Open menu Close menu

SICA Success Stories


In 2016, Elena Gareyeva returned to her native town of Turkmenabad, Turkmenistan, after her studies, which included time in the United States, Kyrgyzstan, Italy and Croatia. Since then, she has been working for herself, teaching English. After rich experiences of teaching and studying abroad, Elena recognized that young people in Turkmenabad wanted similar opportunities for self-expression and exploration. And with quarantine limiting opportunities to engage actively with others or society, this isolation could affect young people’s mental and physical health.

Elena herself benefited from opportunities for continued education in the Central Asia Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA), a project of USAID’s Social Innovation in Central Asia (SICA). CAYLA regularly conducts trainings and provides courses for young leaders from across Central Asia. Engaging with like-minded people in CAYLA motivated her to launch her own social projects to connect young people in Turkmenabad with similar opportunities. "When you communicate with people who are also initiated, you also feel the urge to do something productive for yourself and others. For me, I am motivated by building community and networking with similarly ambitious people,” said Elena. After learning about social entrepreneurship and project management in CAYLA, Elena launched two projects: Healthy Lifestyle & Body and the Young Professionals Network. Two months later, her Young Professionals Network already has a promising future, having amassed a consistent following. The network is an open-ended project that connects 20 young professionals between the ages of 26 to 30 years in an online format. The group comes together to explore educational opportunities and network with peers about two to three times per month. Elena draws on her experience in CAYLA to support participants’ professional development goals. Shirin Eldasheva, an ambitious infectious disease doctor, was inspired to continue learning English through the network; she attends sessions frequently to train her language and professional skills. Govher Umarova, an English teacher who took initiative to hold several free educational sessions for the network even participated in CAYLA’s “American Corner” project. Others meet online and via group chats to share opportunities, pursue new jobs or internships, and establish initiatives of their own.

“CAYLA equipped me with several important soft skills to develop my projects, such as project management, critical thinking, and creative thinking, but also hard skills as website creation, marketing, social media promotion and sales,” Elena says. “This is very important, because without both, you cannot properly implement your concept." Elena’s second project, Healthy Lifestyle & Body, was also informed by her time in CAYLA. Through this initiative, 45 young people between 14 and 21 learn information about proper nutrition, healthy lifestyle habits, and overall wellbeing tips, and share with their friends and family. This is especially relevant during the coronavirus pandemic, when people spend long periods of time sitting at home. Elena and her project team hope to expand this project even further and cater to a larger audience. In total, Elena’s leadership has helped more than 20 people find accessible professional and academic development, and 50 others to live healthier lives.

Other SICA Success Stories

USAID Supports Launch of Civic Education Program for Youth in Rural Kazakhstan
Learn more Learn more
Improving Access to MRIs in Northern Kazakhstan
Learn more Learn more

Contact Us


Almaty, Kazakhstan
609 Seifullin St
"Forum" Business Center

error icon

Enter your name

error icon

Enter a valid email

error icon

Enter your message

Thank you!