Living in A Garbage Dump
Plastic bags billow in the wind and flutter across the ground, stopping at piles of bottles and shards of glass. Welcome to the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Welcome home.
Ulaanbaatar’s largest garbage dump is home to hundreds of families. They live on the fringes of society, battling an unforgiving tundra climate by building their homes from the discarded belongings of city dwellers. Infrastructure, clean water and access to education are hard to find in this community, where families construct their homes from scraps, woven together in technicolor disarray. Parents and young children search for pieces they can repurpose, recycle or sell, their survival dependent on innovation and resourcefulness.
And the one thing that could provide relief? The one thing that could offer escape from this desolate landscape, from the cycle of poverty?
In Mongolia, public education is free. However, the children who call the garbage dump home live far from the nearest school. Even under ideal weather conditions, which are uncommon in icy cold Mongolia, it would be nearly impossible for the children to travel the distance daily on foot. Without access to clean water and school uniforms, the children would wear their poverty on their sleeve for all to see, and likely become the victims of cruel ridicule and harassment by their peers.
This is the case for many Mongolian children living in impoverished communities. This is their reality. And the rejection from the rest of society — schoolmates, in particular — intensifies their isolation.
This is not the reality these children deserve, and a few years ago several Mongolian donors learned of the situation in Ulaanbaatar and, in collaboration with Holt International, built the Red Stone School. Just a 20-minute walk from where the children live sits a plot of land inhabited by two storage containers fused together — a humble building — a concrete basketball court, and a traditional Mongolian ger (yurt). To the occasional passerby, this collection of structures does not draw attention, but to the 30 students who gather here every day to learn, these structures are castles in the sky come to life.
“These are kids who would otherwise not be attending school,” says Paul Kim, director of Holt’s programs in Mongolia. “Otherwise they’d be rummaging through garbage, or perhaps running away from home to see if they could find better opportunities closer into the city.”
Holt works endlessly to ensure children around the world have every opportunity to better their lives and remain with their families. Through education, health care, job training, counseling or microloans, countless families have stayed together. When families are given the proper tools, they gladly rise to the challenge and face hardships together, unified.
Sponsor a child today and learn how you can provide the tools a family needs to keep fighting. The next Red Stone School starts here.
You can read more about the Red Stone School here: