We debated a bit about whether or not to create this particular post. It is a hard story to hear. In some ways, it is an even harder one to tell. But it is also typical of a small segment of the society here. A diminishing segment thankfully.
Suvdaa is an eleven year old girl. She lives in Nalaikh. Those of you who have followed our blog will recall that Nalaikh is about 35 km outside of the capital city of Ulaanbaatar where we live and it is where Sister Caldwell and I are assigned to help a branch of the Church. It is where we attend and serve as much as we can.
Nalaikh has been hit especially hard with unemployment as a result of the shutdown of much of the coal mining industry there. Suvdaa has been a victim of that and other difficult circumstances.
As mentioned, Suvdaa is eleven years old. But she has been the head of her household and a major 'bread winner' for several years. And she has had more to deal with than we would hope any adult would ever have to face.
The Church first became aware of her through a documentary, when she was ten years old.
When the documentary was made, Suvdaa had a mother, a younger brother, an older sister and a grandfather all living together. Her father is an absentee father.
Her mother became ill a couple of years ago and has been bed ridden every since. The illness left her with no muscle tone and she looked like she was nothing but skin and bone. It was an occasion which caused no small excitement for little brother, when she would be able to sit up for a few minutes.
The 13 year old sister had been given a bad dose of medicine when she was young and has been left mentally handicapped -- a fairly common occurrence here in years past. Her younger brother was six years old, then, and, of course, could not help much. Grandpa was 60 years old and in Mongolia, that generally is not a very robust age. Life is hard here.
Grandpa had a small job as a guard and was lucky to have that. But those jobs don't pay very well and his income was not enough. The vacant look in his face said a lot. He kept repeating that he felt very bad for Suvdaa but didn't know what else he could do.
Suvdaa took care of the home. She cooked and watched the children. She has been head of the household, even giving 'orders' to her grandpa, when necessary. And she walked 5 km each way in the dark many nights to take a bit of dinner to him where he worked. Then, she would often help him make his security rounds before finally retuning home. When asked if she would be going home to fix dinner on one particular night she said, 'Yes, I will fix some tea tonight.' That's all they had. And she started to cry.
Suvdaa's bed was a wooden plank about 10 inches wide, held about a foot off of the cold ground, with a pillow at one end. No blankets and no padding. They didn't have any for her. When asked if that was difficult to sleep on, she said she was usually sore when she got up in the morning.
Suvdaa and her grandpa would go to the coal mines and gather up whatever scraps of coal they could find. They would use some of it to heat their ger but she had to try to sell most of it to add to their meager budget.
She only had one set of clothing and a light coat and when asked if she would like some new clothes, she said that a couple of T-shirts would be nice. Her expectations haven't been very high.
She was asked what she would wish for if she could have three wishes. Her first wish was that her mother could walk. When asked about a second wish, she said she would really like to go to school. She couldn't think of anything else she wanted for her third wish.
Learning of Suvdaa and her situation literally broke our hearts. The Church offered to help, offering a wheelchair for her mother, for starters. But it was too late. Keep reading.
Thankfully, this story has a fairly happy ending -- sort of. Just a few months ago (about the time the Church offered to help), Suvdaa's mother passed away. She will miss her mother, of course, but she is happy that her mother's pain is over. And we know that Suvdaa's first wish has been granted. Her mother can walk again.
Suvdaa's second wish has also been granted. When their mother passed away and partly as a result of the documentary, the children were placed in a government facility. Suvdaa is now going to school.
And she has new clothes to wear.
There's more. Others have learned of Suvdaa. Enough donations have been made that Suvdaa will be able to go to college. She will be fine, now.
But there are more Suvdaa's out there. Knowing that sometimes makes it a bit difficult to slip into our warm and soft bed at night without feeling guilty. We are glad to be part of an effort which will help lift many of them out of their poverty and give them hope.