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Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Kyrgyz Republic

Gulmira Chonbagyshova, Kochkor, Kyrgyz Republic
Gulmira has been a part of the Altyn-Kol Women’s Handicraft Cooperative since 1997 and has served as the organization’s craft department chief since 2003. She currently manages the cooperative’s store in Kochkor, selling handmade felt carpets, hats, slippers, and toys. She is a talented designer and has exhibited some of her work at an international show in Switzerland.

Andrew Kuschner, Kyrgyz Republic, Peace Corps Volunteer
Andrew has been a Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan since June 2010. Seeing the country’s high unemployment rate in contradiction with the developed skills of the people of Kyrgyzstan, he set off to organize a business to help alleviate the discrepancy. The solution was Shai-Kesh Kyrgyzstan, a handicraft business. In his spare time Andrew enjoys traveling to new countries.

Mahabat Sultanbekova, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic,
Peace Corps Staff

Mahabat was born and raised in Bishkek, the nation’s capital. As a member of the Peace Corps office staff, Mahabat manages public outreach and coordinates U.S. grant programs that support Peace Corps volunteers and local communities across the country. She is a musician and plays several Kyrgyz folk instruments such as the komuz and ooz (mouth) komuz.

Elena Urakayeva, Karakol, Kyrgyz Republic
Under the guidance of her mother who worked as a seamstress, Elena has been stitching and sewing since age fourteen. With the support of a Peace Corps volunteer, Elena started the Shai-Kesh Kyrgyzstan handicraft business in November 2010 with the hopes of providing skilled, impoverished women the chance to realize their needlework abilities. She also enjoys dancing in her free time.

Burul Zhakypova, Kochkor, Kyrgyz Republic
Burul is the director of Altyn-Kol Women’s Handicraft Cooperative, an organization created to help sell the traditional rugs made by the women of the Kyrgyz Republic. She has been a member of the organization since 1998, became a staff accountant for the organization in 2001, and was recently elected director of the cooperative.