How Kazakh Student Danial Led a Social Change Movement and Mobilises High Schoolers to Take Action

28 JUL 2020

When student Danial from Kazakhstan was exposed to social injustices within the country, he was spurred to take action. What evolved was the Social Change Club; a group of over 60 students from more than 5 cities across Kazakhstan, who banded together to positively affect less fortunate and marginalised groups - particularly whose condition was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

We spoke with Danial about the 5 non-profit projects he has launched while still in high school and his plans to make a lasting difference once attending a university of his dreams.

Read on to learn how the Social Change Club - his most recent capstone project has helped 7 families (30 people in total) so far, in three different cities in Kazakhstan by providing essential supplies: food, masks, and medical supplies.

What first sparked your project idea? Are there additional projects / issues you are passionate about?

The project was inspired by my personal experience living in Kazakhstan. I was exposed to social problems such as religious intolerance and negative stereotypes in my daily life. I experienced first-hand the unwillingness of several groups of people to change their mindsets and lifestyles to more socially (and even environmentally) conscious ones. To address these issues, I founded the Social Change Club to bring teenagers together and achieve real solutions by promoting cooperation among them.

Another project I am currently working on is “Adal Komek”, which aims to motivate people to make a difference in our society through various social actions. Our goal is to instigate a chain of actions to help those in need and in this way inspire a larger network of charitable deeds all over the country. We are still in the process of building an online platform and hope to take the first steps towards our goal within the next month.

I am also passionate about fighting educational inequalities and have been working to increase accessibility of online educational materials to disadvantaged groups. Apart from The Social Change Club, I am also involved in another project called EduCity, which makes foreign online education accessible to Kazakh students by translating audiovisual and written sources into Russian and Kazakh.

How did your initiative fit in with your high school workload? How did you balance your ECL project alongside your academics and other pursuits?

The international outlook of my school helped with the implementation of my ideas because IB curriculum schools tend to inspire students to start personal projects. Moreover, in my Diploma Program, we have a mandatory subject called CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service). Students have to create their own projects based on these three main concepts, which can be quite similar to capstone projects.

I became very passionate about these projects, so I was motivated enough to create an efficient schedule for myself, and make sure that I achieved a good balance of being productive in these projects while also staying on top of schoolwork. In this way, I have practiced and built stronger time management skills, which has allowed me to organize my time and will eventually help me at university as well!

Can you please quantify the impact this project has had? This could be on other students, the wider community

So far, we have helped 7 families (30 people in total) in 3 different cities in Kazakhstan by providing essential supplies: food, masks, and medical supplies. These families were in dire need because of poverty, health issues, difficult living circumstances including having children with disabilities, and some are single-parent households. Their living conditions were further exacerbated during the coronavirus crisis, as they lost their jobs and all sources of income due to the lockdown.

In addition to this recent volunteer work, we have also started a social platform for the Social Change Club to organize interested teenagers and connect them with opportunities for social change. So far, 60 students from more than 5 cities in Kazakhstan have signed up through our social platform and we plan to expand our actions throughout the country with the help of these teams. Finally, our club will operate in the school from this fall and will impact our student body and raise awareness among an even greater number of students. Our school community is made up of approximately 500 students and we hope to reach as many of them as we can.

Where do you envisage taking this project in say, 1- 5 years from now?

I am excited to continue this project in university or college and take it to the next level. My vision is to eventually put together an international non-profit organization, which will have a global impact and will address social problems across borders and cultures.

What obstacles have you faced and overcome in taking your project from an idea to its current stage?

The main problem that I have faced is the lack of awareness among citizens. Initially, some of them did not understand the aim and concepts of the Social Change Club. Moreover, the issue of COVID - 19 had a great impact on my project. Due to quarantine measures, school and public places were closed. It meant that actions within my club were threatened by the pandemic. However, I adapted to the situation by creating a website and social media accounts including Instagram. As part of this, I organized a group of writers who wrote posts about different social problems. Despite the dangerous situation, our team reached 30 people in need, because they had health and economic issues due to quarantine.

What resources and tools helped you to maximise the impact of your initiative?

I am so grateful to have put together such a productive team of students, who are keen to help organize and manage the Social Change Club. There are now more than 60 students in different cities of my country who are working with each other to solve some problems. Moreover, we have 100 students who are eager to participate in future initiatives and actions of the club.

What valuable support and advice have you received from your Crimson Extracurricular and Leadership mentor, and any other role models in your life?

My ECL mentor Eva has helped me a lot. We have been working together on this project since December 2019 and every step has been guided by Eva. We spend a lot of time brainstorming in order to find new ideas. She advised me about really important aspects of the club and helped me translate my ideas and thoughts into actions.

What advice would you give to other students who are looking to make an impact and also, who have ambitions to study at a top-ranked university after high school?

Less talk, more action! In addition, only do what you like. Do not try to solve many problems at the same time, but focus on one area and make a logical stepwise plan. Most importantly, make sure to understand the value of a strong team, with people who will support each other along the way, push you out of your comfort zone, and help you grow as a person.

What goals and dreams do you have for your future beyond school?

My dream is to make a real impact on the world. I have 5 different ongoing non-profit projects that focus on different problems and provide novel solutions. My next step will be to continue working on my projects to gain experience and hopefully make a difference on a larger scale and scope!

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