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It was a warm afternoon in September when "Doctor Maarten" (or "Doctor Mutton" as I sometimes seem to hear, but that may be just a result of my new, Mongolian diet) first took me to see Anna Home; an afternoon that was the start of something that would enrich my stay in Choibalsan. I am a Dutch volunteer for VSO and my assignment is to help the regional hospital in Choibalsan to implement an electronic medical record system. A nice job, but the impact on the people living in these remote provinces is not quite directly visible. This missing sense of being able to make a visible difference was well compensated when I first met the little inhabitants of Anna Home.
Together with a group of American doctors we got to know the children that late summer afternoon, and we were overwhelmed by their enthusiasm and open-heartedness. Soon enough two children had grabbed both my hands and took me on a tour through their home. Outside, the American doctors, the children and myself were busy playing soccer or chasing a bouncy rugby ball. Another favorite form of entertainment was to borrow our cameras and - with a great sense of talent and skill - take beautiful photographs.
Ever since that first visit I returned frequently to visit my new friends at Anna Home. At the request of Maarten and Boldsaikhan we started a little project to make better use of the five computers that are available to the kids to help them in their school work. These machines were suffering from many viruses and were filled with games. Together with Boldsaikhan I decided to install Edubuntu on them, an operating system (like Windows) that is much more stable and virus free, but above all it contains a wealth of educational software. Instead of trying to escape the police in a racing game, the kids are now admiring a digital globe, a wide range of language and mathematic games, typing courses and many other fun applications for kids.
By now winter has set in and playing outside is no longer something anyone cares to do for a long period of time. Yet there was no need for me to be bored inside, and I was amazed by how fast children can learn how to count in English, French and Dutch.
A few weeks ago, as I dropped in unannounced, everyone was very busy moving furniture around. With only one fire place (for both cooking and heating) it was no longer possible to keep the whole building warm, so the workshop - which is much better isolated - and a sleeping room switched their functions. New fences and a new ger were placed on the terrain, the latter as the transition home for two older girls. This created some more space for the little family Karen wrote about in the previous newsletter.
As mentioned before, the children of Anna Home found great joy in taking pictures. Upon her return in the US, one of the American doctors therefore took the initiative to provide them with a decent camera of their own, with which they could record their view on life in Anna Home and the world around them. Again, this yielded some incredible photographs and these were used to create a calendar and some other photo items that can be ordered online. The benefits of these sales will be for Anna Home.
This way, the children were enabled to generate some extra income for Anna Home, and this has led to a nice donation.
Looking back I can only feel privileged to have contributed in this modest way to Anna Home. My time in Mongolia is almost over, but what I will never forget are the generous smiles and warm greetings of children who may have had a rough start in life, but have now found some warmth in Anna Home, and a springboard to a better life.
Vincent Klein Breteler
Two children left the house, Otgontenger and Erdenebayar. Both went back to their parents. Both lived in Anna Home from the beginning in 2007. As we wrote in our last newsletter we temporarily had too many children in the house. The total number is now back to 26.
On national television TV9 Boldsaikhan has won a price as "Hero of Mongolia". He travelled with four children to Ulaanbaatar to receive the price on TV and to tell about Anna Home. This news is so fresh that we in Holland don't know the details yet. Hopefully we will come back on it in the next newsletter.
The parents of Olivia were so happy with the birth of their daughter that they wanted to make other people happy too. They chose the children of Anna Home. They made a small film for us that you can see by clicking here.
Maybe it is a good idea to share this idea with your friends and family?