Tales on Horseback takes reading on the road

By Michelle Borok

A donated city bus from Belgium is finding a second life in Mongolia

Thanks to Go Help UK, a 1981 Jonckheere Eagle diesel city bus has been refurbished as Tales on Horseback, a traveling library and educational resource center hitting the road on September 20, National Book Day.
While Mongolia claims one the highest nationwide literacy rates of the Asia-Pacific region’s rapidly developing nations (more than 97 percent), easy access to education and reading materials and a growing digital divide are trials still facing urban and rural communities. Go Help UK’s representative office in Mongolia, led by Director O.Tseveendavaa, is launching their innovative mobile library project on National Book Day to address these challenges.
“MNS5742 standards approved in 2007, ‘Requirements for the library environment’, states that a public library should be established per 100,000 residents in each city and district. In Ulaanbaatar, there are 22 public and university libraries and information centers. However, only eight of them are operating steadily and accessible to the public. In 2012, the population of Ulaanbaatar was reported to be 1,227,000. From the standards mentioned before, we can see that number of libraries in Ulaanbaatar is not sufficient and most of them are located centrally,” said Indra Ganzorig, Go Help UK’s Education Project Coordinator, when asked why UB needs a mobile library.
Tales on Horseback will be more than a place to find books in parts of the city where quality reading material is scarce. M.Tsolmon from Karandash Co., Ltd, an interior design company based in Ulaanbaatar, designed an interior that includes computer work stations, shelves for reading and listening materials, and a reading area. Equipped with WiFi, the library will be a traveling education resource center for children and adults. There are plans to offer computer and personal development training sessions and workshops in the rear of the bus, where presentations can be conducted with an on-board projector.
The launch of Tales on Horseback will take place outside the National Amusement Park this Saturday and open with a book fair, raffle, and book swap. Mongolian author of more than 70 children’s books, J.Dashdondog will give a speech at the opening.
J.Dashdondog was the original inspiration for Tales on Horseback. The project derived its name from one of the author’s collections of nomadic folktales, published in Mongolian and English. J.Dashdondog began his own traveling library project more than twenty years ago, carrying books he’s written by horse, camel, cart and van to children in remote ger encampments, far from libraries and schools. Go Help UK has helped publish a few of J.Dashdondog’s books and has supported the expansion of his project. They are now working with him on publishing one of his latest children’s stories about humanitarian work.
The organization commissioned artwork by Martin Hsu for the exterior of the bus, which was brought to Mongolia by Team Desertlions in the 2012 Mongolia Charity Rally. The original artwork Hsu created for Tales on Horseback was donated to Go Help UK, and plays an important role in the identity of the project.
Taiwanese-American artist Martin Hsu built his career doing character design for major U.S. animation studios like Disney and Nickelodeon, illustrating children’s books, creating award winning designer vinyl toys, and showing his artwork in galleries across the U.S. and Asia.
Hsu came across a photo circulating on the social media site Tumblr, of J.Dashdondog with his library loaded on the back of a camel, and shared it on Facebook. Many months later, through his network of fans and friends, Indra Ganzorig reached out to him to create artwork for Tales on Horseback.
Hsu approached the mobile library commission with the same passion and creativity he’s applied to all of his professional projects.
“I treated this project as an animated series, where I get to design all-new characters who are empowered by books. I created a family of four, inspired by Mongolian horses. These characters have distinct personalities and are the symbols of this special project. I also had the pleasure of introducing a personal creation into this world: Dragon Boy. As a mystic creature, Dragon Boy serves as the carrier of books and messenger of fun! He leads our characters on flying books into a world of knowledge and imagination. Sky is the limit!”
Go Help has been working in Mongolia since 2009, running a number of health and education projects in and around Ulaanbaatar and offering academic scholarships to a handful of Mongolian university students. Go Help’s community health projects include ambulance donations to rural hospitals and health centers, and a recent partnership with Medics to Mongolia, a UK charity that sends current medical students on medical elective programs across Mongolia.
In addition to preparing for the launch of Tales on Horseback, Indra Ganzorig has been working hard on the Nalaikh district’s Book House, a free library service that also offers English and IT lessons to area children and their parents.
Tales on Horseback is not receiving any state support and has been made possible entirely by donations, Go Help funding, and with support from different Mongolian publishing companies, including Empathy Press and Blue Strawberry LLC. The library will be staffed by Go Help staff and volunteers during its trial run.
This Saturday Tales on Horseback will be making a tour of UB. After the opening ceremony at the National Amusement Park, it will journey to stops in Zaisan and in front of the State Circus. Its regular route after National Book Day will take the library to Nalaikh, Terelj, southwest of the airport past Bio Kombinat, and to the outlying khoroos and districts of Ulaanbaatar.
To follow Tales on Horseback on its journey, or to find out how you can support Go Help and its community projects, visit https://www.facebook.com/GoHelpMongolia.

The agenda of the Tales on Horseback Takes Reading on the Road can be seen on page 8.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=11953

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