Almaty (Agenzia Fides) - "The new Center for children with Down syndrome in Almaty, inaugurated with the support of the municipal administration and the Samruk-Kazyna Trust Fund for the development of social projects, has become a reality. This allows us to bring our commitment to families and children with Down syndrome to a new level. It allows us to spread and strengthen, on a cultural and social level, the idea and practice of inclusiveness in Kazakhstan.
We want to say that no one should be left behind, especially the young and the vulnerable. Nobody is rejected by society". This is how Fr Guido Trezzani, a long-term missionary in Kazakhstan and National Director of Caritas in the Central Asian nation, presents to Agenzia Fides the new reception center that opened its doors in recent days in Almaty, thanks to the commitment of the Catholic community of the archdiocese and, in particular, its arm dedicated to social projects, Caritas.
Fr Trezzani tells Fides: "Right now we are all very happy, parents, young people, volunteers, families, in particular the older Down children of the group. They now have a permanent workspace and a place to meet and communicate. Undoubtedly it is a great gift to end 2022, which has been a particularly surprising year, also marked by the visit of Pope Francis in September. Now a new year opens, full of joy, promises and perspectives that will benefit our children and their families", continues the missionary.
In addition, Fr Trezzani points out: "During his visit to Kazakhstan, Pope Francis repeatedly recalled the issue of dialogue between cultures and social groups. Dialogue is the key to human relationships, to maintain them in a climate of respect and acceptance of the other.
For us, dialogue is accompanied by the adjective 'constructive'. We want to say that it means being able to build something together with the interlocutor, in our case also at an institutional level: our Center was born from the collaboration between the local Church and the municipal administration of Almaty. The sphere of social projects is, in effect, a privileged terrain in which a 'constructive dialogue' can be expressed and carried out. In this spirit, the Samurk-Kazyna National Fund for Social Projects selected our project for children with Down syndrome, allowing us to expand it to the whole national territory", he explains.
It should be noted that projects for the inclusion of children with Down syndrome or with other special needs are also active in the diocese of Atyrau, where Catholic volunteers help and offer education to children with Down syndrome in the city. In the same diocese, in the work of helping families in need, another local Caritas project is dedicated to children in need (due to poverty or lack of education) in the city of Aktobe, where it was welcomed with appreciation by the local population.
The activities with children with Trisomy 21 began in 2018 by the diocesan Caritas of Almaty and then merged into a larger and more permanent project, thanks to the support of Italian specialists. Seminars, conferences and visits of specialists are regularly organized in different cities of Kazakhstan to provide basic knowledge to parents and analyze the progress of children. The aim is to promote culture in Kazakh society and therefore ideas and initiatives characterized and inspired by the concept of "inclusion", benefiting in particular children with physical or mental disabilities. Collaboration with civil institutions is intended to promote social integration at all levels.
The Republic of Kazakhstan is also carrying out an "inclusive education" plan at the institutional level, although teachers in schools are generally not in favor of teaching students with special needs or disabilities. In addition, on a cultural level, it remains difficult to get parents to accept their children's mentally or physically handicapped condition (children often stay with their families).
In Kazakhstan there are about 150,000 Catholics, less than 1% of a 67.8% Muslim population. Christians, the vast majority of whom are Orthodox, represent about 26.5%. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 7/12/2022)