So check out these accommodations. What do you think? Prison? Post apocalyptic Siberia? Or maybe, the residence on hardworking Mom and her five kids who are trying to keep it together by scavenging from the dump to make a living here at the end of the earth?
If you chose the last one, you would be right. This is the one room "cabin" we visited when we were out at the dump doing community outreach for IWAM yesterday. It was pretty grim. Well, actually, significantly worse than pretty grim, but there are some glimpses of light in this darkest of dark tunnels.
This kind of light is both wonderful and terrible. This lovely young man of 11 years was at home (alone!) taking care of his 8 month old baby sister...and doing a fine job of it, I must say...although the sucker he was giving her to keep her happy definitely does not fall into the "approved" list of foods for a baby...but one does what one must.
It was lovely to see how bonded he and his sister are...we tried to carry her for a while, but she was not having any of it! Of course, the flip side is that this boy was alone...the rest of the family was out at the garbage dump scavenging for whatever they could find. Oh, and did I mention it was about -25 C?
And here's another glimmer of hope. Those of you who have been readers for a long time will remember I wrote about this group before...way early on in the blogging history and in that blog I had a lovely shot of a little girl standing by the window ( with a dog I think!)....I really should go back and get that picture to repost, but am rushing to get to the ger for the day so I can't get to it now...maybe later! Anyway, this is her again - almost a year later, with her little brother. She is the one who was found as an infant at the dump and brought home by the lady who found her.
And the kids were having lots of fun playing soccer ..and wrestling with Pastor Baska who is our contact for this community. He too was once a dump child.
But, while there were glimpses of joy and normalcy, the majority of it was just heart wrenching. This ger was likely the worst think I have ever seen. This little girl, badly burned (no access AT ALL to medical care!) and half dressed at home with her caregiver...
Her eight year old brother. He was lovely and sweet - cleaned up his "toys" when we came in , but the little girl just stood there sucking her finger or chewing on a toy with no real interaction with anyone or anything. The parents, who had been up at the dump when we arrived, returned before we left. Hard life was written all over them, from the missing fingers ( the dad lost 9 to frostbite after passing out drunk outside in the cold) to the huge scabbing burn on the mother's arm ( kind of matched the little girl's by the look of it and I wonder if the accident happened at the same time....) to the bleak vacant glaze in their eyes as they huddled close to the fire to warm up...no hats, no mitts, thin winter jackets and running shoes.
It was lovely to see the pastor taking charge and letting the little boy be a boy for a change and learn something positive from an adult male. Glimmers of hope.We had tons of donated hats and mitts made by wonderful women around the world, locally donated clothes books, pens and papers as well as an assortment of blankets, boots and other useful household items...two SUVs full!
One of the boxes spilled open and it was lovely to see the delight on the kids faces as they helped pick it back up....it looked a lot like Christmas!
Even my driver Baira got into the fun! He was very helpful too in getting the full story on what was going on and what the people here really need.
It turns out what they really need is a new building (bigger than a ger!) so they can have a kindergarten where the kids can go when the parents are out at the dump so that they don't have to stay home. Alone. That it is necessary is really self evident. Looks like another Veloo Foundation project coming up.
There are some lovely and very interested members of this dump community who can't wait to help, and I know that lots and lots of expats here in Mongolia will be up for it too. I mean really, look at the look on this little girl's face. She and her 4 month old sister need a safe, warm place in winter...and maybe if we get a kindergarten going we can encourage the idea of school for the kids. None of them, at the moment, attend school. They help out at the dump instead.
Three years old--the traditional Dell and a wonderfully caring grandma to take care of her. This is one of the lucky ones...at least, she was that day!
One of the centres of the community, the ger where they have their community dinner, was hosting a bible study around the fire. These are the people who are most willing to help us help them I think.
So...the goal is to have the kindergarten built and ready to go by the end of next September....It is going to cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $10,000 USD I think - which should be very doable. And yes, all those of you who actually know me ( and know how I delight in extracting money from people!!) in person can expect to be hit up for a contribution. :)
So that was yesterday. Today I am off to the ger to soak up some Mongolian sun before heading off to Canada in the a.m. Look for some posts from the road....