PK Activist Spotlight - Eugenia, from Nikoliav, Ukraine
This July I received an e-mail from Natalya Abdullayeva, director of the «Doveriye» (Trust), Center and coordinator of the project, ‘Prevention of Human Trafficking in Central Asia.’ She asked for help for Karakalpak* citizens who were enslaved by a Chechen man in one of district centers of the Volgograd region. Our partners from law enforcement agencies advised me not to interfere in the cause, as close examination of it made it obvious that it was a criminal case. But then, who will help those people in trouble? They have neither passports (they were grabbed away by the trafficker) nor money.
I turned to Sergey Nikolayevich Chernov, our friend and partner from the administrative office of the Volgograd region, the head of department of information policy, who knows me well through our previous activism in the region. He immediately agreed to help me. After he officially appealed to the department of internal affairs, anti-extremism section, a special campaign to release the enslaved people was held. To date, as Sergey Nikolayevich has told me, 3 young people from 24 to 26 years old have returned to their homes in Kara-Kalpak.
When ordinary, adequate, not -indifferent people understand one another and the cause, I am sure we can do a lot to help people in trouble.
Project Kesher activism, including our anti-trafficking work, is rooted in Jewish values.
The Torah teaches,
Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed (Leviticus 19:16).
You must surely open your hand to him or her ( Deuteronomy 15:8);
The redeeming of captives takes precedence over supporting the poor or clothing them. There is no greater mitzvah than redeeming captives.(Maimonides, Mishneh Torah}
*The Karakalpaks are an ethnically diverse Turkic-speaking people living in the isolated delta region to the south of the Aral Sea, north of Turkmenistan and Iran in western Central Asia. The Karakalpaks are one of the poorest ethnic groups within Uzbekistan and they suffer from high unemployment and generally poor living conditions. In recent decades they have had to contend with the effects of the desiccation of the Aral Sea and the lower Amu Darya, which is turning their region into desert. This has led to an evacuation of the rural population and the growth of the southern urban towns.
Vlada Bystrova Nedak, Project Kesher-CIS Programming Director, and her colleague Irina Skliankina, Head of Jewish Education and Community Building, spoke to a group of New York-area clergy who were in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 27, 2011, as part of a mission sponsored by UJA-Federation of New York.
We spoke about our experience working for the Jewish community, educating women, making a positive image of Jewish community in our countries. We told our stories, described the impact our work is having on the Jewish and wider community, and shared information about our fundamental belief that 'Our Judaism is active and our activism is Jewish...'
- Vlada Bystrova Nedak, Project Kesher-CIS Programming Director
Project Kesher activist Rebecca S. has made it her job to help women in Moldova become better educated about how to protect their health. In working to create greater awareness among women in her region of the CIS about breast cancer prevention she also discovered the importance of being proactive about her own health.
At Project Kesher Jewish text-based training program─Beit Binah─ Rebecca was inspired to take the lessons she learned there about the importance of living healthy lives and apply them to the needs of women in her community and in the entire region of Moldova. She realized that women's health was an issue that was not getting the attention it needed from the people and organizations that could make a positive impact nor from the media that influences women's behavior.
On January 23, 2011 Rebecca pulled together a multi-cultural roundtable meeting on women's health at the Moldovan Bureau of Multi-Ethnic Relations with more than 50 participants representing 10 national communities, medical centers and clinics, NGO's, as well as local medical, legal and family and children's support leaders. Media also covered the gathering─a first of its kind according to several community leaders who attended the event.
In thinking through how to approach the planning for the roundtable, Rebecca decided that if she expected those participating to pay more attention to breast cancer prevention, she ought to lead by example. Rebecca scheduled her first-ever physical examination including a mammogram and consultation with a gynecologist which uncovered a medical condition that required immediate attention. Fortunately, Rebecca was quickly and successfully treated for her condition and she has used her experience to motivate other women to take charge of their health.
The roundtable attendees left with plans to keep the issue of breast cancer prevention and other women's health issues front and center in their communities. Plans are underway to conduct breast cancer information programs using Project Kesher materials in work and community settings; to provide women with information on where they can get free mammograms; to conduct more roundtable meetings and educate more people; and to encourage greater coverage about breast cancer prevention by the media.