The following information demonstrates the skills, experience and capacity built up by UAFA since 1998. 

United Aid for Azerbaijan (UAFA) was founded in 1998 with a mission to ‘aid long-term development of life in Azerbaijan, with particular focus on children, health and education’. Though registered in the UK, UAFA operates as a local NGO exclusively in Azerbaijan. 

During 17 years UAFA has grown up to be a well-known NGO both inside Azerbaijan and across the international social policy sector.  In the long-term, our aim is to be a sustainable resource for the Azerbaijan Government and society, with connections to the UK/Europe for knowledge transfer and policy support.


One of the most important missions of UAFA is that we stand for positivity, building trust through action, and that only through positive thoughts, actions and words can we effect any change in a challenging environment.  This is the fundamental underpinning of our work and what makes UAFA unique; this positivity is growing stronger and leading to more local support which in turn enables us to reach out to more and more children and families.

Long-term objectives since 2001:

  • To reduce the number of children in state care through deinstitutionalization efforts
  • To raise the level of institutional care for those children that remain in State care
  • Development of social services for children in need of special protection, as an alternative to institutions
  • FOUNDER – GWEN BURCHELL MBE (Member of British Empire)
    • Born 25 September 1972 in UK; One son born 28 November 2003 in UK
    • Graduated from University of Kent in 1994 with BSc in Management Science
    • Graduated from London School of Economics in 2009 with MSc in Social Policy & Planning
    • Established UAFA in February 1998 with £500 donation from family friends
    • Family history in Azerbaijan – father, Michael Burchell, first came to Azerbaijan in 1992 and collaborated with SOCAR on OIL/GAS projects

    Gwen Burchell receives an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List for ‘services to special education in Azerbaijan’, and receives the award from the Queen in June 2004.

    • Runner-Up of The Influencer Award 2012, given by the Directory of Social Change, UK
    • Personally raised nearly $5 million for social investment and much more as in-kind donations – voluntary support, toys & equipment, expert support etc.
    • Directly helped thousands of disabled and underprivileged children and families in Azerbaijan

    UAFA has a strong and loyal team, some of whom have worked with UAFA since 1998 until nowadays. 
    We think that this speaks volumes for the culture within UAFA.  We think that most of the staff recognize that they work in an environment which allows them the freedom to find satisfaction in their work, not just their salary.  UAFA has enabled many people to discover themselves, to develop their careers and study abroad, or move into international NGOs and, importantly, be respected amongst their peers.

    Partnership with Norwegian NGO, JOY that started in 2011, has enabled UAFA to establish a not-for-profit JOY Child Development Centre in Baku, which aims to be a sustainable small business that contributes to the growth of skilled service professionals.  Norwegian specialists visit Baku 3 times per year to give training and family consultations for a team of 6 people, including 2 foreign specialists.

    By 2014, UAFA had specialist staff of approximately 70 people working in Baku, Khazar Region, Sumquait, Siyazin, Khachmaz, Ganja, Shamkir, Lenkoran, Bilisuvar and Celilabad.


    UAFA provides services to hundreds of children with disabilities and their families every year:












    Community-based rehabilitation







    Social work - cases







    Pre-school services







    Institutional care


















    UAFA has introduced pilot projects in partnership with State Bodies:

    CBRC (Community-Based Rehabilitation Centre) model – started in 2004 in regions of Yasamal, Khachmaz and Ganja, currently funded through private donations.  Have worked directly with 2500 children and families during 10 years.  Expanded in 2013 to 3 regions of Celilabad, Shamkir and Bilisuvar with contracts from the Ministry of Labour & Social Protection to support 300 children with disabilities and their families each year

    Low-cost Pre-School SHG (Self Help Group) model, bringing pre-school services to more than 500 children from low-income families in 17 villages.  Approved as a model by the Ministry of Education with plans to expand to 51 villages with State funding in 2015.

    Social Work model – building up small teams of social workers in 6 regions to demonstrate how to manage cases where disability, poverty and location threaten the stability of a family - 4737 low-income families supported in two years (2013/2014)


    All UAFA’s direct work with children and families is recorded using standardized assessments and case files, meaning that there is a deeply detailed evidence base for all our services.


    2010: Ministry of Finance: Pilot for State Contracting of NGOs as Service Providers

    2012: Ministry of Health: Clinical Protocol on Early Intervention approved in 2013 after one year of work by UAFA-led expert team

    2012: Ministry of Labour & Social Protection: State Contracting of NGOs as Service Providers, Community-Based Rehabilitation, Social Work, Reform of Internats #3 and #7

    2014: Ministry of Education:       Expansion of low-cost pre-school model of education

    Since 2001, Gwen Burchell and UAFA staff have worked closely with the Social Policy Commission of the Parliament of Azerbaijan to support modernization of legislation, becoming the first NGO representative to talk at a full Parliamentary session, and later at the special Parliamentary meeting on Child Protection, in 2012.

    • Law on Education of Children with Disabilities (2001)
    • Family Code (governing all child & family legislation) (2007 onwards)
    • Law on Special Social Services (2012)
    • Law on Disability (current)

    To date, we have:

    • Built long-term and continuous support from the expatriate community - Baku Caledonian Society, Irish Society, German Business Group and Social Committee, Rotary Khazar and Rotary Baku, HOMS, IWC, Baku Bears, Baku Sharks

    • Been Supported by the British Embassy, German Embassy, Polish Embassy, Azerbaijan Embassy London

    • Received and still receiving corporate support from Bakcell, Pasha Bank, Azersun, Pash Travel, BP, Aker, Statoil, Beauttech, Nobel Oil, Boeing, Maersk, AA Services, Rapid Solutions, Nargiz Magazine, Synergy Group, Yapi Kredi Bank

    • Won international grants from EU, World Bank, GHR Foundation, OSCE, UNICEF, UNESCO, BIG Lottery Fund and other international organizations

    Social media has become an integral part of our fundraising efforts.  In Azerbaijan, Facebook is the #1 communication tool – the majority of our target population in terms of awareness raising uses FB and so we run almost a daily commentary of our work using this media.  We already have more than 16, 000 followers on UAFA’s page. We joined Instagram on 21st of March 2015

    • Child welfare and Disability are two multi-dimensional issues that cannot be solved by individual Ministries but need high-level coordination, preferably reporting to Presidential Administration or specially convened Steering Committee at the Cabinet of Ministers.

    • Needs-based planning must be organized at regional level, and authorization given to a new cadre of community based social workers within health, education and social protection departments coordinated by a digitized case-management system.

    • Personnel should be trained under new courses at higher education level, monitored and evaluated by respective Ministries.

    • Professional evaluation, because these are new professions, should be completed by a body comprised of NGO and Ministry specialists, using performance management indicators, based on outcomes for children and families.

    Initial projects were aid-oriented, focusing on assisting refugee/IDP population in Saatli region. 

    Following a visit to Internat #16 in Shuvelan, we started to provide assistance to institutionalized children in the form of clothes, food and building renovation. 

    Produced ‘Situation Analysis of Children’s Institutions’: results showed that more than 70% of children had one or more living parents.  Children with disabilities were particularly vulnerable; left alone in bed all day, only contact with adults during feeding and changing clothes. 

    Began pilot project at Psycho-Neurological Babyhouse #1, Ganjlik, under Ministry of Health, re-training institutional care staff how to care for and develop skills of children with disabilities. Introduced Occupational Therapy as a modern method of rehabilitation. 

    Started working with families in their homes – after successfully helping one family to take their 4 year old son with cerebral palsy home from an institution. 

    UAFA began to work with Internat #7 in Saray, for children with severe disabilities – this activity still continues in 2015.  Training care staff in modern methods of child development, education and health initiatives, sports for development, and concepts of de-institutionalization and alternative services development. 

    Produced research on ‘Reasons for Institutionalisation’.  The most common reasons for institutionalization of children are poverty, family break-up and disability.

    We began to work with Internat #3 in Mardakan/Shagan, for children with severe disabilities – this activity still continues in 2015.

    2004 - 2005
    After 3 years of home visiting to children with disabilities, UAFA establishes its Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program in 3 regions – Yasamal, Khachmaz and Ganja, with the support of local Executive Committees.

    The President of Azerbaijan signs the State Programme on De-Institutionalization and Alternative Services – UAFA is invited to be a member of the Inter-Ministerial Coordination Council that oversees this programme.

    UAFA begins an official Early Intervention project in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, to develop skills and awareness in early detection of disabilities and developmental delay.  This project was started at two Baku-based polyclinics and the Children’s Neurological Hospital which serves the whole country.

    UAFA begins a three-year program to develop expertise in social work/case management and family reunification practices.

    More than 250 children are accessing UAFA’s CBR services in Yasamal, Khachmaz and Ganja. We hold the first international conference on Early Intervention in Baku, with specialists from the US, UK and Georgia. 

    The number of children using CBR services rises to 600 per month, including typical children

    18 representatives from Social Protection departments around Azerbaijan are training in gate-keeping.  UAFA starts to model proposed inter-ministerial child protection team with representatives from local health, education, social protection and Commission of Minors departments.

    Worked with Social Policy Commission to introduce role of social worker to Family Code, which creates a precedent for subsequent legislation

    UAFA begins a new project to empower and train 50 Youths with Disabilities in Ganja, and help them find employment and work experience

    Introduced Clinical Audit system to UAFA’s services, in order to support performance monitoring and evaluation

    Following a meeting with the Minister of Finance Samir Sharifov, Gwen Burchell is requested by Ministry of Finance to submit a policy proposal for State Contracting of NGOs as service providers, using CBR services as a pilot

    Held our first disability stigma awareness campaign – targeting people who use metro and bus – to introduce non-discriminatory terminology to describe disability

    Started to work with the Public Health Reforms Department to develop clinical protocols in Early Intervention

    Pilot project approved by Ministry of Finance to contract NGOs as service providers – to start in early 2012, with funds allocated in the State budget

    Developed draft Minimum Standards of Residential Care for children with disabilities, to bring Azerbaijan in line with international legislation.  Still waiting for these Standards to be adopted

    UAFA leads a technical assistance group to support the development of the new Law on Specialized Social Services, which is adopted by Parliament in December

    Ministry of Labour& Social Protections contracts UAFA’s CBR Centres in Yasamal, Khachmaz and Ganja to work with children.  By 2015, this collaboration has expanded to include Bilisuvar, Celilabad and Shamkir.

    UAFA re-starts gate-keeping services in 6 regions, with full support of the Ministry of Labour& Social Protection.  We are advocating for the nationwide replication of a child protection system based on this model.

    UAFA begins a new project to develop alternative community-based pre-school services and demonstrate an effective, low-cost model for pre-school children who do not have access to pre-school because of poverty, rural location and disability.  This project is piloted in 4 regions of Azerbaijan – Lenkoran, Bilisuvar, Siyazin, Sumquait

    UAFA holds a second awareness campaign on disability stigma, again targeting people using public transport and expanding to road users via the city’s many poster and electronic billboards

    2013 onwards – CBR, pre-school and social work services are fully established and expanding nationally.  UAFA teams continue to work in Internat #3, #7 for children with severe disabilities