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Founded in 2002, You Are Not Alone has grown into one of Uzbekistan’s most respected philanthropic organizations. The brainchild of Lola Karimova Tillyaeva and her husband, businessman Timur Tillyaev, the overarching goal has always been about helping kids born into disadvantage. You Are Not Alone offers a range of different programs and initiatives all aimed at, in the words of its founders: “ensuring that vulnerable children grow up in a caring and loving environment.”
In its early days, the foundation focused on care homes and orphanages for children and young adults – often known as “Mercy Homes” in Uzbekistan. A nationwide audit of care homes showed that there was much work to be done. In the years that followed, new orphanages have been built, others have received comprehensive refurbishments or provided with the means to update facilities. These days, Lola Tillyaeva and Timur Tillyaev have worked with experts in childcare, education, architecture and health to design and construct purpose-built centres from scratch, complete with sports halls, theatre spaces and medical equipment.
Education is a major focus of this philanthropic work. In 2003 Lola Tillyaeva and Timur Tillyaev opened an educational centre. In partnership with You Are Not Alone, the centre works prevent economic difficulties from forcing underprivileged kids to give up on school. More than 2,500 children from orphanages and low-income families, as well as children with disabilities have attended classes.
The centre is staffed by specialist educators – teachers able to go beyond their typical role and become mentors for children family support and other role models. The centre also provides support for children with learning difficulties to ensure they receive the best education available.
Tailoring their support to the individual need of each student has proven to successful. Not only are rates of absenteeism low and educational outcomes high, but behaviour outside of school has also seen notable improvement for many students. For Lola and Timur, “Education is at the heart of everything the You Are Not Alone foundation does.”
“The Educational Centre’s specialists seek to create a culture of learning and to boost the children’s confidence by treating each child as an individual, acknowledging and building on their strong points while providing them with support and encouragement as they explore the many career options available to them, helping them to find their own best match,” says Lola Tillyaeva on her website.
But the foundation is truly holistic and also provides legal and psychological support for children brought up at orphanages who have no other access to these kinds of services. Hundreds of children, even former residents, have received assistance in navigating adult life. From finding housing or employment to more mundane problems like recovering state ID cards, Lola and Timur’s organizations are there to help. They also provide a variety of psychological and social support for kids who are or who have been under their care. It’s a recognition that for vulnerable childen, and especially orphans, some of the hurt is invisible and long lasting. Fortunately, the You Are Not Alone Foundation is determined to support these children into adulthood and help them to thrive.
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