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When Nargis T. Ziyavatdinova of Uzbekistan first visited PACER Center as part of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program in 2002, she was impressed.
“My visit to PACER was most profound,” Ziyavatdinova told a reporter for the Star Tribune, a Minneapolis based newspaper. “I was inspired by what I observed, and returned full of passion.”

That passion led Ziyavatdinova to create a plan for educating children with disabilities in Uzbekistan. By 2004, she had secured funding from the local government and opened the Specialized Education Center of Termez for students with disabilities.

Word spread, and young people began arriving at the school asking for an opportunity to learn to read and write. Today, the school has about 78 students from the ages of 7 to 17, and 28 of the school’s students are now included into mainstream classrooms.

In addition to opening the school, Ziyavatdinova also serves as the founder and director of the non-governmental organization Imkon (Hope). She promotes inclusive education through activities such as teacher training, building networks of people active on disability issues, lobbying education officials and raising public awareness.

Ziyavatdinova returned to Minnesota in February 2011 as part of a State Department tour of distinguished alumni of its program, and once again she visited PACER. At PACER, Ziyavatdinova met with advocates and other staff members to discuss several ideas for Imkon, including starting PACER’s Count Me In disability awareness program in Uzbekistan. After much hard work and determination, Imkon performed its first CMI puppet show on Dec. 3, 2011 for the U.N. International Day for Persons with Disabilities celebrated in Uzbekistan.

Ikmon intends to use the CMI program in primary schools and other public venues to help children and adults learn about disabilities and chronic illnesses in an effort to bridge the gap between typical students and those with disabilities.

PACER’s Count Me In program features six, child-size, puppets that portray children with disabilities. These puppets have proven to be effective communicators of the message of understanding and acceptance, helping to dispel fears, myths and misconceptions about persons with disabilities.


A delegation of medical and disability organization professionals from Uzbekistan visited PACER in the summer of 2007 to learn about parent involvement, parent center organizations, and PACER’s Simon Technology Center. From this exchange a partnership grew with the Research Center of Disabled Children, “Sanvikt.” Sanvikt is a NGO focused on helping "children with limited opportunities to believe in themselves, become high-grade, independent people with strong personality.” PACER has helped develop articles pdf icon for Sanvikt to publish in their journal which is circulated to families of children with disabilities across Uzbekistan.

The dedication of this delegation's commitment to help children with disabilities in their country drove them to seek help from the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan. The U.S. Embassy agreed to host a satellite conference between key Uzbekistan disability leaders and PACER Center.

PACER was contacted by the United States Department of State International Information Programs and in late December 2007, Sue Folger, co-director of the Technical Assistance Alliance; Deborah Leuchovius, Director of Technical Assistance on Transition and the Rehabilitation Act; and Shauna McDonald, Director of Community Resource Development presented on:

  • How to provide effective education opportunities for the disabled
  • Job training and job placement
  • The rights of people with disabilities
  • Working with parents

There were many questions for the presenters. It was clear that participants were eager to learn all they could in that short time frame. Larisa Khodjaeva of Kanvikt was awarded a certificate from the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan for spearheading this event and strengthening relations between U.S. and Uzbekistan.



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