Monday, July 20, 2009

From Street Gangsters to Kings of Kitchen Science

16-year-old Nuria enjoys cooking low-fat porridges, curd pancakes, and various salads. Her friend Ravshan likes to prepare meat dishes. Both Ravshan and Nuria who were brought up in a Kyrgyz orphanage could have ended up in the street, but instead, with the help of UNDP, they are going to become professional cooks and find their own place under the sun.

In Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet Union country in Central Asia, children proved to be one of the most vulnerable to the blows of transition. Due to economic hardships, they drop out of schools, go to the streets to work and help their parents, or join gangs. Once children find themselves in the street, they suffer from poor nutrition, insufficient winter clothing, and accidents as they take over the tasks of adults.

One of the initiatives that UNDP-Kyrgyzstan proposed in order to address this problem is providing vocational education for such children. Analysis of the Kyrgyz labor market showed that the most demanded professions are those of cooks, builders, and carpenters. UNDP-Kyrgyzstan helped children from vulnerable families, orphanages, and shelters – just like Nuria and Ravshan – to get enrolled in culinary classes where they studied European and traditional Kyrgyz cuisine. Right after the completion of the courses, the cooks-to-be started receiving numerous job offers from the prospective employers.

Hopefully, as the program expands, more street children in Kyrgyzstan will be able to learn a good trade that will provide them with bread and help manage their lives.

Learn more about UNDP’s project “Vocational Education to Street Children in the Kyrgyz Republic” here.