The five day trip is a valuable opportunity for our social workers to talk to the children about their lives and monitor their living conditions. They also help the children to write their annual reports and distribute any gifts which have been sent over by their sponsors.
Our team were joined by one of our long standing partners, Leonard Bernhardt, and our volunteer from England, Thomas Williams. It was a particularly special experience for Leonard, who got to meet some of the children he has been sponsoring for the first time.
During the trip our team also met 22 new families looking to enrol on our Sponsorship Programme. We are happy to say that after learning about their circumstances, eighteen have qualified to receive support from CNCF, many of who have already been allocated a sponsor. We are looking forward to watching their lives improve as a result.
Here is Thomas' account of his unique experience on this summer's countryside trip...
Our first stop on the trip was at a small village about 2 hours north of Ulaanbaatar. Here we visited a family who had been sponsored by the Foundation for several years. My first impression on entering their Ger was the incredible hospitality they immediately showed towards us. We were given Mongolian milk tea and I was ushered over to sit down. Although the language barrier was a small issue, Badam was great at translating. We found out that the kids were getting brilliant grades at school and we were shown all of their medals from various different school and sporting activities.
After that visit we took a drive to the town of Zuunharaa. Once we had checked into our hotel we went to the Children’s Centre where many smiley kids greeted us, all of which were children sponsored by the Foundation. We were given tea and dumplings and then Badam sat down with the kids individually and carried out an assessment on how they were doing both at school and also in general day-to-day life. From visiting this centre, I began to get an idea about the scale of the charity and the large amount of kids it is responsible for.
Once we had left the Children’s Centre we went on about 15 house calls, initially visiting families who were applying to the sponsorship programme and then going to families who have children already sponsored by the Foundation.
On meeting potential new children, one thing I noticed was the large difference in prosperity between some of the families. This was very strange to me because some of the families we visited had very little indeed and seemed to be struggling even to feed themselves, but then we would visit their neighbors on the adjacent street and they had plenty of food, a large flat screen TV, and the parents even had smart phones.
The next day we took a drive to Erdenet, the 3rd largest city in the country. This is a relatively new city in Mongolia which was founded in the early 70's and has grown predominately due to the discovery of large amounts of copper in the surrounding area. What I noticed on entering was the many green areas and trees, something that is distinctly lacking in Ulaanbaatar. Here we visited the Children’s Centre, which if anything had even more children under the sponsorship programme than in the town of Zuunharaa. Again we assessed the kids individually and I tried to chat to some of the older kids with a mixture of english and sign language.
After visiting the centre we took one of the older girls to a computer shop. Her sponsor had been so impressed by her progress at school that they had sent over extra money through the charity so that she could buy a laptop to help her with her further education. After a lot of discussion between the girl, her mother, and the CNCF team, we eventually found the model that would be perfect for her needs; she was very happy with the new purchase. Once we left the shop we went on a few home visits to sponsorship applicants, one of which I was very impressed by as it was home to a lady who had managed to improve her living standard by taking a loan and building a small textile business connected to her home.
The next day we took a short drive to Bundung city but on the way we stopped at the home of a little girl Leonard had been sponsoring. This was really touching to see as she came running out to greet him and we spent a long time talking with her, her brother, and her grandmother who is now the main carer after her mother had left many years ago.
Afterwards we went to the Children’s Centre of the town. Although many of the children couldn't be there as they were helping their
Early the next day we left and drove right out into the countryside. We were heading to see some of the nomadic families who the Foundation supports. The road we took was pretty rough and was only made worse by the heavy rainfall that came down over the previous couple of nights. It also took us longer to get there as the views were incredible and I wanted to stop to take pictures. After a long and bumpy drive we finally managed to find the families we wanted to visit – this also took a while due to the fact that they move with the seasons.
In the area that they were living there were only a few families; the gers were dotted along the hills and the livestock for the families was left to graze freely. They were located in a large valley about a 20 minute drive off the dirt track.
On entering the first ger we were given soup and yogurt as well as milk tea. We then talked about the family’s life. They explained that it was herding season at the moment and there were lots of things to do, but this was a time of year when all of the family worked together, so they enjoyed it.
After having a meal and tea we were shown how they sheered their sheep. Although the father was doing this with just a pair of scissors, he had finished within a matter of minutes and looked to have done a very good job. We were with this family for about 2 hours, I could have stayed for much longer but we had to hit the road and head to the village where we would be spending our final night.
The next day we began the 350-kilometer drive back to Ulaanbaatar but on the way we made one more stop to visit the last family of our trip. This was a young lady who had graduated from the sponsorship programme a couple of years ago. The team wanted to pop by to see how she was doing and give some money for the baby, which had been sent over by her old sponsor. Meeting this family gave me a real insight into how the CNCF sponsorship programme helps to create lasting change in the lives of the families it works to support.
As a result of my experience on the trip I have decided to sponsor one of the children I met when I get back to England. I am looking forward to being part of what I have seen is an incredibly rewarding experience for both the child and sponsor. ~ Thomas Williams