Oasis was registered in the Kyrgyz Republic as a non-governmental organisation in 2008, building on the foundations of work done previously with children living on the streets of the capital city, Bishkek.
Until its fall, the Kyrgyz Republic was a part of the Soviet Union. Thrust into independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell, and lacking many of the natural resources of neighboring countries, there have been many challenges to confront, and sadly in many cases it is children and young people who have suffered the most.
By 2003 many children were living and begging on the streets of Bishkek, the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic, and volunteers, moved at their plight, started to spend time with them. Over a number of months, this led to the formation of an organisation, ‘Fountains of Hope’ and the development of a drop in center for street children.
At this time, both the government and a number of NGOs were running orphanages and children’s centers in Bishkek. Homeless children would be taken to these centers, but some, even children as young as seven and eight, would keep returning to the streets. The team agreed that they would concentrate on working with these children, and over time built relationships with many of the tougher and more vulnerable children and young people.
By 2008, the situation for street children in Bishkek had changed significantly; new laws meant that children were unable to live on the streets, and there was no longer the need for the drop in center and the work of Fountains of Hope seemed to be finished.
Nevertheless, some of the team maintained contact with children that they knew, many of whom ended up in detention or living at the Belovodskoe Special School for Boys, a ‘closed’ institution for boys just outside Bishkek. Consequently, when Oasis was started by some of the staff from ‘Children of Hope’, these places became the initial focus for activities.
By 2010, Oasis’ work was concentrated on the Belovodskoe Special School for Boys, teaching life skills and extra curricular activities. Initial research suggested that many young boys who left this institution ultimately ended up in prison, and the team wanted to break this cycle for the boys that they knew. That summer, when three of these boys were leaving the Reform School, it was decided that the time had come to expand activities and start a ‘transition’ home where they could live for a couple of years whilst they could continue with their education and learn how to live independently. One of the boys moved out after just one month, but the other two lived there happily and were joined in the summer of 2011 by four more boys who were leaving the Reform School. At the same time, a home for six girls was also opened.
Alongside this work, anti-human trafficking work had begun. Building on expertise gained by Oasis in other parts of the world, the team taught many school groups and other young people in Bishkek about the dangers of human trafficking and how to avoid it.
In early 2012, an innovative photography project, Digital Resolution, taught young people how to take photos to document their lives and social situations. And later in 2012, as a result of partnership with jasa.kg and with funding from USAID, work was again expanded to include leavers from other government institutions who had started to live independently. These young people were suddenly thrust into independence without much – if any – support and a programme was developed to come alongside them and offer support through the provision of a youth center, life skills training and extra-curricular activities.
In January 2013, a thorough evaluation showed the team that there was a need to modify their approach and focus on the crucial point where a young person moves from an institution where support and basic needs are provided, to living independently without any formal support or input.
This reframing of the work led to the closure of the two transition homes and the development of the ‘Care Leavers Support Project’. Young people were prepared for independence before they left the institution they grew up in; were supported through the transition; and were further supported in their first year (or more if necessary) of living independently.
Alongside the Care Leavers Support Project, in 2014, further work teaching life skills at the Belovodskoe Special School was undertaken in partnership with UNICEF; and in 2015, a research project, in partnership with the local NGOs ‘Our Voice’ and ‘jasa.kg’, and with funding from USAID, was concluded, which provided clear evidence about the vulnerabilities and challenges faced by young people brought up in institutional care. As a result of this work, Our Voice and Oasis were asked to submit recommendations to a Parliamentary Committee to improve the situation of Care leavers in the Kyrgyz Republic.