Kamilya Zulfukharova ’17 (Taraz, Kazakhstan / Plainwell, MI)

There is not a lot of attention paid to mental illness in schools and universities in Kazakhstan, leading to poor awareness among teenagers and young adults. To draw attention to the importance of mental health, Ayaulym Akhilova ’20, Temirlan Utegulov ’20, and Nargyz Bitimbay ’20 organized the Bee Mindful Workshop in Almaty and Aktau.

Held on August 20 and 21, 2022, Bee Mindful engaged 37 youth from these two cities in addressing issues such as bullying at schools and advancing mental health-related initiatives in smaller cities like Aktau. The workshop included numerous interactive sessions focused on topics from self-care and building confidence to dealing with stress and burnout during college admissions.

One particularly interesting session was “Breakfast with a Psychologist”, an informal activity that included a group conversation and a question-and-answer session with experts in the field of psychology and behavioral sciences, all while enjoying pastries and tea. To support mindfulness, Sharipa Taibassar ’20 led a yoga session in Almaty, and Diana Akual ’19 led an art therapy session in Aktau. At the end of the workshop, students proposed ideas for improving mental health awareness in Kazakhstan.

“When planning this workshop, we had two main goals in mind,” says Ayaulym, one of the workshop organizers. “First, to inform teenagers about mental health importance using our experience and the knowledge from experts. Next, we wanted to provide a safe space where participants could share their thoughts and ideas, gain encouragement and motivation from their peers, and have a fun time.”

According to feedback from participants, the alumnae achieved their goals. “Most of all, I liked our kind mentors. I am sure that none of the participants felt any tension or pressure on their part,” said one of the workshop participants. “The schedule left no room for idleness or boredom — the breakfast, art therapy, and engaging photo hunting brought a lot of variety and excitement.”

The project was conducted with support from the 2022 FLEX-Ability Post-Workshop Projects Program.

Ayaulym Akhilova ’20 (Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan / West Allis, WI)

Temirlan Utegulov ’20 (Aktau, Kazakhstan / Belle Plaine, IA)

Nargyz Bitimbay ’20 (Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan / Palmyra, ME)