N.Gaamaa: Everything will be resolved if housing issues are settled

Trans.  by B.DULGUUN

The following is an interview with the Director of My Family Home (Manai Ger) Orphanage Center, N.Gaamaa about her orphanage.

She’s been raising and caring for children since graduating from college that trains kindergarten teachers. In 2003, she co-founded My Family Home Orphanage with a Japanese citizen, Ken Aratame, and started off with six children.

The children, some of whom were disabled  or diagnosed with tuberculosis and heart diseases, were aged from 16-day-old to 18-months-old. The orphanage currently houses 26 healthy children, with the youngest being aged six. They temporarily housed, provided documentation and registration for schools and kindergartens, and entrusted some 80 children to their parents and relatives.

Most people consider one or two children to be troublesome. Why did you choose this work to care for children?

I’ve been working and providing care for children since I graduated as a kindergarten teacher. I partnered with Ken Aratame, a teacher at the Tokyo University, to research about orphans and disabled children of vulnerable groups for five years since 1998. During the research, we worked with families of vulnerable groups in Songinokhairkhan District. To extend the framework of this work, we decided to establish an orphanage. We began our operations for the orphanage after getting permission from the District’s Labor and Social Welfare Department. Our children had a very tough time when they were young. Now, they seem to have gotten on track a bit. All of them are so helpful and lovely.

Do the children call you mother or teacher?

Some call me Mum, and some who can’t speak well yet, and call me Amaa (a variation of Gaamaa).

Are there many talented children?

There are plenty. Some excel in their academic studies. Composer D.Luvsansharav used to live in our neighborhood. He claimed that one of our girls could become a singer and that girl has won gold and silver medals at singing competitions.

What do the children do during summer holiday?

Previously, we used to have a camp when our Japanese financer was in Mongolia. Now, I ask my relatives to let us lodge at their summer houses for few days. One or two camps are letting us stay. While others think about getting a good rest when June comes and all schools and kindergartens go on holiday, I start worrying about clothes and stationeries for September.

It costs a lot to provide food and clothing for over 20 children. How do you manage?

The [Songinokhairkhan District] Welfare Department gives us approximately one million MNT. It does suffice for food. Being a child in an orphanage doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be poor and extremely unfortunate. I want them to be provided with things just like any other person, starting from clothes, food and stationeries. Our orphanage also does tailoring and sells what we produce. We have many friends, individuals, organizations and companies that support us. People give charities of 50,000 to 100,000 MNT or more, and we use it all for the children. I am getting older. I don’t think about getting awarded with gold or silver medals like other people around my age. As soon as I get some money from the welfare department, I spend it on food.

Do you manage funds for clothes, housing, and school stationeries by yourself?

Yes. The most problematic is rent. I was demanded to vacate this house before July 1. We’re temporarily moving to an apartment in Sansar District. When I look for a new house, I’m demanded to pay a large sum of money in advance. I’m in a difficult situation and confused about what I should do. Maybe some readers will be interested in supporting our orphanage after reading this interview. Although, we have many companies supporting and helping us out, I’m a bit hesitant about asking for more help. I myself am a bit reserved. I don’t like asking for favors. I try to do things by myself. If we can resolve housing issues, there will not be any further issues to be concerned about.

Did you contact any organizations regarding this matter?

I asked some organizations. They told me they’d discuss it with their directors, but I haven’t heard from them. It’s very challenging as I’ve never asked for favors before. There’s a saying that people will manage as long as they’re alive. I’ll have to manage it somehow. I’m sure there are plenty of people that are goodhearted and willing to help and support. It’s just me who’s unable to find the right person.

How much money is required to provide for the needs one child?

Including food, clothing and school needs, around 250,000 MNT is considered sufficient for each child a month. At the moment, the children are getting adequate food and clothing.

Is the 20,000 MNT distributed to children from the government spent on children?

No, that money is saved up in their trust accounts. It’ll be useful in their future lives.

Have you contacted foreign organizations for financial support?

Majority of foreign organizations are associated with religions. There are abundant numbers of religious organizations who are enthusiastic about helping and supporting the orphanage. However, I’m not so keen on working with them. Some foreign organizations completely change the way children think, conquer their minds and turn them into vegetarians. I cannot repay the children if I introduce them to foreign religions and beliefs.

Since most of the children have health issues, they must need a considerable amount of care?

Indeed. More than half of the children came to us with health issues. It’s blissful to just live healthily, without sickness or disease. I get worried about them getting sick or hurt whenever they travel somewhere. Just recently, a child had a heart operation. Two years ago, a four-year-old boy had to undergo a heart operation. Generally, I can’t seem to distance myself from my children. Ever since I established this orphanage center, not once have I taken an annual leave. The youngest child will be entering a school this year. My overall care work is almost over. Now, I’m concentrating on their upbringing and education, and beginning to prepare them for society.

From your interview, it seems that you spend 24 hours at the orphanage. Are you able to spend time with your family?

Sometimes, I even spend 48 hours or 72 hours straight at the orphanage. I have four children of my own, two boys and two girls. They all started their own lives and families so they don’t get upset for not making time for them. The best support comes from families. There was a time when I had to sell my son’s car due to insufficient money for food. As mentioned before, a child had an operation. The children take turns to visit and deliver her food.

Certainly, you must face many difficulties while raising so many children?

I can understand the children from their eyes. I can see it from their eyes and face when they face hardships at school or about to get sick. I can love them when they need caring and scold them if I must. Children shouldn’t be spoilt, patted on their heads and kissed 20 to 30 times a day just because they are orphans or sick. Occasionally, these kids really do misbehave but they’ve matured a bit, and became much easier to handle.

Children in government orphanages leave the orphanage when they reach 18. Does the same apply to the children at My Family Home Orphanage?

Yes. Our children have strong bonds so they continue supporting us even after leaving the orphanage. I’m sure they can manage a good life afterwards. I have the foremost important responsibility of raising them correctly. I consider their intelligence as priority, more than material needs. I’m planning on pursuing land next year and ask for four to five gers. The children matured and learned to be independent. I’m pondering about having three or four of them live together in a ger. I can check up on them at least once a month.

Do parents come to get back their children?

Hardly ever. We have to search for them and when we find them and meet, they don’t seem to have the slightest joy or hint of retrieving their child. I guess it can’t be helped. They must not feel the urge to take them back since they’ve already abandoned them. Some mothers are very immoral.

Majority of our children were abandoned. There’s a huge difference between an orphan and an abandoned child. It’s evil to consider abandoning a child in one’s womb as soon as he or she is born because they can’t abort them. Children who grew up tasting their mother’s milk are different.

Will you continue this work and care for children?

I will work with disabled children after these children reach the stage to take care of themselves. Some children don’t let their parents work and demand the same amount of care as a three-year-old when they’re already ten years old. I want them to become helpful to their parents. Healthy children are quick to mature.

What brings the most satisfaction in your line of work?

If my children are able to mature, become independent, and carry on a happy life on their own, then that will become my biggest happiness.

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