Lyazzat Salikova, a wheelchair-bound young woman, spent most of her life confined to her house. She was surrounded by a loving family, yet increasingly felt the need to move out and start an independent life, one which held true meaning for her.
On her thirtieth birthday, Lyazzat decided to start her new journey, which included getting her first job.
Seven years, and several jobs and university degrees later, Lyazzat now leads a non-profit in her hometown – Kapchagai, a city in south eastern Kazakhstan – where she advocates for the rights of young people with disabilities.
One of her latest projects – a soft toy-making club for youth with disabilities – is having a profound impact. The club provides young people with disabilities not only with a source of income and new skills, but also friends and a feeling that their lives can be meaningful too.
The soft toy-making club started as a group of volunteers, and has now evolved into a small but thriving local business in Kapshagai. It employs more than 10 young people with disabilities. The toys they produce are being sold across Kazakhstan. And this, according to the group, is just the beginning.
The group of youth led by Lyazzat won a grant from the Youth Corps Program in Kazakhstan, supported by the Ministry of Education & Science and the World Bank. The program aims to support vulnerable youth in developing and implementing community projects. Lyazzat’s non-profit received US$3,000 to support the soft toy-making club. She set up the club in just one month and over 10 people volunteered to join her.