For a period of time, I was sharing a monthly round-up of news from Eternal Landscapes.I particularly like the broad spectrum of articles that we achieved in May 2016 – everything from planting trees to helping a goat give birth.
Community Tree Planting Day – Ulaanbaatar
The cry went out for help. And we answered. Nogoon Nuur, formerly a waste dump site, is now a thriving community space in Ulaanbaatar. The whole vision is made possible by a committed individual, Ulzii. Ulzii has been committed to renovating this public space since 2012 and over this time has planted over 500 trees and focused on creating a healthy, green, public space for Mongolian people, especially children in the ger area.
It won’t win any photography awards, but I love this great image of local children on pedalos. Who’d have thought it in downtown urban Ulaanbaatar?
On May 7th, to help to kick-start community participation, the cry went to to support Ulzii – to help him plant more trees and help him improve this community park. The work focused on volunteers preparing the area for the planting of trees, landscaping and the building of a composting system. We arranged for our female trip assistants that were available to go along and help provide some (female) manpower.
Learn more about Nogoon Nuur here – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/nogoon-nuur-community-project-ulaanbaatar
More travellers are looking to volunteer as part of their holiday experience. To make a difference. To share a skill. To get a ‘more under the skin’ introduction to a country and its culture and people. The list is long. Voluntourism is a very current trend in tourism although it has been around for a substantial amount of time.
Our ‘taste of volunteering’ experiences are set up in direct relation with the projects that we work with in long-term local community partnership with and help support. The aim is not to make any profit. We don’t. Guests pay directly for any services to the service provider. They also make a donation in person directly to the project.
The volunteer options have been chosen by the projects as being of full benefit to them. None involve working directly with children unless the volunteer holds a professional educational qualification. We also limit the numbers of participants to between one to three to make sure not to overwhelm the project staff or the local people that the project supports.
Eileen joined us on our May 14th Spring Journey Mongolia small group tour. She asked to extend her time in Ulaanbaatar with a volunteer experience and we arranged for her to join Asral – the Mongolian based Buddhist NGO. Asral is the Mongolian word for ‘care’ and the NGO was founded by High Tibetan Lama, Ven. Panchen Ötrul Rinpoche. In 1994 Rinpoche was invited by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to assist with the plight of Mongolian people after the collapse of the Soviet Union and thus Asral NGO was created. Since its foundation Asral has helped with the ever present levels of poverty and social problems in Mongolia – specifically in the Bayangol ger district – one of the largest ger districts in Ulaanbaatar.
Eileen assisted on two of their social welfare projects. One is in the Gachuurt area of Ulaanbaatar where up to 30 families are trained annually in organic vegetable growing at the Asral training centre. Is it beneficial? In the autumn, family participants harvested salad greens, peppers and squash, as well as:
Eileen also spent three days with Asral’s Made in Mongolia. As part of Asral’s philosophy, the NGO is committed to supporting women (often the head of the household) and their families to achieve sustainable livelihoods. Asral works closely with community leaders, to provide access to education, skills training and family support for the women. Made in Mongolia (MIM) is an Asral initiative established to create employment for the women and to provide wider support for their communities. 330 women have been trained by the MIM Project in sewing, embroidery and felt making in Ulaanbaatar and Underschil in the Gobi Desert. In the Asral Centre in the Bayangol district, there is a designated space to house the felt making and sewing project.20 women are now employed full-time by MIM in Ulaanbaatar and Underschil. Eileen worked specifically with the team on producing felt slippers and small felt brooches which will be sold to help create an income for the MIM project.
Essence of Mongolia
Read a guidebook and it will probably mention that as a traveller you should consider avoiding spring in Mongolia. Yes, it’s a challenging time of year – especially with the weather (you’ll need thermals and shorts – it’s not a pack light time of year). However, travelling at this time of year gives a very real insight into the spring calendar of the herders – a very industrious time of year with the livestock giving birth, cashmere being combed from the goats and the male animals being castrated. This is one reason why I continue to promote and offer trips during spring in Mongolia.
One trip ended towards the end of April. Here’s part of a blog report written by one of our guests:
‘March and April tend to be the time of year when goats and sheep give birth. We actually got to witness a goat give birth. She was having trouble with her first birth and with a little human intervention the baby slid right out, the sac was picked off, and the umbilical cord torn by hand. I think, when you are not exposed to that kind of event, you are reminded that nature is indeed a wonderful and amazing thing. Especially so when the babies stand up within an hour and are running soon after. Their incessant cries at the gers were also quite funny as were the occasions when a baby would attempt to wander into the ger or when watching a baby goat try to nibble on an adult’s horns or watching the baby goats and sheep play and jump and stand on top of adults. Baby goats, especially, have so much character.’
And here’s the mum and baby just after the event:
EL is a business. But we are very much a family as well. This is one of our youngest EL family members (Turuu’s son) graduating from school (seen together here with his (proud) grandparents).