The FLEX-Ability Workshop on Social Entrepreneurship and Career and Workplace Skills, held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, was an immersive and capacity-building experience that fostered a culture of hands-on learning, experience exchange, and international collaboration. This annual workshop brought together 76 alumni, seven alumni coordinators, and eight mentors from seven countries, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, each with their unique perspectives and experiences.  

From June 29 to July 2, 2023, participants developed and presented social entrepreneurship projects, guided by global youth trainer and educator Simon Norton. Participants applied their acquired knowledge in real-time, facilitating practical learning and skill enhancement. Tomiris Zhangeldiyeva ’22, for example, shared her plans to host a workshop for high school students focusing on IT, medicine, and studying abroad as a direct follow-up of the workshop.  

Meanwhile, Aliona Pirozhenko ’22 shares that she most enjoyed the issue mapping exercises and analysis of the case studies for social projects. “It helped me realize that I need to understand an issue’s root causes before I start planning a project. Now I have a much clearer idea of the project planning process,” Aliona notes.  

A highlight of the program was the FLEX Talks sessions, in which alumni mentors shared their unique expertise with attendees. One of the mentors, talent management specialist and career development consultant Bibinur Zhamaliddenova ’15, led a resume-building session and reflected, “The workshop helped me to grow as a training facilitator.” Other mentors led FLEX talks on building a free social project website in one day, working with United Nations and NGOs, applying for remote jobs, and real-life examples of social entrepreneurship projects. “The entire workshop was an exceptional and rejuvenating experience for me,” shares mentor Mariia Ermatova ’13, Human Resources Assistant at United Nations Population Fund. “Witnessing the passion and dedication of young professionals to implementing a wide range of social projects in their respective home countries was incredibly inspiring.”   

The participants’ agenda also included a tour of Tashkent, which demonstrated the rich history and beauty of the region. “I realized how much room there’s left for me to keep exploring other Central Asian countries,” noted participant Aruzhan Sandibekova ’22. 

This workshop highlighted the power of international collaboration in addressing pressing social causes; the importance of resilience and well-being; and the transformative potential of professional development. Each participant left the workshop with a set of new skills and knowledge and a renewed commitment to driving positive change in their societies. Participants are now in the process of implementing 44 projects to share what they have learned with their communities. This outcome testifies to the workshop’s success in fulfilling its mission to equip the next generation of leaders with the tools and resources they need to make a difference in their communities. 


Featured Alumni: 

Tomiris Zhangeldiyeva ’22 (Petropavl, Kazakhstan, placed by PAX in Greenwood, IN) – FLEX-Ability participant 

Aliona Pirozhenko ’22 (Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, placed by Greenheart Exchange in West Gardiner, ME) – FLEX-Ability participant 

Bibinur Zhamaliddenova ’15 (Aktau, Kazakhstan, placed by FLAG in Madison, OH) – FLEX-Ability Mentor 

Mariia Ermatova ’13 (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, placed by PAX in Fort Collins, CO) – FLEX-Ability Mentor 

Narangerel Adiyasuren ’19 (Khuvsgul, Mongolia, placed by ASSE in St. Johns, MI) – FLEX-Ability participant 

Aikanysh Sydykova ’13 (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, placed by PAX in Chambersburg, PA) – FLEX-Ability mentor 

Aruzhan Sandibekova ’22 (Almaty, Kazakhstan, placed by ASSE in Port Angeles, WA) – FLEX-Ability participant 




The workshop was supported by following alumni-mentors: 

Aikanysh Sydykova ’13 (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, placed by PAX in Chambersburg, PA) – Program Coordinator for Small Grants at American Councils 

Avrangzeb Asroriyon ’15 (Dushanbe, Tajikistan, placed by Greenheart Exchange in Methuen, MA) – Social Entrepreneur, Founder of Honestly, a sustainable cosmetics brand  

Bibinur Zhamaliddenova ’15 (Aktau, Kazakhstan, placed by FLAG in Madison, OH) – Talent Management Specialist and Career Developern Consultant 

Gulnaz Tabynbayeva ’14 (Aktau, Kazakhstan placed by ASSE in Kentwood, MI) – Advocate for Gender Equality and Founder of E.Quality, an NGO  

Ilyas Seisov ’09 (Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, placed by PAX in Estancia, NM) – Web Developer and Internet Marketer 

Karina Ibragimova ’14 (Aktobe, Kazakhstan, placed by PAX in Cogan Station, PA) – Senior Contract Specialist and Youth Mentor  

Mahammad Kekalov ’18 (Zagatala, Azerbaijan, placed by American Councils in Boonsboro, MD) – Social Entrepreneur, founder of KekaMaps and KekaLove Adaptive, an inclusive fashion brand 

Mariia Ermatova ’13 (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, placed by PAX in Fort Collins, CO) – Human Resources Administrative Assistant at United Nations Population Fund 

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments