OCA #21 SPRING 2015 WWW.OCAMAGAZINE.COM
Different people are drawn to Central Asia for different reasons. Indeed many come by accident, knowing little of what awaits them or how life changing it could be.
Once such person is Gareth Stamp who came to Kazakhstan five years ago for what he describes as his ‘daily adventure’.
‘I remember seeing a small advertisement in a newspaper in Great Britain asking for teachers to come to Kazakhstan and help develop the education system. So I applied and was successful, but I have to admit that I did not even know where Kazakhstan was or what would greet me. I now feel very ashamed that this wonderful country and its amazing people were not even on my geographical radar.’
Five years later, Gareth has become a well-known figure in Astana, networking and sharing his experiences with the quickly expanding international community. He is the president of the newly formed Rotary Club of Astana. Rotary is an international organisation with over two million members worldwide. It is the largest NGO and brings likeminded people together to do humanitarian projects, both in their local community and internationally. In Astana they are already fundraising for a number of projects involving disabled children, orphanages and other disadvantaged groups. The Astana club has grown quickly, having twenty five members from different professions and backgrounds.
‘Rotary has become a big part of my life and I am very proud to have been elected as the first president in Astana. Although we are not the first club in Kazakhstan we are the biggest already and aim to carry on the good name of Rotary here in Central Asia. It is not just about the projects it is also about the fellowship and it has become a great social gathering too. Real friendships are made and we have a common goal to keep us together like a family’
Gareth’s original role at the Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools involved helping to write the new curriculum for Kazakhstan, train teachers and develop a new education model for the country. He has since moved to Haileybury Astana, the British School, as their Director of External communications, using his contacts and management skills to help market a fast growing educational institution.
‘Kazakhstan and Astana in particular is now my home. I love the people and opportunities that are here. Every day is an adventure.’
‘One of the biggest issues here is the scale of the country. There is so much to see but travel takes longer than you would expect. Rather than get on a plane I allow a little extra time and take a train. It is amazing the new friends that you meet stories you share and barriers that you break down. My Russian and Kazakh are limited but once people find out there is a foreigner on the train communication happens. I often wondered how ancient explorers like Marco polo broke down the language barriers and now I know. People are naturally curious and Kazakh’s are naturally generous. This linked to a pride in their country and culture makes me richer with every journey I take.’
Gareth records most of his experiences through his photography, drawings and in a diary, sharing his new life with his friends in the west through social media. He has also had exhibitions of his work in Astana. He has become part of the growing Art and Design scene in the capital and was recently presented with an award for services for the development of design in Kazakhstan.
The world for Gareth is very different but his story is not unique. As Kazakhstan develops its International status so more travellers come to see it for themselves, to do business and increasingly as tourists. With future events, such as Expo 2017, the country is revealing more of its natural and manmade attractions that put Kazakhstan on the map.