Only 2.4 million inhabitants live in Mongolia, a country almost five times the size of Germany. During the long and ice-cold winters people struggle to survive. Nearly one half of the population lives as semi-nomads with more than 30 million livestock. After the collapse of the Soviet socialist system in 1990, Mongolia entered a transition period resulting in significant social, economic and political changes, some good and some bad. There was high inflation and unemployment, more people became poor, more people were vulnerable. A social safety net was not part of a society now led by market forces. The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, state that in Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator) 4000 street children1 live in the street.
World Vision gives help for street children
World Vision, started its operations in Mongolia in 1993 for street children.2 Teams of youth workers attend to children and teenagers where they find them, at the streets of Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator). They try to win their trust, to help them move away from street life. The Child Welfare Centre (formerly Child Address and Identification Centre (CAIC)) is a sub-section of the Crime Prevention Department, under the Juvenile Justice Section of the Ulaanbaatar City Police. Its mandate is to identify unsupervised/ street children and provide appropriate action. World Vision currently has 2 social workers present at the CAIC and their role is to conduct risk assessments in relation to returning street children to their families.3
Sometimes workers talk with children on their own, sometimes with the whole family. When children have experienced abuse, (psychological, physical, or sexual), the care offered is not so much clinical, as Workers recognize that their warmth and humanity can sometimes be the most precious thing they have to offer.
Shelter for street children and the Day Activity Centre
World Vision also runs: The Day Activity Centre, which gives street children a chance to escape street life for a few hours, and Lighthouse Centre. Lighthouse gives help with immediate basic needs, and also aims to tackle the reasons children find themselves in the street. They offer some basic education, and will act is a sort of referee in discussions between children and their families.4
World Vision also offers sponsorships. Parents, village elders, and World Vision workers meet to discuss and organise what projects could be created to help the community to support themselves, so that children don't have to leave their homes for the street in the first place. We don't give money directly to children or parents; we don't just aim to help one child, one family. The organisation recognises it is easier to catch people before they fall, than to make a rescue.
Author: Dan Rampoldt
1 UNICEF, Evaluation of UNICEF Mongolia's Child Protection Programme, 2009, S.15
2 World Vision, Mongolei - Zukunft für Strassenkinder, 2007, S.2
3 World Vision, Freiwillige Mitarbeiter für Strassenkinder, 2004, S.2
4 World Vision, Mongolia Annual Review 2008, 2009, S.38