ocean. Realising this, Zarina offered to launch a fundraising campaign through GoFundMe fundraising platform. We all liked the idea and embarked working on a project which would eventually help over 200 migrant families in Moscow.

As it was an emergency we needed to collect as much money as we could to provide relief to as many migrants as possible. We had put a great deal of effort to make it happen. Sometimes we slept only 3-4 hours a day, we were in touch 24/7 informing each other about all the details of fundraising. Also, we often joked that very soon we would be kicked out of our universities, because along with our studies, classes and assignments, this fundraising has occupied a big portion of our time. However, understanding the necessity and importance of our help gave us the strength to move forward despite the hardships and hurdles.

Ultimately, our first fundraising that we launched in April was very successful. Within a month, we raised £10500, although the target was £8500. These funds were used to provide migrant families with food and other forms of necessities. Visual graphics and data about our work and support provided in Moscow can be found on our social media pages.

In parallel with the implementation of the raised funds for the first fundraising, we were focusing on raising funds for the second fundraising. We were working to reach a target of £50,000. The second fund-raising was certainly more ambitious, but we understood that the final goal will indeed make a significant contribution to supporting hospitals in remote areas of Tajikistan and providing them with an uninterrupted supply of oxygen. Before launching this fundraising, we talked to a number of doctors from remote areas of Tajikistan; we did thorough research on what our hospitals lacked during the pandemics and we were supported by many donors and professional individuals. By accumulating funds in our second fundraising account, we have reached the target!