Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Belle Tuul's in America

A special bitter-sweet goodbye and good luck to our dear friend, Tuul Sukhbaatar. She worked as a translator for GTZ a German NGO. Tuul has just left the country for graduate school at Antioch in New Hampshire.

We love you Tuul! Good luck! Now you’re an authentic cool “east coast” girl, for sure!
Туулаа бид нар чамд хайртай, амжилт хүсье! Одоо чи жинхэнэ саак “east coast” охин болсон шүү!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It was all worth it...

Sometimes the clichés are clichés for a reason.

“It was all worth it!”

But let’s start from the beginning.

As you might have heard, we put on a few concerts in the last year. Planning for the initial concert began as a request from my theater boss in Bayankhongor that eventually involved our friend and vocalist Julia, and our friend, site mate and pianist Tysen. My boss wanted the people of our rural province to experience live classical music, which wasn’t hard to talk me in to. Julia, couldn’t wait to get on stage again either, and since Tysen had begun preparing solo piano pieces for his graduate school auditions and was looking for an opportunity to practice those pieces for an audience and to work with vocalists for the first time, he was easily in too.

We had the request from our Bayankhongor community and the interested parties, but we wanted to take it a step further by taking the show on the road and donating the proceeds of our concerts to charities. After some negotiating with other volunteers who would eventually act as our hosts and concert agents at the several performance sites, we decided on a few different organizations where the ticket money would go. The two big concerts were the one in Bayankhongor, where the Association of Parents of Disabled Children (APDC) is attempting to build a therapy center, and in Ulaanbaatar the National Center Against Violence (NCAV), which is always in need since the funding they receive for facilities does not cover food for the women and children who stay there.

For the NCAV Ulaanbaatar concert we worked with Muugii (pr. MOW-gee), who Julia had been speaking with for the past year about collaborating. We had a great time working with Muugii! She convinced Khan Bank to donate their gorgeous theater space to us, got a local school to donate their piano, and she talked 5 Mongolians into performing with us. And she was just a joy to be around. I was really impressed when I met her and the entire NCAV staff, so since most of the new community youth development (CYD) volunteers I’m helping to train will be placed at sites that have NCAV shelters, I arranged for them to meet at the staff’s office.

The visit was fantastic, completely informative, and helpful for the trainees! They were able to learn how the shelter system works, who the volunteers are that work there, the education and outreach they do, and how we as volunteers can help it meet its goals and further its mission.

At the end of the meeting, Muugii stood up and presented me with an unexpected certificate in appreciation for our concert and the money we raised. Julia, Tysen, and I thought at best we probably only raised about 400,000 tugriks ($275), but instead we raised 900,000 tugriks (approx. $620), which we felt was great, but how far could that money really go?

Then Muugii sat down, and with very little pomp and circumstance she calmly said that our money paid for two months worth of food for two shelters! I was shocked! I was so happy and so pleased. That’s more than I ever thought possible. Many of us began to tear up. Then she said:

“Oh, yeah, and also it paid for a boy’s…….how do you call it?.....hmmmm…..OH, yes, a boy with cancer’s bone marrow transplant .”


How could it be that $620 paid for two months of food for two shelters and a bone marrow transplant? I couldn’t believe it! I still don’t believe it. But I’m glad it did. Wow.

I’m so thankful for the opportunity to work with the NCAV (and also the APDC)! In the coming year I plan to work with our local center against violence in Bayankhongor to find more ways I can help this great organization!

Putting on the concerts was hard work, and it took a lot of coordination. I’ve had some very challenging moments and some great moments here in Mongolia over the last year, but that must be my proudest! It was all worth it!