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Preserving relationships: How jam is helping older people in Kyrgyzstan

13 Oct 2010

In June this year, around 1 million people were affected by violence in Kyrgyzstan, in particular in Osh and Jalal-Abad in the south west of the country.

Since then, we have carried out a range of measures to help vulnerable older people in these areas. One venture is a food preservation project which we run with Luch Lotosa, a local older people's organisation set up by Bolush Saliev ten years ago.

Kyrgyzstan fruit projectBolush, 63, said: "When HelpAge came to my office and suggested ‘a food preservation project' I must say I had some doubts about it because of the worry that people wouldn't want to mix together after all the violence that happened in June.

"But now I have changed my mind completely to see that in this project all different ethnic groups got involved and spent days working together."

The three-month project involves older people working together and making different vegetable and fruit preservations which are put into three-litre jars. Older people then receive two jars of the food each which will help to feed them through the winter.

The jars contain various preserves such as raspberry jam, plum jam, tomato puree, mixed vegetables, honey and walnuts or ‘Prostoy Salad' which includes cabbage, carrots, onion, garlic and tomatoes.

Once the preservation is ready, some people will come and collect the food for themselves from the neighbourhood if they fancy the walk, but if they are unable to get there, then Luch Lotosa's staff take it to their homes.

Kyrgyzstan fruit projectThe preservation project is currently happening in five locations around Osh city and many women who are involved in the preparation of the food are beneficiaries themselves.

For example, Sonja, 60, accepted an invitation by Luch Lotosa to prepare the preserves in her garden. Sonja is widowed and lives in her house with eight family members.

She cares for two grandchildren after her daughter-in-law died and her son had to go to the capital Bishkek to seek work.

Sonja (pictured in turquoise headscarf, top picture) says: "I take care of my grandchildren, they are my responsibility and my children help as much as they can."

It takes around two days for 20 people to prepare 250 jars of food. The project will last throughout the autumn time, until the beginning of November. Now is the best time to preserve the fruit and vegetable while the days are still sunny and warm.

Because as older people here know only too well, winter here will be very long and bitterly cold.

(Story research and photos by Dina Z. Gillham)

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Author profile

Aisuluu Kamchybekova
Country: Kyrgyzstan
Job title: Regional Communications Officer for Eastern E

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.