Date: 04-05-2023

ISSA Welcomes a New Member: “Open Hearts”, Tajikistan

Founded in 2018 by parents of children with Down syndrome, a new ISSA Member “Open Hearts” is a National Public Organization in Tajikistan that provides help and support to their children. It empowers kids with disabilities to improve the quality of their lives by promoting their social, educational, and economic inclusion.

Initially starting as an unofficial organization, "Open Hearts" was officially registered with the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Tajikistan in November 2018. The organization recognizes the importance of empowering parents with the knowledge and resources to approach the special needs of their children, which is why they developed a family-centred care (FCC) model. This model promotes collaboration between therapists and families, with the goals and aspirations of the family being central to the intervention.

Access to preschool education can be a significant challenge for children with disabilities and special needs in Tajikistan due to the lack of reasonable accommodation opportunities, often leading to discrimination and exclusion from society and school. In response to this issue, a group of parents of children with disabilities founded the National Public Organization "Open Hearts" in 2008 to provide a safe and supportive place for parents to prepare their children for the future.

“According to the official data of Ministry of Education and sciences of Tajikistan, 84% of children in the country do not have access preschool education and for children with disabilities this access is even more complicated due to the lack of opportunity for reasonable accommodation. Families of children with disabilities in Tajikistan face multiple forms of discrimination which leads to their exclusion from society and school. Our organization provides comprehensive ECD service and supports children to be included in preschool institutions and further in schools,” says a founder and Chair of the Board Zarina Kurbanbekova.

"Open Hearts" offers a wide range of services and programs designed to cater to the unique needs of children with disabilities and their families. With centers in Shaartous (Khatlon region), Khorog (Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region), and Dushanbe, the organization has a dedicated team of 30 permanent employees who provide holistic programs. These programs include early developmental interventions, vocational training for teenagers, therapy services (physical, musical, speech therapy), and psychological support. The organization also provides educational support, such as tutoring and literacy programs, to help children with disabilities reach their full potential.

Becoming an ISSA Member, we would like to share our experience in providing services for children with developmental delays and disabilities. From other ISSA Members we would be happy to learn about their experiences and knowledge. We would also like to strengthen cooperation with the other countries. This will support us in advocating quality ECD services in Tajikistan and will make our voice heard,” shares Zarina Kurbanbekova.