This year we’re all going to sunny… Kyrgyzstan

August 18 2009

Bordered by China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, its a small country easily overlooked

Bordered by China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, it's a small country easily overlooked

Today I found out where the Guardian will be sending me for the final part of the International Development Competition, and which NGO I’ll be visiting.

It’s been quite an interesting day, just to see inside the Guardian’s offices, which the paper has occupied for a year, was intriguing enough. If you’re curious, they’re open plan with very tall ceilings, to help the natural convection air con apparently, and Network Rail live on the top floor. Strangely sedate, mind you, for a place which is reckoned to be at the cutting edge for modern news gathering technique. I know I should have got pictures, but it didn’t feel like the right thing to do.

The day itself was straightforward, lots of meeting and greeting the other finalists in the morning, a few pointers and advice from the very lovely Sue George, who’ll be editing the section, and finally the drawing of names and assignments out of hat to find out where people are being sent.

I won’t pretend not to be slightly disappointed I didn’t get the ‘Female Child Soldiers’ brief. That sounds like an incredible story to be covering ā€“ not something you come across every day.

I am, however, enormously happy with the assignment I do have. I’ll be heading off at the beginning of September to one of the lesser known ex-Soviet states, Kyrgyzstan (pronunciation is easier than it looks) to visit several of the British Red Cross missions there.

The subject I’ll be covering ā€“ in 1,000 words and four case studies (and Sue was quite insistent about the latter point. Apparently most of the writers ‘forgot’ them last year) is ‘Female Exclusion’. Initially it’s a bit of a terrifying one ā€“ a potentially huge subject in almost any country, which straddles so many areas and could be impossible to get to grips with in just under a week.

After the draw, I headed off to the Red Cross offices in Moorgate to meet the Programme Support Manager for Eurasia, Olga Dzhumaeva, who went through a few of the projects she works with in Kyrgzstan and the issues that she deals with – ranging from helping victims of kidnapping to microfinancing for social entrepreneurs, and the plans to visit as many of them as possible while we’re there. Really – it’s a three cities in four days itinerary which should provide far more to write about than I can ever hope to fit into one article.

Fortunately, Sue’s cleared us blogging about it and so on, which means there’ll be much more going up here over the next couple of weeks. Which means I’ll save some of the many ideas I’m scribbling into notebooks for later.

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