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Giving a face to older people in poverty

Alieva Aysha, 63: "Usually my pension is not enough to buy food for a month, so I get food in advance and then I pay for it after I get enough money." (A. Nakahira/HelpAge/UNV)Alieva Aysha, 63: "Usually my pension is not enough to buy food for a month, so I get food in advance and then I pay for it after I get enough money." (A. Nakahira/HelpAge/UNV)Asker Turatov, 66: "I worry about my wife’s health. She has a problem with her stomach, and bad headaches… I can’t imagine life without her. As for my health, I am excellent. I believe in the power of words. If I say I am excellent every day, I will be excellent." (A. Nakahira/HelpAge/UNV) Asker Turatov, 66: "I worry about my wife’s health. She has a problem with her stomach, and bad headaches… I can’t imagine life without her. As for my health, I am excellent. I believe in the power of words. If I say I am excellent every day, I will be excellent." (A. Nakahira/HelpAge/UNV)Valentina Fedorovna Stepina, 81: "Winter is very difficult for me. Now, the temperature in the house is 10 degrees. I try not to use coal in order to economize." (A. Nakahira/HelpAge/UNV)Valentina Fedorovna Stepina, 81: "Winter is very difficult for me. Now, the temperature in the house is 10 degrees. I try not to use coal in order to economize." (A. Nakahira/HelpAge/UNV)The promotional poster for the 'Winter diaries' exhibition, held in Bishkek from 5 to 19 March 2009. (A. Nakahira/HelpAge/UNV)The promotional poster for the 'Winter diaries' exhibition, held in Bishkek from 5 to 19 March 2009. (A. Nakahira/HelpAge/UNV)
27 March 2009

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: A Japanese University volunteer in Kyrgyzstan has used photography to raise awareness of the problems of the elderly, and to demonstrate their importance to the community.

Azuma Nakahira has just completed a UNV University Volunteer programme assignment with the NGO HelpAge International. The 'Winter diaries of older people' exhibition held in Bishkek during March is based on photography, case studies and video interviews he collected over a series of visits with the elderly between December 2008 and February 2009.

The exhibition was sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and also included pictures from JICA volunteers in Kyrgyzstan. Attendees included Government officials, representatives from international development agencies, plus several local and international NGOs.

'Winter diaries' was designed to highlight that poverty among the elderly is an under-reported development issue. The rising cost of fuel in Kyrgyzstan, where winter temperatures can drop to -20° Celsius, particularly affects old people in rural areas. Without a stable income, they often have to choose between food or heating.

The HelpAge International Project Manager in Kyrgyzstan, Nurdin Satarov, said: "This exhibition brings the story of older people to life, showing not just their vulnerability during the winter months, but also the vital contribution they make to supporting families and communities."

"Working on raising the awareness about the living conditions of elderly people in this country is an important element in understanding where our societies are going, the future challenges in front of us, and the social problems that we need to tackle in development," added UNV Programme Officer Achim Merlo. "These aspects are the basis for voluntary intervention by individuals that care for others… Azuma Nakahira is a remarkable example of these volunteers."

A student of law and political science back in Japan, Mr. Nakahira's six-month assignment with HelpAge's Central Asia office also involved developing the NGO's website and other communications materials. His placement was organized in cooperation with UNV and Kwansei Gakuin University.
UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)