Children, Childhood & Youth 2020
Zhuldyz Alimbek, a graduate from the Cognitive Science and Children’s Studies program, comes from Kazakhstan, where she has done volunteer work with local orphanages. In her research with these orphanages, she has shared that institutional care is the most widely used out-of-home placement resource for children who have either been abandoned or removed from their families.
Recently, Kazakhstan announced a plan to abolish institutional homes because of studies correlating them with the troubled youths of these children. From her research, Zhuldyz believes that little is known about the perspectives of orphan youth and their lives in this setting. It has been one of her long-time goals to give a voice to this group, in the hopes that public awareness of their social livelihoods might initiate change in Kazakhstan’s policies.
During her third year of her CHST degree, Zhuldyz designed a participant-centric study using the Photovoice method to explore young orphans’ perspectives of their lived experience in orphanages in her hometown of Shymkent, Kazakhstan. Her studies helped her to develop a strong set of skills in research, data analysis, which she employed in this child-centric study. She encouraged the Storytelling Club in Canada– a team hosting workshops for children who have been through difficult situations– to collaborate with her on this project.
Zhuldyz also convinced government officials in her city to allow her to undertake the research and arranged consent from the orphanage in question for the project. Over the course of 3 weeks in the summer of 2019, Zhuldyz and her colleagues conducted the study, assembling the photographs that the children took into a book that collected their individual stories. By engaging orphan children as co-researchers in her study, Zhuldyz found that, in contrast to the assumptions held by the Kazakh government about them being troubled and unhappy, the young people loved the orphanage and regarded it as their home with their fellow orphans and caregivers as family.
Zhuldyz has completed her undergraduate studies at York University. She is excited about opportunities to gain practical experience where she can apply her knowledge to design more community engagement practices with young people and adults. She also plans to get her Master’s Degree in the field of Behavioral Science and Public Policy in the future.