Fotos: Asral und Maitreya Foundation
Since the fall of communism at the end of the last century, many people in Mongolia have experienced existential hardship. Many former nomads have lost their livestock and have settled with their yurts in the rapidly growing slums around the capital Ulaanbaatar. Up to one third of the population now lives in such dire circumstances.
In 2001, the "Asral" (Mongolian for help) aid organization was founded. The goal of this organization is to protect children from becoming homeless and to keep families together. Asral works with local community leaders and governors to identify the families most in need of help.
In 2022, MiA has once again supported Asral's work in Mongolia, working with the Maitreya Charity to care for the poorest children of nomadic families. The children receive warm, healthy meals, school supplies, and hygiene products. They also receive help with their homework and English lessons. Regular medical checkups and disease prevention programs (Covid) are also offered. When the facility was closed during the Covid-19 lock-down, cooked meals were frozen and brought to the families‘ homes.
The distribution of clothing and school supplies also helps support orphans and street children so that they can go to school. On site, a social worker, various teachers and a cook take care of the children.
The project is currently focusing on helping 30 of the poorest children, who are between the ages of six and sixteen. The organization has a kitchen and a classroom and is increasing its capacity for more participants. Of the 30 children currently participating, 18 are girls and 12 are boys. 11 children come from familes where the parents are divorced. 3 of the children being helped have lost their parents. Another 3 children have lost one parent each. In addition, 4 new children joined the project this year.
The local elementary school currently has space for only 400 children on a first-come, first-served basis. Because of the limited space, 600 children, mainly from the slums, do not have access to early primary education. Our local partners support 30 of the poorest children by providing clothing, stationery, school equipment, a winter playground, sanitary facilities and newly renovated classrooms.
The small town near Gachuurt, where our aid is arriving, is a former commune from the Soviet era. With funding from the Irish government, Asral renovated and upgraded the local primary school , increasing its capacity from 166 to 220 spots, and provided two fully equipped elementary school gardens for shepherd children from the outlying areas. The children's hostel received 60 new beds and the necessary bedding.
Another site, Undershil, is located 380 km south of the capital in the Gobi Desert. There, 20 children are benefitting from the Hot Meal project and are receiving warm clothing, stationery, and toiletries. Most of the street children come from slums, broken homes, divorced parents, families without jobs, mothers who cannot take care of them or parents who suffer from alcoholism. These children usually have only their mothers left, who are busy working most of the day, so the children are then left to fend for themselves. These are all problems that can be sustainably remedied by this project. Please help us to reduce the hardship of these children in the long term with your generous donations, so that these children will have access to education and a healthy life.
Ariunkhuslen is a seven-year-old orphan girl who is in second grade. She has a quiet, calm character, is helpful and has good grades. Her favorite hobby is painting. In 2020 she lost her father, with whom she had a very good relationship, to illness. Her mother mentions the fact that she often still asks about her father and misses him very much. Due to the lockdown, her mental state has deteriorated into depression. She suffers from insomnia, and is mentally and emotionally exhausted. In addition to this, her jaw is deformed and she is recieving medical care. Her mother is also suffering from the loss of her husband, as well as from her daughter's illness, family discord, and inadequate employment opportunities. They live in a yurt in the mother’s sister's garden. The pandemic situation makes it difficult for the mother to find work. She is therefore often gone for long periods. Ariunkhuslen is alone at home and has suffered severe burns to her legs while cooking and can no longer walk. At the moment they are treating the burns on her legs with ointments and painkillers. We are happy to be able to help here as well.
Egshiglen is 13 and Enkthur 4 years old. They live with their mother and a younger sister. They have been homeless for many years or have lived with relatives or in shelters. For many years they have tried to get support from the social system. This year they were assigned to a room in bad condition inside a run-down apartment building, which they have been able to fix up a bit.
The children's school is far away, so they do not come home until after dark. They have to pass through dangerous, unlit areas where there are street dogs and homeless people. Also living near their home is their alcoholic grandmother, who punishes and insults the children when she is intoxicated. Because of this, the children are afraid of interacting with people, and have difficulties making friends or expressing themselves.
Their mother is at home most of the time and is raising the children alone. She has no contact with the children's father, who has never provided any support. She buys food only in small quantities. When there is not enough money, she uses her child benefit savings book or her identity card to buy meat and flour. Their diet does not include healthy vegetables or fruit. They are therefore malnourished and weak. They literally live from hand to mouth and do not have appropriate winter clothing. Egshiglen is bullied at school because of his clothes. Their mother has problems with a deformed jaw and their children with their teeth. Egshiglen, as the oldest child, helps her mother take care of the younger siblings, for example by drawing water from the well, but she injured her legs when she slipped on the icy ground in winter. All the children in the family dislike physical education at school, are very shy and withdrawn, and are receiving help through our social workers.
Narantsatsral lives with her single mother and four other siblings in a spare room. When their father left them, he took everything with him, including the yurt and furnishings. The mother and her children were left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They have been living in her younger brother's guest room ever since. The mother stays at home, takes care of her children and does housework. She cannot do any work because no one is there to look after the children. When they run out of money, the mother works as a cleaner in a supermarket.
Once when she left the children alone, the eldest daughter dropped the baby in boiling soup. As a result, the baby suffered severe burns and had to undergo skin graft surgery. The baby's brain was also damaged and she had to be operated on. Fortunately, with the help of our local project partner, a donor was found and the surgery could be financed.
The children help in the household by fetching water from a well. They have to carry a barrel weighing 40kg over a rocky mountain path.
Narantsatsral is in fourth grade, gets good grades, and loves to learn. She also attends an outdoor music school and free horsehead-violin lessons. Since her mother does not have the opportunity to work regularly, the family has an unsteady income and the children do not have a healthy diet, warm clothes for the winter, or coal for heating.
The family's three children who attend school are participating in the Hot Meal project and receiving help through our work.
Text: SG, Asral und BGR