Turkmenistan: Creative hearts

Once upon a time, there was a land in Central Asia, surrounded by a chain of inaccessible, majestic mountains, bordering the Caspian Sea and the Amu-Darya river, on the ancient Silk Road. In Turkmenistan, as the land was called, a tradition of charity – known as sadaqah – had existed since the dawn of time. Everyone tried to give the very best of themselves, depending on what they could manage.

And so it was, in a company called Bouygues Turkmen, that employees regularly organised fundraising events. One day, they began to wonder how they could do more…

So they got together, drank lots of coffee and tea, and talked… and their hearts told them what to do: start making all sorts of items and sell them at charity fairs. It was a strange idea for a company whose business was to construct enormous buildings. But one they all loved! At head office, an artistic workshop was set up and everything began to fall into place. Employees spent their lunch breaks there creating their wares: pictures, dolls, Turkmen jewellery, knitted hats and scarves… Everyone got involved. Talents flourished. Employees scrambled to buy these truly unique creations. What a success!

And they listened to their hearts again and came up with other initiatives, like the “bravery box” for children with cancer. Employees donated little toys and books, depositing them in a great big box. The box was left in treatment rooms, to distract the young patients and take their little minds off their injections. They could even choose one of the toys from the bravery box to keep. Nobody knows who invented the name of the box, but just hearing it seemed to make the injections hurt less…

And there is another tale too… At the hospital, one of the company’s employees had met a grandmother who was weeping in despair. She was looking after her granddaughter because the child’s mother was unable to do so. Unfortunately, the old lady didn’t have any money and was struggling to bring her up alone. The employee went back to her company and described her moving encounter. And once again, the heartfelt decision was taken to help the grandmother and little Xenia – for that was what the girl was called – just like a real godmother would do. They gave her Christmas presents and bought her clothes for school, over many long years. It wasn’t just about giving money. It was also about supporting the little girl so she could grow up happy and healthy. Xenia was very bright. She learned to speak English and French and she danced. She was a good pupil. Everybody at the company was very proud of her and it was a heart-warming story.

And there were plenty other touching stories just like this one. Because it’s always possible to come up with good ideas if we listen to our hearts.

One day, for example, they heard that some children didn’t have enough money to go back to school after the holidays. So the employees decided to buy some supplies to donate to families who couldn’t afford to pay for them. Everyone said yes.

And it became a ritual: the handing over of school bags in person to the children. The “Back to school” initiative has been running for several years now and it is an emotion-filled occasion…

What all these stories tell us, is that where there is compassion, the ideas just keep coming and there is no stopping them… in this company and wherever there are people with kind hearts.

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