Nadezhda Pak ‘10
Raymore, MO/Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Current education: American University of Central Asia
Since returning from her 2010 FLEX exchange year in Raymore, Missouri, Nadezhda Pak has been active in community service, academics, and even in the Kyrgyzstani government, as an intern. She currently studies at American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where she will graduate in June 2014 as a Business Administration major.
In 2010, Nadezhda co-founded Unity Fund, an organization that encourages Kyrgyzstani youth to contribute to the development of their society. FLEX alumni wanted to help victims of violence in the Osh region of southern Kyrgyzstan, which was racked by riots and ethnic conflict in 2010. Thousands of people lost their homes and even their lives. “[We] started active participation to help people, promote tolerance, diversity and peace,” she says of the project’s beginnings.
As the situation in southern Kyrgyzstan stabilized, Unity Fund turned to helping the needy of other regions and evolved into a community service-focused organization. Its ever-growing membership engages in a range of volunteer activities, such as planting trees, visiting the elderly, and awareness-raising flash mobs like the one they did against domestic violence.
This year, the group’s primary mission is to increase access to education, especially by promoting eagerness to learn among young people. Unity Fund has already helped more than 2000 children and thousands of others, and more than 500 volunteers worldwide have contributed to their efforts. Members rely on fundraising and grant opportunities to support their projects; all work is financially transparent. Nadezhda continues to work with Unity Fund.
Given her commitment to service, she received one of three invitations to participate in American Councils’ 2012 Civic Education Week in Washington, D.C. as an outstanding alumna. There, she shared her story of continuing volunteerism after the FLEX Program and inspired current participants to do the same. It was especially thrilling to receive this nomination after a Kyrgyzstan FLEX alumna, Aizat Jakybalieva ‘07, represented Eurasia FLEX alumni at the same event during Nadezhda’s FLEX year.
“[I was] so proud that an alumna from my country was there to be a role model for 100 FLEX students. I never thought I could ever be there. But it happened. This is when I realized that things you think are not possible are very much possible.”
She described the week’s activities, which included attending the passing of a bill, visiting the House of Representatives, and meeting various senators, as “a great motivation to continue as an active alumna, an active participant of social life.”
In 2013, Nadezhda traveled to India through an AIESEC internship program. There, she volunteered with JIYO (Footprints), an organization that strives to educate underprivileged children. The experience enabled her to make connections between her work with those in need in Kyrgyzstan and in India and was “a ‘boom’ for thinking.” She also learned about India’s enthralling and unexpected culture; her own reflections on the experience can be found here. She loved India and is planning to return in a month.
With the help of Exchanges to Internships, a program that places FLEX alumni into internships with the Kyrgyzstani government, Nadezhda was placed in the National Agency of Anti-Monopoly Regulation, the department that regulates advertising, competition and consumers’ rights protection. Her contributions included developing notices sent to companies that violate consumers’ rights, monitoring video of road repairs, monitoring raids on illegal business sites, and representing the agency at an international conference on anti-monopoly policy.
Nadezhda says that the internship has given her more positive feelings about governmental work and the future of Kyrgyzstan. It also deepened an interest in public service that began with Unity Fund. She believes that “laws are not there to break, but to enhance” people’s thinking.” As a result of the internship, she has added a minor in Law. She is currently writing her senior thesis on anti-monopoly policy and was offered an official position with the agency after graduation, which she accepted.
The FLEX experience was the catalyst that changed everything for Nadezhda. “FLEX not only shaped my interests, it taught me how to shape interests” by creating a new worldview and developing new skills. Moreover, it has given her the desire to keep growing. Of her image of the next five years, she has “some drawings,” but “needs more paint to complete it.”