IWAM delivers warmth this winter

By Michelle Borok

December 9, 2013


Last Thursday, members of the International Women’s Association of Mongolia (IWAM) delivered timely donations to new mothers and children living in Darkhan. The gifts delivered were meant to make this winter a little warmer for those with less than others.

Led by IWAM’s Head of Programs, Sue Durrant, members Gemma Theuerkauf, Elaine Tromans, and Julie Veloo made the trip up to Darkhan to hand-deliver donations gathered by IWAM from supporters in Australia, Canada and Mongolia. The delivery to Darkhan followed similar events coordinated in Ulaanbaatar for the Children of the Peak. IWAM is an organization for women of all nationalities to come together, socialize, and do charitable work in Mongolia. For twenty years, the organization has raised funds to help vulnerable women and children in Mongolia.

Their first stop was a health clinic on the edge of Old Darkhan, where 34 mothers from the city’s ger districts, the surrounding countryside and nearby soums filled a classroom to meet the women of IWAM. With Julie Veloo providing an introduction in Mongolian, the women distributed essentials that had been collected for the mother’s newborns. Diapers, swaddle cloths, bibs, onesies  and more were bundled together for distribution in thick baby blankets. The newborns, some just weeks old, stayed swaddled and sleeping as their mothers checked to see how the hand-knit sweaters and beanies handed out by the IWAM members and nurses at the clinic would fit their fast growing babies.

The makings of the “baby bundles” were funded by donations, and the materials gathered by IWAM members and assembled for distribution in Ulaanbaatar and Darkhan. They are part of an ongoing project by IWAM and will continue to be made throughout the year. Vice President of the Veloo Foundation, Julie Veloo said, “I like the fact that the people at home, who donated money or goodies for this to happen, are the real heroes.”  The knit hats and sweaters given to the new mothers were knitted by three grandmothers in Campbell River, B.C. Canada, and sent to Mongolia by Lorie Leitz, a board member of the Veloo Foundation.

Following the visit to the health clinic, the IWAM members dropped in on the Shonhoodoi Circus School, a local non-profit organization led by trainer Battsetseg and her husband. The women of IWAM had brought donated jackets and clothes for the children, but were first surprised with a performance by them.

The Shonhoodoi Circus School has a new home in the Darkhan Children’s Park, in the former location of a Korean Baptist church. At the school, local children from the ger district and Darkhan’s orphanage are able to come for training and practice in the circus arts. The children range in age from five to sixteen, and work diligently to hone their skills in contortion, juggling, acrobatics and bicycle tricks. The training gives the children goals to focus on outside the challenges they face at home, instills a sense of discipline and self-confidence, and for the most talented students, it offers a creative and unique career opportunity for the future.

The performance for the IWAM ladies was a warm-up for a formal performance by the school on December 22. The children were eager to show off their talents, with the steady guidance of their trainers and encouragement from their visiting audience. Following their surprise performance, the children tried on their new jackets and helped each other select new clothes provided by their visitors.

In addition to the facility the school has been allowed access to by city officials, which includes a small gym, changing room and space for practice and performance, the school has been promised funding from the Darkhan Governor’s Office to purchase equipment and the means to expand their outreach. Local businesses have also pledged to provide hot meals for the children in the program. Battsetseg and her husband look forward to offering the children training with them more opportunities for development, and to be an afterschool home to more children in the city. The supportive visit by the women of IWAM was a greatly appreciated part of the start of a new future for the school.

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