Uniqum Centre, Astana. Thursday 21st March 2019
After a lot of web searching and countless email enquiries, we were put in touch with the Burns Society of Atyrau (a city in Western Kazakhstan on the Caspian Sea) who told us about a charity in Astana that had a day centre for children with Autism and similar conditions. The Burns Society had supported this charity previously by helping purchase furniture & equipment to allow the centre to open.
Through them, we were put in touch with Zhannel Shaimardanova who is the director of the Uniqum centre in Astana. We loved the idea of continuing the Scottish theme and Scottish involvement in the centre. TASA offered to make Uniqum our 71st consecutive donation & Zhannel subsequently sent us detailed information about the centre & the work they do there along with a list of items they would like to purchase. Our donation will be used to help fund the purchase of new equipment for their Sensory room and Playground. I spoke with Dot Wilson from TACC who was in the same position trying to find a suitable charity to donate to and it was agreed that they would also make a separate donation to Uniqum to match TASA’s.
The presentation took place at 11am on Thursday 21st March at the day centre. The presentation was well attended with the Deputy Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Andrew MacAllister in attendance along with Graeme Calder from the Burns Society. Siobhan & Liam from the Scotland Supporters Club also attended. There were TV crews from Sky Sports and STV who filmed the presentations and interviewed our chairman, Neil Forbes afterwards. There were also plenty of Scotland fans who came along to support our presentation which, as always, we really appreciate everyone’s efforts getting to the centre. This included Bob Bell, who only arrived in Astana at 7am that morning and offered to come along & pipe for us.
As it was the Kazakhstan holiday of Nauyrz (Kazak New Year that’s celebrated on the first day of the Spring Equinox), Zhannel had arranged some traditional Kazakhstan songs and dances that were performed by the children with lots of them in their national dress. It was wonderful to see the children so happy dancing and singing. There was also lots of local food and soft drinks put on for us by our hosts. Neil Forbes presented a cheque to Zhannel from TASA of £5000 which equates to approximately 2,482,909KZT and tours of the centre were offered to those who attended.
One last thanks to Siobhan and the SFA Kit manager who arranged and transported 60 Scotland Supporters Club polo shirts to Astana for us so we could donate them to Zhannel and the children at the centre. Everyone loved them.
As I wrote on Facebook following the match, ‘Following Scotland can be a challenge & definitely stretches your loyalty to breaking point. There is the flip side, following Scotland allows us to visit amazing places & donate to incredible groups who, by their hard work & dedication, are making the world a better place. Truly blessed to be able to play a small part in making this happen’.