2wheels: The Return
Edward Genochio's bicycle expedition from China to England
September 2005 - November 2006
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Horseman Stole My Bicycle!
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The Lotus Children's Project in Ulan Bator, Mongolia
During my enforced stay in Ulan Bator, I had opportunity to visit the Lotus Children's Centre.
Anyone who has visited Ulan Bator recently will know that there are many children who live on the streets. Most visitors come to Mongolia during the summer time, but the children of course are there all year round, including winter when temperatures fall below -20 degrees C. The children take refuge and find some warmth in the tunnels which carry Ulan Bator's central hot water system.
Naturally this is a very precarious existence, and the children, many of them orphans or for various reasons unable to live at home, are vulnerable not only to the extreme weather, but also to crime, prostituion, drugs and disease. They have little access to regular education or proper health care.
Naturally, without education or the "normal" experience of growing up in a protective family environment, the lives of these "street children" are often affected into adulthood too.
The Lotus Children's Centre was set up in Ulan Bator to try to give these children a fairer start in their lives.
The Centre was set up by an Australian woman, and has now expanded with the help of local staff and international volunteers.
At the Centre, the children get the food and medical care they need, as well as the education that mostly they don't receive when they live on the streets. But, perhaps more importantly, the children live together in "family units", and so they learn not just about how to look after themselves, but also about responsibility and how to look after others.
When I visited the Centre, I was very moved by what I saw: not just the obvious dedication of the staff and volunteers, but also the eagerness of the children to learn and to make the best of the opportunities the Centre gives them.
One criticism sometimes aimed at charities that help "street children" is that they in fact encourage children to leave home, or parents to abandon their children, by providing free "hand-outs" (be it food, clothes, or schooling) that might be better than what is available at the child's home.
The Lotus Centre works very hard to ensure that, wherever possible, children are re-united with their parents or extended families. Families are usually the best place for children to grow up in, but when parents die or are genuinely unable to look after their children, the Lotus Centre provides a warm, secure, loving environment for children who need it.
The Centre relies almost entirely on private donations to continue and extend its work. Every extra child that they can help by giving something close to a "normal" upbringing means one fewer child facing a damaging life on the streets of Ulan Bator.
The Centre has a website at www.lotuschild.org, where you can find out more about the work they do.
You can make an online donation through the Lotus Centre website. If you can afford it, please consider doing so. Even a little can go quite a long way in Mongolia.
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|Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005 Edward Genochio
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