“I want to help young people who keep getting into trouble and who don’t know how to stay out of trouble or move on from it. Like how I used to be. I’ve changed since I started a special rehabilitation programme,” says Arman, who is 17 and lives in the southern city of Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan.
“Like many teenagers who get in serious trouble, I grew up in an average family in Kyzylorda. But everything changed when we moved from my childhood home to another part of the city. I couldn’t get used to the new school, and I didn’t get along with my new classmates. We argued, and I got into fights with them,” he says. When the fighting got violent, Arman landed in a courtroom.
“Though I got a suspended sentence, I lost interest in my studies, and I didn’t go to school for almost a year,” he continues. That was when the local police referred Arman to Syr Ulandary, an NGO supported by UNICEF, which provides rehabilitation services for children who find themselves in trouble with the law.
“Arman was one of the first children referred to us,” says Saule Abildayeva, director of Syr Ulandary. “Arman came and told us, ‘I need your help. I don’t know what do to. I don’t know how to get out of this situation I’m in’.”
Arman revealed to Ms. Abildayeva that he couldn’t stay in control when arguing with classmates, and tended to react violently. He was also open about his difficult relationship with his parents.
“I didn’t feel understood, and I felt my parents blamed me. I needed guidance, someone’s help to guide me with what I was going through,” says Arman.
Syr Ulandary worked with Arman’s parents to help them understand their son. “In stressful circumstances, it can be hard for some parents to listen to their children properly,” says Ms. Abildayeva. Arman’s parents eventually realized how much moving to another area and school at a critical stage in his adolescence had affected Arman’s behavior.
“With support from Saule Abildayeva, I was transferred back to my previous school, and they developed a special programme for me to start back at school. Syr Ulandary also arranged extra lessons so I could catch up,” says Arman.
“Twice a week I worked with psychologists. Actually, they helped me a lot. If I had problems, I saw the psychologists. They motivated me to set goals – to study hard to pass the national exams. And I made it.
“I was given a seasonal job, which gave me some pocket money. We’re building a kindergarten here. It’s very useful because I can chat with other teenagers who also got jobs as part of their rehabilitation. We’re all paid for our work,” says Arman.
“The rehabilitation programme really turned my life around and gave me a second chance.” After going to Syr Ulandary for several months, he caught up with his classmates and scored high enough on the national exams to enter a technical college. “I want to train to be a car mechanic,” he says.
Arman is proud of himself. “I am on my way back to a normal life.”
Sultan Khudaibergenov is a Communication Officer with UNICEF Kazakhstan.