A program by RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz service, “13-Year-Old Aichurok Supports Her Whole Family,” is a story about 13-year-old Aichurek Sulaimanova, the sole breadwinner for her family in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She has collected plastic bags to recycle at a local market in Bishkek after school every day for the last two and half years, in order to buy food and medicine for her disabled mother and younger brother.
The story sparked huge attention on the Internet. Within 24 hours after it was published online, the Kyrgyz service received hundreds of phone calls and messages from people offering to help. During a follow-up visit to the girl’s home by service journalists, they found that more than 100 people had come to offer all kinds of aid. A local NGO paid the rent of their one- bedroom apartment for one year, and Aichurek is living there now with her brother and mother, who said people are calling from the U.S., Switzerland and Africa asking to send them money. The story also was versioned by Current Time Asia.
A video story on Aichurek versioned for social networks went viral on Facebook, reaching nearly 5.4 million people. Also, the story caught the attention of famed Russian ORT Television network host Alexander Gordon, who invited the family and the Kyrgyz service journalist who did the story, Sabyr Abdymomunov, to Moscow to be featured on his talk show “Muzhskoe/Zhenskoye” (Men/Women):