Tadateru Konoé, President of the IFRC, visited Kazakhstan this week and was inspired by the work of Kazakh Red Crescent volunteers – particularly those who were once beneficiaries of the National Society’s programmes.

Mr Konoé was welcomed to the capital city Astana by the Kazakh Red Crescent’s president, Dr. Yerkebek Kambarovich Argymbayev, and Astana Branch Director and Director of Branch Network Ms Aigul Kumasheva. During a visit to the branch, the President learned that the National Society has chosen to remain in its small premises in the Soviet-era Old Town as this allows them to stay close to the city’s most vulnerable people.

“Our door is always open here,” said Ms Kumasheva. “If we were in a new office in the business centre of the capital, the people who need us most would not be able to reach us.”

The Kazakh Red Crescent is active in disaster preparedness and response; first aid; restoring family links; blood donation; road safety promotion; social support; assistance to orphans and migrants, and in health – particularly in relation to prevention and treatment of HIV and tuberculosis.

Mr Konoé learned that the Kazakh Red Crescent will need support from its partners to strengthen its National Society development work and improve its fundraising, particularly in seizing the opportunities offered by Astana’s emerging economies and other revenue-generating activities. Strong partnerships and sustainable investment will be needed if the National Society is to reach its full potential.

Thanking Mr Konoé and presenting him with traditional Kazakh gifts of robes and a Red Crescent medal, Dr Argymbayev said: “Thank you, Mr President, for visiting Kazakhstan – this shows us that IFRC truly values the Kazakh Red Crescent and its volunteers.”

The IFRC President had the opportunity to meet and talk to some of the Astana branch’s volunteers and service users from the labour migrant community – some of whom now volunteer for the Red Crescent – and heard of the extensive support provided to migrants by the National Society.

Kazakhstan is a country of origin, destination and transit for many thousands of people on the move every year, and the National Society and partner organizations provide them with support, information, help with integration, medical support, and signposting to legal services through the Rights of Migrants in Action programme. Volunteers and staff also work to combat xenophobia and prejudice within host communities.

“I was particularly encouraged to meet labour migrants who were so empowered by the help they received that they are now serving as Red Crescent volunteers themselves,” said Mr Konoé.

“One young volunteer told me that she believes everyone wants to do something good in the world. The Red Cross and Red Crescent give this opportunity to everyone, no matter who they are or where they are from,” he added.

During his visit, the IFRC President also met with Mr Kayrat Abdrakhmanov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, to discuss matters of mutual interest and to encourage a closer partnership between the Government and the National Society.