Salem Social Village is a unique place in Kazakhstan where hearts and minds are challenged to bring lasting change to Central Asia. We train and empower future leaders, provide practical support to frontline charities, and offer volunteer opportunities within disadvantaged communities. As we invest in people, we regularly see their attitudes shift as they understand how they themselves can bring change.
Central Asia is developing fast, but many people are being left behind. Around 40% of Central Asia’s population still lives below the poverty line; HIV infection rates are some of the highest in the world; and drug and alcohol addictions are destroying communities. Prevalent attitudes towards issues like disabilities, addictions and poverty centre on simply ignoring the problems. Good leaders with new attitudes to these problems are needed to bring hope for permanent and lasting change.
What’s Our Vision?
‘Salem’ is a Kazakh word that means peace, but not just the absence of armed conflict – we talk about the need for genuine peace with others, with the earth, and with yourself. Central Asia is a region in great need of this genuine peace, repairing some of the social damage from the Soviet era as new consumerist mindsets become ever more prevalent.
We want to help deal with the issues facing Central Asia through investing in young people who will be the leaders of the future. We seek to transform their attitudes and understandings, teaching them how they can live to give rather than get, serving rather than side-lining those in need.
As well as helping those who need it most, we want to see a new generation emerge who will shape the region’s future. Through providing education, raising empathy and empowering individuals to take action, we want to create Changemakers who can bring hope and lasting solutions to the problems faced by the underprivileged across Central Asia.
One person who becomes a Changemaker can influence many lives by challenging attitudes and inspiring action on behalf of the forgotten. Our aim is to create a movement for change across Central Asia by training people to help others – and then enabling them to train others who can help even more! In this way, communities will become empowered to find local solutions to the various issues they face – and there’s no limit to how many people could ultimately benefit.
What’s a Social Village?
We have named our site here in Shymkent the ‘Salem Social Village’, reflecting the huge variety of people-centred activities that we have here. We long to impart some aspect of peace to all those who come to our site, that they may also become ‘peace-carriers’ who share it with those around them. Our desire is to be a place where people can come to receive education, get involved in action to help the poor, and find genuine community.
What are our Values?
- Work – we want to be productive and take a good attitude into all that we do.
- Serving – we show dignity and respect through treating everyone with compassion.
- Learning – we want everyone to grow in maturity and be able to live out their full potential.
- Team – we do things together because we need each other and can’t fulfil our purpose alone.
- Integrity – we care about how we achieve things, not just what we achieve.
- Generosity – we want to help those in need and share what we have with those around us.
- Commitment – we are committed to what we do and the people we are working for.
What’s a Global Citizen?
Our mission statement is ‘A place where Global Citizens grow through learning and serving together.’ But what’s does ‘Global Citizen’ mean? Here are our three key parts of being a Global Citizen.
- A Global Citizen understands the world around them – this amazing and beautiful planet that we live on, with its landscapes, sunsets, cultures, cuisine, wildlife, architecture, relationships, festivals, all the things that make life meaningful and colourful. But a Global Citizen also understands the brokenness around them – the pain of human experience that is seen through poverty, disease, injury, terrorism, jealousy, war, famine, divorce, greed, pollution, and so on. Global Citizens are clear and honest about both the immense beauty and the immense brokenness that exists in the world around them. We see a need for education in order for Global Citizens to grow, having their attitudes challenged by this understanding of the world.
- A Global Citizen is also someone who lives fully at peace through having right relationships in every dimension of their life: with others, with the earth, and within themselves. Global Citizens are able to live in a way that shows how that peace can and does make a difference in their own lives, and also passing it on to those around them – the essence of being a Changemaker. We see a need for Global Citizens to experience this peace, having their hearts changed in such a way that it affects their relationships in every dimension.
- Finally, a Global Citizen understands how they can play a part in the world, not only by enjoying the beauty around them but also through helping to bring healing to the brokenness. They are people who are committed to living out their particular role in the society around them for the good of others rather than for their own pursuit of money, power or pleasure. Global Citizens care for people, especially the poor, work to mend broken relationships, and steward the planet to preserve our resources for future generations. We see a need for Global Citizens to be empowered to take their part, finding ways to take action on behalf of others.
We see our location as being important – Shymkent was and is a Silk Road city. It was founded along the paths of caravans and traders. It was an intersection, a place where people stopped to rest, to meet others, to exchange goods, cultures, stories and ideas. From Shymkent they went out along the Silk Road refreshed and enriched, carrying what they had learnt and heard to others. We aim to be a place where this connection can occur, new perspectives shared, lives transformed, and people empowered to be part of the solution to Central Asia’s problems.
Where Have We Come From?
Salem Union was founded in 1996 as the local operational entity for Equip Trust, a UK charity set up to develop educational and business development projects in Shymkent, Kazakhstan. In 2006, Salem’s projects were handed over to Interlink Resources, Inc, a US non-profit organisation.
In 2004, Crossroads Central Asia (CCA) became a tenant on the Salem site when it was established as a branch office of Crossroads Foundation in Hong Kong. CCA developed a number of projects that operated alongside Interlink for many years until 2010, when Salem’s projects were passed over to CCA.
Salem Union remained in place throughout this period, but functioned predominantly as the locally registered legal entity that held the ownership of the land and buildings but was operated by foreign organisations.
Crossroads Foundation decided to close its CCA branch in April 2013 and handed all of the CCA projects over to the control of Salem Union. So whilst having a long history of operation in the city and some long-running projects, Salem Union has only recently become a fully independent organisation without any foreign affiliations.