Salem Social Village
Central Asia is developing fast, but many people are being left behind. Around 40% of Central Asia’s population still lives below the poverty line, HIV infection rates are some of the highest in the world, and drug and alcohol addictions are destroying communities. At the same time, the prevailing attitude towards disability, addiction, and poverty is indifference. Salem Village aims to develop good leaders by investing in young people with a different attitude towards these problems in order to bring hope for lasting change. Salem Social Village provides services focused on increasing empathy and understanding of social problems in their community through experiential learning. It is operated by Salem Culture and Education Union, a non-profit organization founded in 1996 as a local affiliate of Equip Trust, a UK charity. It began cooperating with the Hong Kong-based Crossroads Foundation in 2004 and was handed over to the US non-profit Interlink Resources, Inc in 2006, which supported it until 2010. Crossroads Foundation withdrew in 2013, leaving Salem Union in the position of being a fully independent organization without any foreign affiliations, raising charitable funds from local sources.
Theory of Change
Investing in young people with a fresh attitude toward disability, addiction, and poverty will bring critical leadership for lasting change.
Salem Social Village supports community services to the needy through volunteer opportunities and other practical support, training young community leaders and fostering empathy through simulations and experiential learning. One of their most successful projects is AIDS-Xperience where participants are invited to an interactive tour of the life of someone living with HIV. Participants listen through headphones to the backstory of one of several characters with HIV and then walk through a series of rooms in which they “live” that person’s experience of being diagnosed with HIV through pictures, videos, letters, and other realia. These services are funded in part through the Salem Culture and Education Union’s commercial activities, namely English courses, which earn around 120,000 USD per year. The organization also runs a café that serves as a social hub for the community as well as a space for learning about social empathy.
By educating, raising empathy and empowering individuals to take action, Salem Social Village produces change makers who can bring hope and lasting solutions to the problems faced by the underprivileged across Central Asia. One person who becomes a change maker can influence many lives by challenging attitudes and inspiring action on behalf of the forgotten.