What to do and how to be when you have to build not because of, but in spite of standards

For 22 years of continuous work Saby Charitable Foundation has built a large number of social facilities in different regions of Kazakhstan. These are general education schools, a children's home and a youth home, children's surgeries. The Foundation has accumulated a huge experience of building social institutions, and I would like to share with you three cases “What to do and how to be when you have to build not because of, but in spite of standards”.

The first story is about Kyzylorda. 2010, a regional orphanage, which consists of three sheds. The building is in a state of disrepair. Forty-degree heat. Children were doused from buckets, and when I took a two-week-old baby in my arms, I couldn't just leave it like that. We decided to build a new building.

If you think that someone offered to help us, you are wrong. We were allocated a plot of land on which we discovered a gas main that was not listed in any registry. We stopped the construction process in time and a possible explosion was avoided.

Then a new plot was allocated and the work started again. We built a new, modern building, but the children could not move there, because we were not given a positive expertise. And until a letter was sent to the Prime Minister, the issue was not resolved.

For me, this is a story of total indifference. After all, this was a completely charitable project. We were talking about the fate of 80 orphans.

What did we manage to do, despite all the bureaucratic delays and circles of hell? We built a beautiful and cozy building, attracted the best foreign specialists, psychologists-rehabilitation specialists, introduced the Montessori system. The children blossomed and found new families in a short time. 

This shows that the environment shapes people, and even more so - children.

The second story. Almaty, creation of Nauryzbay district, acute shortage of schools.

We set a task to unload the three-shift school and build a new school for a new remote area of the city. Akimat insisted on a ready model project. In the school, designed for 1200 pupils, it was obligatory to build a technical floor with a height of 80 cm. Instead of it, we could have made a full-fledged floor or used this money to equip the school with modern equipment. But no, we have to comply with the standards.

Then came the disputes over the facade solution. We defended a bright colored facade instead of a dull brown background. And now our school decorates the district, and neighboring institutions, inspired, applied the same color solution for their buildings.

As a result, we relieved the three-shift school and, despite the typical project, built a beautiful building with functional and interesting recreations for children.

For me, this is a story of foolish conservatism. After all, the world has changed a lot, and a school is not a barracks.

There is another story from Aktau.

Imagine a TV series about an ambulance, where a patient is brought to a spacious emergency room, various specialists immediately rush to him, and the devices are immediately connected. The patient is helped as quickly as possible.

After all, the main cause of disability - late help. This is when the system of emergency care - cabinet! When a patient is brought into the hospital without ramps, and paramedics have to drag patients on themselves and squeeze through narrow corridors, where it is difficult to turn the wheelchair.

This was the situation we faced when we started our Emergency Pediatric Surgery project in Aktau. The 2012 building was built to the standards of the 1960s. A surgical block with openwork windows, a huge gap and a high threshold. All this we had to remodel with our own hands, in parallel overcoming bureaucratic obstacles.

As a result, we built a modern pediatric surgery department with an open waiting room, operating rooms with high-tech equipment. We introduced a laminar flow system, which disinfects the air in the operating rooms, thus minimizing the percentage of hospital-acquired infections. And the number of surgeries performed is also increased to provide emergency care to the maximum number of patients.

For me, this story is about the fact that new buildings continue to be built according to the old standards, for which money is allocated from the state budget. They do not allow new construction, but the old way is easy to issue permits.

Drawing conclusions, we should recognize that our extensive experience in building social facilities is disappointing, because we have to build in spite of, not because of, the standards. In addition, charitable foundations in Kazakhstan do not receive any tax breaks. We pay the same VAT on construction as any commercial company.

Honestly, I must admit, I feel down when faced with such an attitude. But still I believe that there is a ray of light at the end of the tunnel in the form of young architects who have received a good education and see that the standards are long outdated and need to be changed.

So that you want to come back to school, so that the recreations in these schools are for children, so that hospitals are modern and so that the time for emergency care is reduced.

And this largely depends on you, dear friends!

I would very much like your assistance in order to build not in spite of standards, but thanks to them.


Aselle Tasmagambetova, President of Saby Foundation

Aselle Tasmagambetova on the problem of…

I will never forget the day when I first looked into the eyes of orphans. It was in the fall of 2001 in the Almaty orphanage. I go into the box with the newly admitted children. And what I see: two kids. One was jumping in the…

Aselle Tasmagambetova to the finalists of the…

“Here I am standing in front of you, looking at you - so young, ambitious and brave - and I think that among you there are no those who have broken under the pressure of society, parents who, for the most part, think…

Participating means happy

“The word happiness in Russian comes from the word part. We experience happiness in parts, moments, and charity is the best way to become involved in something greater than yourself. I made this discovery 20 years ago when…