Happy Together

November 17 2019 | by

TO THE north of Ulaanbaatar City, Mongolia, in the district of Chingeltei, lies the seventeenth Khoroo, or micro-district, nestled in a valley of Chingeltei Mountain. With its three kindergartens, elementary school, family and children centre and work training centre, it is home to around 3,800 families – a total of around 14,000 souls.

“Most of the people are migrants from the countryside with a nomadic background,” says Father Yeinson Andrés Galvis Ospina. “They live in a prevailing situation of poverty, unemployment, lack of water – some need to travel long distances to fetch water and take a shower – and struggle with problems of alcoholism and domestic violence. It is an area of high smoke pollution during winter time because houses and gers use wood and coal to provide heating.  A ‘ger’ is a traditional Mongolian round-shaped dwelling. It consists of felt covers, wooden columns, and a circular window at the top. Gers are made from animal materials and wood. In such situations the first to suffer are the children. Unfortunately, many children of Chingiltei, before or after school, stay at home alone while their parents go to work. Unavoidably, the street becomes their playground and schooling is neglected. Living in a mountainous area makes it hard to find a safe place to learn and grow.”


Consolata Missionaries


The Children’s project is run at the Raising Sun Center. It began its activities in March 2017 in response to the social and spiritual needs of the people of Chingiltei. “We started with an after school programme for children and youth,” explains Father Yeinson. “It provides educational, social, creative and recreational activities for children ages 6 to 15.” Its aim is to provide a conducive environment for studies, and to help the children complete their homework and learn other subjects too, including foreign languages and crafts. “It also aims to develop creative and social skills by offering a supervised space for play and socialisation,” he continues. “The children are encouraged to discover their personal talents, create friendships and learn how to respect and appreciate each other.” A full time teacher works for the centre, Monday to Friday from 10am until 5pm, and Saturday from 2pm until 5pm.

It is a joint project of the Consolata Missionary Fathers and Consolata Missionary Sisters present in Mongolia. “We are missionary religious congregations of pontifical right, and have been present in Mongolia since 2003,” says Father Yeinson. “Besides bringing the Gospel to those who desire to know Christ, we minister to the needs of the population where we are established – especially promoting the welfare of families, without discrimination of their religious beliefs.”

Mongolian ger


In March 2018 the Children’s Project approached St Anthony’s Charities seeking funding to complete work which it had begun the previous year. This work included: planting trees in the compound, preparing land to be used for cultivating vegetables, acquiring a Mongolian ger with furnishings to be used as a multi-purpose space for gatherings in the summer and for indoor games in the winter, and the purchase of musical instruments, a projector and books for all ages. Support for the summer educational programme was also requested.

“The summer gives us the opportunity to expand the educational programme beyond curricular subjects because during this time the children are free from school duties, and most of them spend the whole day in our Centre,” says Father Yeinson. “We planned to introduce the children, and possibly some of their parents, to the art of cultivating plants and vegetables – a practice little known among Mongolians.” Time would also be dedicated to learning new arts such as crafts, singing, acting, playing musical instruments and visiting cultural and historical places.

The proposed time-scale for the project was to complete everything by the end of 2018. The total cost of the project was just under €12,000, and after taking local contributions into account, the sum granted by St. Anthony’s Charities was €8,800.


New music programme


In April of 2018 tree planting began, with 40 trees and 16 fruit bushes in the compound. “These will also create a wind barrier, which will protect crops in the summer time and alleviate the Centre’s north wall from snow accumulation in winter,” explains Sister Sandra Garay, project manager. “Children coming to the Centre were trained to prepare seedlings, how to water plants, sowing, transplanting and harvesting techniques.” The summer programme from mid June to August provided the children with the opportunity to experience a summer full of educational and recreational activities. “They were skilfully led by a group of young Mongolian animators who are university students, most of them studying to be teachers,” Sr. Sandra continues. “70 children participated in the programme.” The library was expanded by an additional 134 books and 30 educational games. Five guitars and five ukuleles were purchased along with percussion instruments, allowing a new music programme to start. In readiness for the winter, table tennis and table football equipment were purchased. Although the project included the purchase of a projector, a business woman donated her old projector to the centre which allowed those funds to be allocated to the purchase of a small freezer. All this had been achieved by the end of September 2018.

But there was one major problem: the ger. “We lost contact with the man we had contracted for the construction of the ger for six months,” explains Sr. Sandra, “and then he was unable to finish the job. We were surprised and frustrated because we had been waiting for the ger for almost a year. We had previously ordered gers from him and he delivered in reasonable time.” The delay in the construction also meant that the purchase of some items had to be delayed as there would have been no place to store them. It would not be until March 2019 that it was finally possible to complete the ger, some three months after the envisaged project end date.


Positive impact


“The impact on the children has been extremely positive,” says Sr. Sandra. “Through the educational and organised recreational activities they have acquired new relational skills, developed personal talents, learnt new things and, of course, enjoyed the time spent together. We see children happy and eager to come to our Centre.” She notes that the children have become more responsible at doing their homework, and benefit from appropriate assistance when they need it. There is less fighting between children than before, and often they spontaneously organise themselves into teams and follow the rules of games they are playing. “They returned to school active and eager to learn,” she continues. “Thanks to the support of St. Anthony’s Charities and the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony, the Centre has the materials, equipment and personnel to offer children a good alternative for the summer. It provides a space where children can spend quality time during the day, a secure and friendly environment where good care is taken.” The environmental impact has also been positive, even though the trees are still small. “They have added some beauty to the surrounding landscape, and we hope to expand in the future, adding flowers and more trees and bushes.”

“We thank God for giving us patience and faith every day to continue with this beautiful project in favour of children, youth and the community in general in this area of Chingeltei, on the northern outskirts of the capital Ulaanbaatar,” concludes Father Yeinson. “We thank you for having placed your trust in us, helping us realise the dream of having a mission that welcomes everyone and gives them the opportunity to enjoy childhood and youth. The joyful expression of the children is the gratitude for your generosity towards the mission of the Church in these distant lands of eastern and central Asia. May the Lord bless you and may the Virgin Mary of the Consolation protect you.”

Updated on November 17 2019