For many of the children who come to live at our village this will be their first experience of a world where they have rights, a world where they can smile, laugh and play as children in an environment where the adults are there to protect them not hurt or abuse them.
This can be a new and bewildering experience for children who have spent the most vulnerable years of their lives in fear of a cruel and unpredictable adult world, where time and time again they are let down, abused and have their innocence exploited.
The fiercely independent little duo had grown up with their abusive and alcoholic mother on the city streets of Ulaanbaatar. Their father had left one summer’s day, saying that he was going to collect pine nuts from the forest for them to sell on the roadside. Sadly, he never returned.
The children had never had a home of their own and instead spent their time on the move, seeking out temporary shelter wherever they could.
In the summer the mother and her two children would often sleep on empty building sites or in one of the city’s parks, however during the harsh winter months daily life became much more of a struggle as the family had to fight to stay alive in temperatures regularly reaching below minus thirty.
In order to keep warm the family would often stay with the mother’s friends, moving in-between their different gers and run down apartments. Although this provided some form of protection against the bitter cold conditions it was still a far cry from being the safe and nurturing home the two children longed for.
Every day their mother and her friends would drink cheap vodka and get increasingly drunk, unpleasant and abusive. As is too often the case, the children who fell victim to their alcohol-fueled violence and cruel psychological abuse.
Unsurprisingly, the two young siblings soon discovered that life was much safer on their own, and Gunzorig would often wait for his mother to pass out before taking his little sister off in search of anywhere that they could just be together. Remember these 2 little urchins are just 4 and 5yrs old.
It was during one of their runaways that the two children were spotted by the local Child Development Authority (CDA) and brought in off the streets for further inquiry. As their heartbreaking story of extreme abuse, neglect and suffering unraveled the CDA immediately took action, contacting our CNCF Ger Village Manager for Children and asking that we take care of the little ones while a thorough investigation was carried out.
When the children arrived at the village their dirty clothes, scratched faces and bruised little bodies told their story far better than words ever could. They stood tightly together, clutching each other’s hands as their eyes wandered the village, taking in their new home for the first time.
Despite being brought to us from an environment characterized by emotional and physical cruelty, it was an incredible thing to see the loving, kind and mutually supportive relationship between these two special little souls. It was clear to see that it had always been them together against the world.
After a nice warm shower, a clean set of clothes and some tasty hot food, the children began to feel more comfortable and relaxed into their new surroundings. Almost immediately they were playing with the other children and had established their place within the ger village community.
Since being at the village the siblings have received a full medical examination by our Doctor Muugii, who was happy to report that despite the scrapes and bruises both children are in good health. As we do with all our children at the village, we will make sure to give them lots of wholesome and nutritious meals to build up their strength and help them to grow into strong, healthy adults.
Our resident psychologist Nomin has also been spending lots of time with the two children, getting to know a bit more about their lives and helping them to settle into their new home. She will continue to work with the siblings throughout their time at the village, helping them to overcome the traumatic experiences of their past, develop a trust for people, and see the goodness in life.
After being investigated by the authorities their mother has been deemed unfit to care for her children and is considered a risk to their safety and well-being. For now she has been banned from making any contact, and for the children’s own protection it is not permitted for her to know where they are staying. As with the families of all our children, our social workers will try to work with her in the hope that one day she can be part of their lives again in a positive, loving and constructive way.
Gunzorig and Pagma are now attending our onsite kindergarten where for the first time in their lives they are able to just enjoy being children: playing, laughing, learning and finally being treated with the love, respect and dignity all our world’s young people deserve.
When I asked them if they liked being at the village, with big beaming smiles on their faces they replied ‘ Yes, we love it!’
These are the first days of a very long journey to right the wrongs of these children’s past. Our responsibility of care to them, as with all of our children, is an ongoing lifelong commitment. Our staff are caring and dedicated, but there is very little we could actually achieve in practical terms without your support.
If you would like to be part of changing the whole world for children like Gunzorig and Pagma, please consider sponsoring a child in Mongolia.
*Names have been changed to protect the children’s privacy