We mentioned a while ago that we had been asked to oversee a Humanitarian Service Project. The proposal for that project was submitted some time ago, has been approved, and we have started the first part in what will likely be a lengthy effort.
The project centers around a homeless shelter in Nalaikh, the same city where the branch is located to which we were assigned after first arriving here. Many of you will be aware, by now, that Nalaikh is about 35 to 40 kilometers from where we live in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar.
Nalaikh was especially hard hit when most of the mining operations there closed. Many who had been employed there for years, suddenly found themselves unemployed. And jobs are not exactly easy to come by here. It has been a rather sad and difficult situation.
The lady responsible for the referred to shelter -- Erdenetsetseg (pronounced Erden setseg)-- began the project on her own last fall. She has used her own money to purchase an available building in Nalaikh and has continued to do her best to support and maintain that facility since, seeking donations and help wherever she can find them.
Approximately 80 men, women and children are currently staying in the shelter. And it is a heart rending sight to visit there, sometimes. One doesn't see a lot of hope in the eyes of those seeking refuge there. They are glad to have some place to be in out of the cold, but they would rather be able to be self sustaining and useful.
They come in all 'sizes', from laborers to trained computer technicians and engineers. And they need help, in a wide variety of ways.
So far we have been able to purchase two clothes washers, a heavy duty commercial sewing machine, yards and yards of material and individual toiletries. Those living in the shelter will be taught by Erdenetsetseg to use the sewing machine. Then they will make their own bedding and some of their own clothing. She will also teach them how to make bags which they can sell to grocery stores and elsewhere to be used by their customers. Erdenetsetseg believes in helping them earn their own way and seldom gives things to them. They have to make it for themselves or earn it.
We will yet purchase other equipment and supplies which they can also use to make things they still need (like tables and benches to sit on for meals - they don't have any right now) and to make their own way. We're sure there will be many future posts here about these efforts.
At their request, we will also teach a variety of things, such as honesty, personal hygiene, English, Addiction Recovery . . . and the Gospel. Erdenestesteg requested each of those things (we think she will be a fantastic Relief Society President some day if she ever joins the Church!) and we can think of no better way to lift and help them than that.
In our opinion, Erdenestesteg has a wonderful perspective of how to help those who are less fortunate and also what it takes for a people to lift themselves and regain lost happiness and satisfaction. She has been a joy to work with.
We have also felt a desire to help in other ways. To, for example, help them know that they are important to us and to others; that they are not forgotten and uncared for. We take every opportunity we can to visit them, to put our arms around them and help them feel good about themselves. They are our brothers and sisters, too.