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An ‘eye opening’ experience

A quick breakfast and left the hotel at 10 to go visit some families in Ulaanbaatar. As we drove I noticed how the housing gradually became more rough and rugged. On the way to the first family that we were visiting, we stopped to pick up some mentor parents who have been trained to help other parents with disabled children.

I climbed out of the car onto the dusty and rocky path and we walked between the poor quality fencing. Smiling, I entered the first family’s home. It was a small room countaining 2 beds, an old cupboard and a few shelves. 3 people were living here. The father had recently left the family, the mother was unemployed and the boy was 15, however anyone would have guessed his age to be about 8 years old. The disabled girl was 18 (also looked younger) and had all her hair cut off as she used to pull on it, hurting herself.

After a bit of talking, the mother insisted on giving us sweets even though they were living way below the poverty line. We handed the family some presents, which pleased them very much, and we drew some pictures with them. Because the boy had to spend his earlier years looking after his sister he now attends a special school with his sister as he is so far behind in education. The family was surviving off Patima’s (the disabled child) allowance however, they still seemed reasonably happy. Seeing this was truly emotional and really opened our eyes as to what the real world is like. By visiting the family and finding out how low their standard of living is makes you feel like a multi millionaire as you don’t realise how much we take for granted, such as clean water and electricity. This shows how a small donation can make a big difference.

The second family was also living in a poor area, but inside a “ger” (the Mongolian word for a “yurt”) rather than a small room. They also had electricity and slightly easier access to water. However we have learnt that even if they have clean water, some people don’t know how to store it properly and some end up storing it inside old petrol cans, which is just as bad. The mother in this family was employed but had a day off so she had gone out and the father was looking after the child. She was a beautiful eight year old with a disability which made her unable to walk. What the family really wanted was something other than a wheelchair to enable her to learn to walk. Save The Children is going to do as much as they can to try to get her a zimmer frame. We also gave this family some presents and she already seemed very bright even though she hadn’t yet been to school. She was able to pick up the rules of a game we played very quickly. With the ability to walk I believe she could go very far in life and her intelligence could grow rapidly.

Everything you see on the TV appears quite different in real life when meeting the families, as you can experice how bad it really is and how much a few pens and paper can help. After visiting the families I found it quite hard when we here having lunch, knowing that many families were suffering and we were just eating a big Indian feast. It was a lot to take in and was extremely upsetting.

In the evening we went to see a Mongolian circus. IT was incrediable! It really got your heart pumping with all the stunts like people hanging from a single rope in the air very high up. Everyone was sat on the edge of their seats staring in amazement at the acrobatics and talent of the Mongolians. I couldn’t believe my eyes! On the way back to the hotel some street children came up to us so we gave them some money to help out. In the winter many live in the sewage pipes. This shows how rough it is to live here for many people.

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