Tajikistan, one of the many ‘-stan’ countries.

I had the chance to work as a consultant and to get to know a country that surprised me – no … amazed me – in many ways.

Although I’m well aware of being privileged to get an ‘insider’s view’ of several countries thanks to my work, I would have loved to see more from Tajikistan. The numerous meetings with a lot of different people, teach me various things about the countries that I work in. The countless hours on the road traveling from one project site to another, show me a lot of places and a lot of emptiness. But because I need to focus on my job, I also filter out a lot; time is always short which makes us sometimes pushing the boundaries. Despite the short period of time for a complex set of tasks, Tajikistan managed to leave behind a deep impression.

The countryside made me wonder: ‘how is it possible for people to live here?’. The barren, harsh climate and the endless emptiness … Crossing through that rough landscape in a Lada 4×4, and to encounter people, children, animals where you would least expect it, was an intriguing experience … where did they come from? Where are they going? Is it somehow possible to find water here? Not even to speak about food?!   

And yes, Tajikistan also holds my personal record for most scaring road tunnel. I thought we had driven straight into hell… !

The Tajik people moved me in a way I never felt in other countries before (even though I happened to fall in love with some countries and their people in the past). Children with disabilities (the main subjects of my job at the time) in ‘poor’ countries are merely regarded as a burden. They usually won’t bring in resources for the family and are often stigmatised due to prejudices about the causes of disabilities and of having a disabled child. In contrary of many countries around the world, I experienced a different attitude towards disabled children in Tajikistan – the poorest country in Central Asia. The tender loving care of mothers, aunties, sister, but especially also fathers towards their handicapped children made an uplifting, deep impression on me.

Since the country was liberated from the iron rule of the Sovjet-union, parents have the possibility to keep their handicapped children at home, instead of having them growing up in institutions, shelters, or hide-aways. Now they are allowed to take care of their children, they do so. Even if there’s no money to spend … even if that implies ‘a bit less’ for the other children in the household.

‘They’ don’t have much, and there is a need for almost everything. Still, I believe the Tajik are very rich people. I think ‘we’ could learn a lot of the love, care, and human warmth that I witnessed in only those few weeks.