Vulnerable groups in Mongolia

The project started
in April 1997. Its overall objective is to support vulnerable children and their families by strengthening the local capacity to provide for socially weak groups. This is undertaken through a 2-year education project in the field of social work.
 
Participants
in the education project comprise persons, who, in addition to working with children on a daily basis (e.g. policemen or school teachers), wish to contribute to the well being of society through volunteer work that supports and motivates vulnerable children and their families.
 
Poverty
is often the predominant reason when Mongolian parents are unable to provide for their children. They cannot offer stability and security.

Participants in the education project therefore work in multidisciplinary teams to design and implement a range of projects that entail activities through which children develop their identity and self-worth and parents are counselled and supported in income generating activities, which renders the home more stable for both adults and children.
 
Vulnerable groups in Mongolia
In 1990, Mongolia broke with the Soviet Union to begin a comprehensive process of reform intended to create a Western-inspired democracy and to introduce a market economy.

However, following seven decades of collectivism, large segments of the population did not have the capacities to operate adequately in competition-based society, and more than one third of the country’s population today survives under the official poverty line. 
 
The international donor
community has provided a substantial amount of aid earmarked for the transition, but today Mongolia remains deeply dependent on development assistance, which accounts to approximately one third of its GDP. The social sector is still not fully functioning.

There is no public social security system, and local authorities lack experience with and the tradition for offering counselling to tackle the social problems of individuals on a case-by-case basis.
 
The Danish Mongolian Society therefore has put much emphasis into the inclusion and participation of representatives from local authorities in its social projects. 
 
Projects in the field
Projects are carried out under the framework of a practical-oriented 2-year diploma degree in social education. One course includes participants from a total of 15 different aimags (provinces) and autonomous cities.

A team of four participants from each aimag or city is formed, typically comprising one policeman, one school teacher, one person from the local social authorities, and one person from the local children centre.

The choice of these professions rests on the fact that these participants are in daily contract with vulnerable children, i.e. children who live in extreme poverty conditions, where alcoholism and violence might even prevail.

Team members must then combine the theories and methods they learn in the seminars and workshops on the basis of their professional backgrounds and local knowledge.
 
Each team selects a number of vulnerable children in their local area and supports them through a twofold input:

  • By being continuously available for the children and engaging them in activities, thus allowing them to explore and experience their own talents and skills. This provides the children with a sense of identity and self-worth, thereby laying a solid ground for their ongoing development.
     
    In some projects, children learn how to play music or sing. In others, they learn how to perform in a circus or present a puppet theatre. Or the children may learn how to plant vegetables, do carpentry or how to weave.
     
  • By ensuring that a stable environment is created within the family. This may take place by helping the family finding a new residence in which alcoholics are not extensively present, or a piece of land that they learn to cultivate to grow vegetables from which they can generate a small income.
     
    The project provides courses that teach parents how to plant such vegetables.

Social development projects
therefore do not just support the selected children but their entire families. The 15 smaller projects benefit around 500 persons including then children.
 
Participants’
are evaluated throughout the life of the project as well as at the end of their 2-year education; all with the aim of making them ambassadors who can promote further multidisciplinary work in their local community. 
 
Centres
The social development project runs family centres in a number of towns. Here, family members can get advice and guidance from social workers in relation to concrete problems.

But the centres also constitute nexi of activities offering opportunities for various activities such as crochet work, wood work, weaving, drawing, painting, and much more.
 
Centre for street children
Moreover, the project has established a centre for street children. An increasing number of Mongolian children live under so horrid conditions at home that they prefer to live in the streets, sleep in unhealthy manholes and ensure their livelihoods by committing criminal offences.

The social work accomplished at the centre has contributed to the creation of more stable homes to which children have been able to return, and thus resume their schooling.

The centre has also assisted older street children in finding an internship in a specific workplace or in pursuing an education.