Paralympic Shooter Hits the Target in Kazakhstan

NGO leader Galina Boltovskaya is an accomplished marksperson who teaches sports to disabled people
NGO leader Galina Boltovskaya is an accomplished marksperson who teaches sports to disabled people.
Local NGOs help disabled people gain new skills and confidence
“People with disabilities must resist the urge to feel badly for themselves. They must strive for sucess despite their disabilities."

Galina Boltovskaya is a confident woman in her mid-40s who slings a rifle over her shoulder and a crutch under each arm. She isn’t a hunter, but, rather, an enthusiastic guide for a flashy sporting complex in Taldykorgan, Kazakhstan, and an avid marksperson who excels in the 10-meter air rifle shooting event.

She took up the sport after she lost her left leg in an auto accident nearly 25 years ago while she was driving to study in a technical institute. She won a bronze medal in the Kazakhstan Paralympic Games in 2011, and, in 2012, she took the gold in the Kazakhstan Republic championship for disabled people. She dreams about representing Kazakhstan in a more prestigious international sporting competition for people with disabilities such as the Special Olympics.

Boltovskaya is sports coordinator for ERLIK – a local NGO that takes part in Empowerment Now, USAID/Central Asia Republic’s flagship disability rights project. She runs sports and physical activity classes for the nearly 400 disabled members of ERLIK, who pay $5 per month to receive wide-ranging services. As one of the 600,000 people with disabilities in this post-Soviet country, she knows full well the double discrimination that female disabled people face in their quest to receive equal participation in Kazakhstani society.

Boltovskaya is not letting that discrimination get in the way of her determination and success. She is part of a network of NGOs partnering with USAID to impact more than a quarter million people living with disabilities in Kazakhstan.

“People with disabilities must resist the urge to feel badly for themselves," says Boltovskaya. "They must strive for sucess despite their disabilities. Through sports we can improve people’s self-confidence, help them overcome isolation, aid them in re-integrating into society, and help reduce domestic violence.”

USAID’s Empowerment Now project has the dual objectives of strengthening nearly 20 NGOs in Kazakhstan via a series of organizational development courses and using public service announcements to change the public’s bias towards people with disabilities.The activity is implemented by ARGO, one of eight local organizations that receive direct funding from the USAID mission. Empowerment Now is a two-year Kazakhstan project active through August 2014. 

“If I am able to instill the values from sports in other people with disabilities, I will teach them valuable life lessons,” Boltovskaya remarks as she loads her rifle for her next shot. As she speaks, she cocks her rifle with a 4.5 mm pellet, pauses patiently, aims with precision, and hits the target.