Education USA: A Transgender Kazakhstani Journey

For: Sultana Kali
Organizer: Sultana Kali and Robyn McCutcheon
of $22,000 goal
37% Complete
Raised by 75 donors
This fundraiser is closed. Thank you for your support!

The Story

Hi, my name is Sultana Kali from northern Kazakhstan.  I am nineteen-year-old LGBTI activist, one of the few out transgender activists in Central Asia.  I am one of the coordinators of "Queer Corner" in Astana and participate in LGBTI conferences and roundtables in Kazakhstan and elsewhere in Central Asia.  That has included events organized by the U.S. Embassy in Astana, where I worked side-by-side with Jamison Greene, president of the World Association for Transgender Health, to encourage Kazakhstan's Ministry of Health and Social Development to change its procedures that govern gender transition.

I need your help.  Because I am transgender, my high school expelled me a year before graduation.  On my own and with the help of others, I've tried to find a school or university anywhere in Kazakhstan that will accept me, but none will.  Under Kazakhstani law, I am not able to change my identity documents to reflect my gender until I'm age 21, and no school will accept me today unless I "conform" to the gender in my passport.  What this means is that transgender youth are denied an education in Kazakhstan.  And what about work?  That's out, too, because even when I've been hired as a waitress, employers eventually want to see my ID.  When they learn that I'm transgender, I'm fired.

That's why I am applying to colleges in the US.  I've applied to Husson University in Maine and to Lane Community College in Oregon, both of which are willing to accept me based on the high school transcript I have.  I am studying English this winter and will take the TOEFL exam in March, after which I expect my official acceptances and I-20 that I'll need to apply for my student visa.  

But being accepted and getting an I-20 requires more than just a high school transcript and a TOEFL score.  It requires money that is far beyond my means and that of my single loving and accepting Mom.  I have applied for a Point Foundation LGBT scholarship and have my fingers crossed, but it's the crowd funding that I'm counting on.  PLEASE HELP BY DONATING WHATEVER AMOUNT YOU CAN, LARGE OR SMALL.  I estimate I'll need $25,000 to cover my first year and that I'll need it by the end of April 2017.

If you have any questions for me, you can write to me at [email protected]  I'd also be happy to chat by Skype!

As my friend Robyn and I sing in the words of Ms. Streisand at the end of our video, "people who need people are the most wonderful people in the world."  And you, for helping me pursue my dream and my life are truly the most wonderful people in my world.

With love and gratitude,

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on June 17, 2017

Posted on June 17, 2017

It's been some time since we last wrote.  Unfortunately, Sultana's F-1 student visa was denied on June 15 despite what I consider to have been extensive preparation on our part.
To bring you up to date, Sultana will be attending Lane Community College in Eugene, OR.  I depart Kazakhstan on September 1 together with Sultana.  I will take her out to Oregon and get her settled into her dormitory in time for new student orientation.  
This plan presumes, of course, that Sultana gets her visa.  According to the interviewing consul on Thursday, the issue was that the $11,000 currently in Sultana's Kazakhstani bank account is not sufficient to cover FOUR YEARS (!!!) of college.  The consul also declined to consider my bank accounts and investment statements even though I am clearly listed as sponsor on the I-20 form.
We are scheduling another visa interview for the end of July or early August.  Between now and then I will be: 
1) Transfering a large sum of money from one of my U.S. bank accounts to Sultana's individual account in Kazakhstan,
2) Opening a U.S. bank account for Sultana and move funds there, or
3) Making one or more of my existing U.S. accounts joint with Sultana.
(As an aside, I will be grateful for any advice on getting an ITIN or EIN for Sultana for banking persons.  My head is swimming from the IRS forms and instructions.)
Taking the consul's words at face value as reported to me by Sultana, I will see to it that there are sufficient funds in Sultana's direct control before she goes in for the next interview.  I'm talking on the order of $75,000 that I hope a consul will consider as sufficient for FOUR YEARS (!!!).  I will raid my retirement and new car funds for this purpose.  Lane Community College will issue a new I-20 that does not list me as sponsor.  
We are downhearted at the results of yesterday's interview, but forward we go with a view only for success.  With that in mind, I renew our appeal for crowd funding donations that go directly to Sultana's account in Kazakhstan.  Every dollar that goes there gets us a dollar closer to satisfying a consul and getting this talented and dear young woman into college.
With continuing thanks to all from Astana!

Posted on April 8, 2017


Posted on April 8, 2017

Hi Everyone,

Robyn here.  First of all, thank you Julia for your donation this week!

By way of update, Sultana has been accepted by Lane Community College in Oregon.  She took the TOEFL exam on March 25 and is expecting the results any day.  Once those results are in, her application to Husson University in Maine will be complete.  She is also looking at Montgomery College in Maryland.  To apply there, we've had to send her academic records from Kazakhstan to World Evaluation Services in New York.  We should know the results of their evaluation -- how Sultana's records compare with U.S. equivalents -- in about three weeks time.

All of this goes to say that Sultana likely will be making her college acceptance choice by mid-May, after which she will quickly have the I-20 she needs for visa purposes in hand.  Then it will be off to her visa interview!

With all that in mind, we've extended the crowd funding end date to June 15, by which time Sultana's education path for 2017-18 should be fully decided.

Thank you again to all who have been supporting Sultana's cause!

Warmly from the still frozen steppe,

Posted on March 1, 2017

Posted on March 1, 2017

We just reduced the fundraising goal from $25,000 to $22,000.  Why?  Because many friends and supporters have been giving us donations by cash or check that have gone directly into Sultana's bank account.  That's $3000 in cash without going through PayPal.  Thank you, thank you, thank you all, in particular these past several days to Aleksey, David & Paul, and Sammy!!  We will reach this goal!  

Just three weeks left until Sultana takes her TOEFL exam.  Last weekend we spend an evening with Carla Andersen from Lane Community College, who walked us through the remaining steps in Sultana's application there.  By the end of March, college acceptances should be coming in.

Speaking of which, Happy March!

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