Sunday, August 31, 2008

Momumental Moments in Astana, Kazakhstan - 31 August 2008

This last week Mira, our translator, left for Turkey for two weeks vacation. So rather than sit around and do nothing we thought we would make this week monumental. Here is our first monument! It's a new one that was built for the big celebration in July for Astana's birthday. Notice the Kazakh woman with the snow panthers standing on the front of this large bull. This is one of the largest monuments we have seen here in Astana.
This is the Tree of Life fountain in the "New Square", which is a park we walk through weekly. It is on our way to the Akimat (government building) and to the post office.
This picture is a monument of Abai Kunanbayev, a Kazakh poet. They name their streets after these famous individuals so his monument is on Abai Street.
This monument is "The Friendship of the Nations" and it symbolizes the peace and harmony and interconnection of the nations.There are three of these huge matching fountains added to the square where the Youth Center is located.
At the Youth Center on Thursday we attended a "Day of Knowledge" celebration put on for the handicapped children. Here, one of our NGO's, Elena, of the horse therapy project, along with the Nur Otan officials (ruling party of Kazakhstan) is encouraging the children to learn and gain knowledge.
This is one of the little girls getting her new backpack full of school supplies which was donated by the Nur Otan Party.This young man is speaking to the group about learning. He has a condition that doesn't allow his body to grow or to support his own weight.
This little girl is showing us her new backpack that she received.These little girls are now ready for school!! From what we understand, handicapped children are not mainstreamed into the regular classroom. In fact, it's only been in the last few years that they have been allowed in school but seperated from the other children. They were previously taught in other facilities by NGO's and concerned parents. This country is making headway toward acceptance of the handicapped in their society.

Also this week we received approval on a project we are doing in Pavlodar for the handicapped society there. We also received shipping documents from Salt Lake for the clothing containers and we now have those translated and are getting customs approval on the documents.

As we were leaving our apartment building this week, a young lady stopped us and tried to talk to us. After we called our substitute translator, Zarina, to find out what she wanted, we found out that she had seen us on TV and knew that we lived here in this building!! We were surprised that we were even on TV and don't know when or where it was!!

We have another week without Mira, but we are getting ready for my sister, Nancy, and our cousin, Kathy, to visit us on the 8th of September. We can hardly wait!!

This has been our attire around the apartment while Mira has been gone! We want to thank our children and grandchildren for these wonderful shirts that they signed at our family reunion. And every time we wear them we think of each of them!!

We are very blessed to have this opportunity to serve the Lord. Our testimonies have grown in so many ways. We realize that He is in charge and we are on His timetable. We are thankful to be a part of His work here in Kazakhstan.


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Summer in Astana, Kazakhstan - 24 August 2008

Summer in Astana is just as profoundly beautiful as it is extremely cold in the winter. We thought we would show you some of the beauty that we see around here on our walks. These elephants are created completely with plants. Here is Mira with some giraffes also made of plants.
This is a replica of a yurt and a Kazakh warrior leaving his wife to go to battle and it's all done in plants. They are so beautiful!!
In this picture you can see the wife handing her husband a shield for battle. All of these pictures were taken on the Mall.
Here we are at the soccer stadium which is on the way home to our apartment. Look at the Kazakh designs in the flower bed!
And even a soccer ball made of plants!
These plant bed are also at the stadium. Aren't they gorgeous!!
The coming of summer brings out a fruit and vegetable stand on every corner and parking lot! Most of our meals come from these fruit stand. We have even learned to like fried cabbage with onions, carrots, garlic, peppers and a little Kolbasa (sausage)!!
This is one of the fruit stands that we frequent which is in a parking lot right across from our apartment. The couple is so nice to us and they want us to buy a little of everything! Those tall things standing in front of the watermelons are cantalope and are so mild and sweet. The orange things are also a kind of melon and are very good!
But this is the fruit stand that we go to most often because it is at the end of our apartment building and we pass it on the way home every day. This young man has no options for education and this may be his livelihood for a while. Besides, he is very kind to us and we like him!! He has picked out 5 different watermelons for us and they have all been so sweet and delicious!!

In every apartment complex they have a playground for the children and this is the one outside of our apartment. We hardly recognized it in the winter. In the summer things really look different!!
This is our apartment building that you see. It looks a lot different than it did in the winter when we came here. And we have even began to call it home!!

This last week we have been working on getting clothing containers from Salt Lake in here for two different groups. We have approval on both of them. One is for a handicapped group and the other is for an organization that helps families with many children.

We are healthy and keeping busy and we hope that it stays that way. We love working with these wonderful people and are grateful every day for this gratifying experience that we are having. Our lives will never be the same because of it.
May the Lord bless you in all that you do!

Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Horse Therapy Presentation and Touring Astana, Kazakhstan - 17 August 2008

One of the first projects that we did when we got here in Astana was for a handicapped group who goes to the hippodrome once a week for horse therapy. The Church was able to provide special equipment and clothing for the children so that they can ride the horses safely. This little boy has Downs Syndrome and is happy to be able to ride a horse with special clothing. Some of the equipment that was given to this group consisted of saddle blankets, safety helmets, special saddles, Helium saddles for children with cerebral palsy, and protective pants and vests. This young man is wearing the vest, pants and helmet and even the gloves that were given. He's ready to ride the horses!! Elena Anatolyevna is the Chairman of this group. She is wonderful person that we have loved working with because she cares so much about the handicapped children in her organization. The media were there to talk to her about what she is doing to get the handicapped children accepted and acclimated into society.
Elena is checking out the vest on this young man. They were so excited for the new riding clothes!!
The hippodrome is a large riding stable. The children ride inside this large enclosed arena so they can do this all winter long. There is a stable hand that leads each horse around the arena so there is no danger of the horses getting away.
This is Masha who loves riding horses. Her mother says that she never sits taller than when she is riding on a horse. She has gained a great deal of confidence in her abilities through this horse therapy.The children come every week and ride for an hour and with the new equipment provided by the Church many more of the severely handicapped will be able to come and participate in this activity. They are growing physically stronger and gaining ability and more confidence. The smiles on their faces show the importance of this project and we were happy to be a part of it!!

The last week in July we were invited by Kamka and Kulnazira to go with a handicapped group of children and their parents on a tour of the city of Astana.

Kamka and her husband, Ramazon, and granddaughter, Kulnazira and her journalist friend, Anne and Mira. We had a wonderful time with them.
Here we are at the Singing Fountains on the Mall. There are only 5 fountains in the world where the water is choreographed to the music and they have one here in Astana!! It was pretty cool!! (It was an especially hot day!)
The jewelry in Kazakhstan is very unique and beautiful. On the Mall, they have large size replicas of those rings.
Here is another Kazakh ring. Notice the young boy taking a rest inside the band!But these rings were especially beautiful!! Every time we go to the Mall it seems we find something knew to see!!

Remember the Canadian, Nate Thiesen, that we met in Kokshetau after the NRT training who said that he couldn't wait to email his wife to let her know that he had met a bunch of Mormons in Kazakhstan? Well, he called us last week and wanted to know if we would show him around Astana before he flew home to Winnepeg, Canada. We told him that we would be delighted! So we spent the whole day with Nate showing him the sights and eating out at Ali Babba's. He came to our apartment and ate dinner in the evening with us and then we took a walk along the river. He said he had never met any Mormons before and we hope we sowed some good seeds!! He is a wonderful young man and he told us that if he ever got back this way, he would come and see us!!

While we were at the "Duman" seeing the "Oceanarium" with Nate Thiesan, we asked these little Kazakh ladies if we could get a picture of them and they graciously let us! Aren't they just the cutest?!! I hugged them all when we left.

We are still keeping busy. The paperwork never seems to get done and we always seem behind. We are working on a couple of new projects and we hope they will be accepted. We will keep you updated. We love you all and are so thankful for the love and support we feel from each of you. This is the Lord's work and we see his hand in everything we do!!


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Project Closing Presentations in Astana, Kazakhstan - 10 August 2008

Last week we finished up two projects and had the closing presentations for both of them. The first one was for the Asian Union for the Handicapped People's Rights. This is Kulnazira Usenova who is the director of this organization. She has become a wonderful friend and we dearly love her! She requested some computers to use for training the handicapped adults in her organization and their families. She has three handicapped lawyers who donate their time to help with the legal rights for the people in her group. This is one of the lawyers using one of the three computers on the desks donated by the Church. He is physically handicapped and struggles to walk.
Here is the lawyer counseling a woman who is seeking help for her son who has lost his job because of a hearing impairment.
While we were there taking pictures, this couple came in with their daughter seeking help for her legal rights. Kamka Zhassanova is another champion that helps fight for the rights of handicapped children. She is also a wonderful friend. This little girl's wheelchair was donated by our Church.
After the presentation, they fed us and everyone else that was there. There was a lady who sang two Kazakh songs for us during dinner. We also met a young women who is deaf but is a professional painter who has many of her paintings displayed in Almaty. She was delightful! Everyone was so thankful for the desks and the chairs and the computers that were given to this organization by the Church. The whole afternoon was very enjoyable!!
The next project we closed on was some training computers for the League of Large Families. This organization serves families with more than four children between the ages of 4 and 18 who live below the poverty level of the country. They currently have over 1500 families with a membership of over 7800 people.
These two ladies work for the organization and were grateful for the computers and the help they will be to the members.
The lady in the middle of this picture is Raigul Duikenova and she is the Director of this organization. She has 12 children of her own and works tirelessly with her associates in helping families.
After the presentation, we were invited over to Raigul's home to meet her family. She and her daughters had prepared a wonderful meal for us!! We had "baursak" (this wonderful fried bread which we have fallen in love with!), "georgian monties" (dough with ground beef mixture inside with lots of onion, and which she has promised to give me the recipe for!) and wonderful salads and vegetables. The meal was as wonderful as the company! Kamka and her husband, Ramazon were there along with Kulnazira and other friends and family. Kulnazira said that Ramazon and Anne look like they are brother and sister! (Probably because our hair is the same color!)
These are three of Raigul's seven daughters. They helped prepare and graciously served the food to us. They were wonderful!! Her children range in age from 27 to 4 years old.
These are two of Raigul's youngest children standing in the back by Roy. The little girl in front is her granddaughter.

Raigul was given these medals recently by the government for her work with large families. She works tirelessly in this capacity. She is a wonderful person and we are so glad that we have gotten to know her.

We are well and keeping busy. We have lots to do before winter sets in and we hope we can get it all done. We have suffered the other extreme in weather but we know it only last a few weeks and the cold lasts for months!! Thanks again for all of the prayers in our behalf. We appreciate your love and support.

Love to all,

Elder and Sister Welling