Mongolia - Sept. 20011
The last stop in Mongolia, after visiting and taking photographs of 4 very different and very wonderful families. We had captured what we thought we had been there to accomplish, but little did we know, we were in for more significant life lessons.
While walking around the city on Sunday morning, we ran into an American couple. In communicating with them and letting them know what we were doing, and why in all places we were in Mongolia - they got really excited and told us about a woman who lives in the U.S. but grew up in Mongolia. Her name is Nara Thompson, she runs an organization call Care 4 Kids, which helps homeless kids find shelters and provides for them, who just happened to be in Mongolia that week.
Nara was very excited to talk to us, and our new American friends put us in contact with her. That Monday after calling back and forth, Nara organized for us to spend time in a shelter for kids in the middle of Ulaan Baatar the capital city of Mongolia. This shelter for "sewer kids" as she referred to it, had about 18 kids at the time we arrived. This number varies according to the number of kids the police pick up off of the streets. The shelter is run by police officers which impressed me. The kids are usually repeat visitors, and are familiar with the shelter and those that run it, as they can stay for up to 180 days, while the police officers try to locate their families.
These shelter kids are not orphans! They all have parents, and all are homeless. The kids are generally abused or ignored and left on their own to try and find food and shelter and usually end up causing trouble somewhere along the way. They are tough kids, no doubt about it. They have learned to fight for what they need. The shelter gives them a safe warm place to sleep and food to eat, along with some structure and an opportunity to let them know that someone cares!
As we spent time taking to Nara and the kids along with a few of the caretakers, a lot of realizations came to the surface. Of course until you actually spend time with these individuals it is hard to comprehend how desperate and hard the lives of these children are.
We took one young boy, Sharaa who is 11 yrs. old, and did a quick little interview with him. Like any 11 yr. old boy in Mongolia, he loved soccer, his favorite food is stir fry, and when he grows up he wants to be a policeman. Why a police officer we asked, Sharaa responed " I want to save people and protect them, and because the police help me."
Maybe unlike most 11 yr. old boys, Sharaa has lived on the streets now for 3 years, and when asked if he could wish for anything what would it be? Sharaa's response - a home.
How many 11 yr. olds do you know that is living on the streets, and in the sewers? How many are usually beat by their parents, or have alcoholic parents that have no home and are abused by many of the other sewer kids, both sexually, verbally, and mentally?
While standing in the big room with the kids watching TV (they have a small little t.v. for all of them to watch), we were interviewing another child, and in the back ground two of the boys started literally beating each other up. To the point that one got thrown on the top of his head as the other boy punched him and flipped him over. We walked toward them to get them to stop.
The individuals running this shelter are angels! Understanding that these kids need far more than they have the resources to provide, they continue daily to have great hope that somehow, someway, maybe they can make a difference, and that others will catch the vision of what is needed and offer help too.
|- the only girl at the time in the shelter & Nara -|
At the end of our brief visit, Nara gathered up all the kids to have them sing to us. First she had Sharaa sing a song for us, it was truly amazing. He had a beautiful voice, and sung with conviction and intensity. He pretty much blew me away! After he finished they all chimed in and sang two songs for us, again I was in awe. One of the songs had a chorus that said something about thanking God for sending those that care. To see a group of kids sing with such passion, it did not matter that I could not understand the words, my heart was melted as I looked at those dirty scruffy Mongolian faces longing for love, longing for a home, longing for someone to help them.
What to do?? First of all I would adopt Sharaa in a second if I could and if I knew it was the right thing to do. BUT, realizing that sometimes even what we want, doesn't always happen, comes the realization also that we can still make a difference. Even a small amount of money can buy a pair of shoes, or feed the whole bunch of them for a week. Money - although that seems to be what it is always about, I learned long ago that its not about money, but more about who we are, and doing all we can with what we do have. It doesn't take tons of money to make a difference, only the action that follows the desire to make that difference.
When we serve others - we serve God and that is the bottom line!
Thanks Nara for your inspiration and your love!! These kid's lives will be different because you have loved them. My life is different because I met you!
Hopefully we can all follow Nara's lead, and do everything we can to love the precious beautiful children in the world!