People living with disabilities in Kazakhstan have an ally in The Namys Foundation, an organization dedicated to representing them and advocating for their rights.

The group has had recent success, working with the government to develop an unprecedented National Action Plan that addresses issues from employment to building codes to social integration.

But Namys as an organization was in need of its own brand of support.

It had no business plan, and limited funds with which to organize events and workshops for people with disabilities who needed job training and a support system.

Outdated computer equipment limited teaching opportunities for those who hoped to gain job skills, and there was no room in the budget to train instructors on how to interact with disabled students—an education few other organizations were even offering.

An assessment conducted under Counterpart International’s Kazakhstan Civil Society Strengthening (KCSS) Program further revealed that Namys, like other civil society organizations in the region, was not financially sustainable.

Namys was one of 12 civil society organizations (CSOs) awarded an institutional strengthening grant under the U.S. Agency for International Development-funded program.

With the money, it was able to hire an experienced social enterprise consultant to develop a business plan and introduce staff to the basics and peculiarities of financial sustainability.

They jointly developed a two-year financial sustainability plan and fee-for-service plan that would transform Namys into a well-run and effective advocacy organization with a stable future.

The foundation began collecting fees for some of its services, and was able to upgrade the equipment used in class and pay for instructors.

Staff got a leg up on developing project and volunteer management skills, strategic planning and public relations.

“Knowledge and skills the Namys staff acquired within this grant program contributed to their professional growth,” says Namys Chairman Kairat Imanaliyev. “I think that my staff received a new impetus to learn more and continuously improve their skills.”

The foundation’s successful incorporation of business management into its work plan helped it win a $3,000 grant from the Association for development of civil society, allowing it to expand its training offerings for people with disabilities to include computer literacy, graphics editing and business correspondence.

The courses were a hit.

The director of Zhiger, a youth organization for disabled people, wrote to Namys to express the group’s gratitude for excellent computer training.

“We value the quality of the provided training,” said director P. Yusupdzhanov, “and hope to receive more trainings in the future.”

With successful courses under its belt, Namys presented its achievements to local authorities to show them that such projects are possible and in demand, and deserving of state funding.

As a result of the classes, participants will likely gain opportunities for employment they could not have previously accessed and, consequently, a chance at leading an independent life.

Leading the way, Namys itself is looking to hire the most talented graduates of the courses to work at the foundation as Internet Technology administrators.

When more financial resources become available, the organization will be able to create more job positions for its trainees as web-designers, web-site developers, and more.

A more engaged and empowered community of people with disabilities will lead to more connected disability-focused organizations, and most importantly, contribute to advocacy efforts that will benefit all Kazakhstanis with disabilities.