Sam took a gap year after school and spent several months of it volunteering at Lotus, having raised money for them before he arrived……..
Mongolia is the type of country which can seriously test one’s
own capabilities to live in such a different and unique environment. It is
not like any other country I have been to. My time in Mongolia was one
of the best, the worst, and most interesting experiences of my life. And
despite the obvious flaws I came across, it has bettered me as a human
being, and opened my eyes to a whole new world.
Upon arriving in Chinggis Airport, I was greeted by my well meaning taxi driver (I was blissfully unaware of the fortune she was going to charge me for the ride). I went straight to the lotus guest house where I could acclimatise and sort myself out, and without going into great detail that didn’t work very well for me. Nevertheless, two days later I arrived at Lotus Children’s Centre in Gachhurt (about 28km east of Ulaanbator). My first action and response was to soulfully stare at the breathtaking mountainous scenery.
My day to day role was very dependent on what the kids wanted to do, I discovered that I could not simply make a repeating schedule for the kids to take part in, something like a class, otherwise they would get bored and stop attending. I would have to ask the kids if they wanted to take a guitar or art or English class with me before actually doing the class. Most days I would teach guitar to a couple children at a time, we then would either play basketball, football, volleyball, and on some days we (volunteers) would organise a competition for all the kids to take part in, which they all loved.
On some days we would organise for the kids to either come on
a hike with myself and the other volunteers, or maybe walk down to
the nearby river where they could swim in the freezing cold water – which
on the hot days was such a special thing to do.
The food that we had to eat was simple and basic, but home
cooked and actually easy to get used to and actually became quite
nice (psychologically), it would consist of a few main ingredients
including rice, potatoes, onions, carrots, noodles and select
vegetables. Only so often would we ever get meat.
Showering and keeping clean was a massive difficulty for us volunteers (being western and not used to the living conditions). I was very lucky with the time I arrived as Lotus had recently installed a new toilet and showering facility solely for the volunteers only. So there was running water in these facilities, however hot water was non existent. The facility did come with a small boiler to heat up the water, however shortly after it was connected to the electrics it blew the fuse box and the wires thanks to the incorrect wiring and lack of electrical knowledge from the Mongolian electricians.
However, as I stated before, the flaws are massively
overshadowed. I discovered one thing about Lotus which I wasn’t
expecting to discover, and I certainly didn’t think it would be the
highlight of my trip, but for me it came out on top. It was the
connection and relationship I built with the kids.
The children are so wonderful, so independent, so exciting, and so generous with their love and kindness. This was the most rewarding thing I took away from being at Lotus. The children made the entire trip worthwhile, and I will never forget them. Each day I had so much love and kindness given to me, they love their volunteers who come to Lotus, they treat them with respect and show them their souls. It was the most amazing feeling being able to connect with them like this when they have had such difficult lives.