From the 27-29th of September 2016, seventeen Hong Kong students aged around fifteen to seventeen, plus three teachers, spent three days in Mongolia alongside the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation to help children in need. Our school has been organizing this trip to Mongolia for several years now, with the intention of not only exposing students to Mongolia and its culture, but to make us aware of hardships that some Mongolian children endure and give us the chance to improve their lives in any small way that they can.
On the 27th, a few days after our group arrived in Mongolia, we took a bus to the Boys’ Prison in Ulaanbaatar, where we sat down in a room with snacks and water and met four of the boys that lived there. They were all either seventeen or eighteen years old, and all of them were very polite and friendly to us. They seemed to be comfortable with each other and with their surroundings, and smiled and laughed as we all exchanged questions with the help of a translator from CNCF.
The boys asked us to describe our school and our city and we told them about humidity, and living by the sea, and typhoons and black rainstorms that sometimes meant that school was cancelled. Having no school for a few days was a happy thing for everyone in the room to think about, students and teachers alike. Then the staff invited us to talk about our service work and how we had raised money for CNCF’s Give-a-Ger Program. The boys listened seriously, nodding, and applauded us – and that was the first moment that I felt acutely aware of what a good thing it was that we had done, raising money and coming to Mongolia to help people. After we had talked, we went to join the boys in their activities, and the afternoon passed with a lot of laughter and good humor.
When it was time to leave, we gave away all of the gifts we had brought and stood in a circle next to the basketball court with the boys and the staff. We had underestimated the boys’ ages for a couple of the gifts, and when one boy was presented with a brightly-colored, grapefruit-sized plastic basketball clearly meant for someone a decade younger, he took it and held it carefully in his hands as we all said our thank-yous and our goodbyes.
In preparation for this Mongolia trip, our group conducted a variety of fundraising activities in order to raise enough money to donate a ger to a family in need. On the second day of our community service activities in Mongolia, we took a bus to where the ger was to be built and met the family that was to receive it. We brought toys and played with the children – a little boy and girl – and did our best to help the workers and the family’s older son with the actual construction.
On our last full day in Mongolia, we visited the Blue Skies Ger Village, which aims to give Mongolian children in disadvantaged situations a secure and nurturing home. When we visited, we sang songs together and danced for each other and then split up to play volleyball and basketball and do a variety of other activities with the children, including an art session with the toddlers from the day care center. It was a full and engrossing day and I spent most of my time with a few other Hong Kong students and a couple of 13-year-old boys from the ger village, learning how to do sport stacking with a special mat and plastic cups. My friend taught one boy, demonstrating the arrangements and prompting him when he tried to follow her movements. By the end he had gotten quite fast and also made inroads teaching a couple of the other kids.
On each day, when we said our goodbyes to the children and the staff at each location, it was always touching when the translator relayed to us that the children really were very happy to see us and enjoyed playing with us.
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