Altynai Hur is a business development specialist based in Michigan and a native of Kyrgyzstan. She recently completed a virtual volunteer assignment with ACDI/VOCA through the Farmer-to-Farmer Program in Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia, funded by USAID. She worked with small businesses in rural areas of Kyrgyzstan to help them attract investment. Read our Q&A with Altynai below and learn more about how to volunteer with ACDI/VOCA.
As a native of Kyrgyzstan, how would you describe the challenges facing many rural households there?
Due to the lack of jobs in rural areas in Kyrgyzstan, many families face the reality of creating their own sources of income. Some people send their loved ones to work and earn income in neighboring countries. Many of these labor migrants face discrimination and harsh environments while being away from their family and safety net.
Labor migrants are not the only ones who may suffer socially and emotionally. Unfortunately, their family members, especially children that were left behind, suffer as well. Sadly, many children in Kyrgyzstan grow up without parents and subsequently follow their parents’ path, and the circle of poverty and social and economic injustice continues.
However, some try to create small businesses, which help to keep families together. Small business development is essential to Kyrgyzstan on so many levels. By creating a business, many people can not only provide for their families but also create a safe, stable, and healthy environment for their children.
Why do you decide to volunteer?
I am passionate about creating economic opportunities and equipping people with skills and knowledge that can help them thrive, live productive lives, and create a stronger foundation for their families, especially children.
So, when a local volunteer from Kyrgyzstan asked me to consult and partner on designing a business training, it was simple to say “yes". If I can bring value and make even a small contribution toward improving someone’s life, then I am in.
What was it like collaborating remotely from the U.S. with a local Kyrgyz volunteer to support small business development?
It is always a pleasure to work with someone who is passionate about bringing value and helping people in achieving their dreams. Aisuluu Meimankanova, a local volunteer, is a professional with extensive work experience in small business development in Kyrgyzstan.
Working with her was fun and productive. She was looking to consult on developing a business training about presenting your business proposal to potential investors and financing your business. Aisuluu presented her vision and materials for the training, and I reviewed them and made suggestions on how we could improve the training. I have also developed a video training on the benefits of starting small and self-financing.
Tell us more about how this volunteer assignment benefitted rural households.
Through many discussions together, we developed a training program that mainly focused on two goals. First, there was a need to train participants to make effective presentations. Effective presentation skills could help participants present their business ideas to potential investors or partners. We also included a session on how to develop a business pitch. Participants could gain knowledge and skills about not only how to present information but also what information to include.
Second, participants also expressed an interest to learn about how and where they could find money to finance their business ideas. To meet their needs, we developed a handout that described various ways of financing their business (self-financing, crowdfunding, investors, grant money, business loans, etc.) and explained the advantages and disadvantages of each financial so