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Mongolia

Caring for orphaned and vulnerable children in Mongolia since 1999 through child sponsorship and donations

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Every year, sponsors and donors provide life-changing support for over 7,250 children and families in Mongolia.

Nearly a third of Mongolians live in poverty, many in traditional tent-like homes called “gers” on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. The reason behind Mongolia’s impoverished communities lies in the country’s not-so-distant past. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Mongolia struggled to transition to a free market economy. Families began to move to the city, and away from the stability of their nomadic way of life. As they struggled to adapt, loss of extended family support and a lack of community contributed to an increase in alcoholism and family dissolution, and many children became homeless. Today, Holt sponsors and donors help care for children separated from their families, and help children thrive through education and stabilizing support for their families.

47% of children and 1 in 3 women experience violence

At Holt donor-supported domestic violence shelters, women and children find a safe haven to safely rebuild their lives.

Many children are malnourished when they come into care

Through Holt’s donor-supported nutrition program, caregivers are trained to assess and meet the individual nutritional needs of children.

Children and families live and work in the city garbage dump

At the Red Stone School, sponsors help provide an education, a warm refuge and nutritious meals for over 50 children.

Help Children & Families in Mongolia

Some children in Mongolia live in or near the city’s largest garbage dump, don’t have enough food and can’t go to school. Winter in Mongolia can reach 40 degrees below zero, and children suffer while living in makeshift housing without even a warm coat or blanket. Your gift will help a child or family in Mongolia in greatest need.

Family Strengthening

Helping Children and Families Thrive in Mongolia

In Mongolia, many families are living in extreme poverty without stable homes, reliable food, running water, electricity or heat in winter. Many are also headed by single mothers or grandparents. Holt sponsors and donors help these families regain stability and shelter, nourish and educate their children, and rebuild their lives and communities.

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Education

While public education is free in Mongolia, economic pressures and the need to help support the family, lack of resources and required documentation, poor health and harsh weather often keep children from attending school. But with the support of Holt sponsors and donors, over 200 children living in impoverished districts of Ulaanbaatar are able to continue their education. Resources provided include school supplies, nutritious meals and social work support from Holt Mongolia staff who track their progress and work with their families to encourage them to stay in school.

two girls writing in notebook

While many children in Holt sponsorship attend public schools in Mongolia, others live in communities that don’t have practical access to a formal school. One community is made up of hundreds of families who live on the edge of Ulaanbaatar’s largest garbage dump in the hills that overlook the city. These children and families survive by using and selling items they gather from the refuse. Education is almost out of the question for the children who live here. Even if they make the long walk to school, they are often teased and shunned by the other students because of where they come from.

But in 2016, Holt sponsors and donors began providing support for children to attend a newly opened school called the Red Stone School. Here, children find warm refuge, nutritious meals, education, dignity and opportunity. They also receive support to re-enter formal public school programs. Today, Holt sponsors and donors also support five more informal schools across Mongolia for children excluded from traditional education.

In addition to school support, Holt has expanded educational opportunities for children living in poverty through a special library and after-school program. Holt-supported libraries are safe, fun, educational places where children can read books, use computers, participate in online learning and receive help with their homework. Children also receive nutritious meals as well as individual counseling and intervention as needed. The libraries even provide courses and workshops in art, language and music — allowing children to express themselves and develop their unique talents and skills. Libraries also function as community centers where parents can receive employment assistance, and where Holt staff hold trainings on domestic violence, child rights and how to access government services.

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Early Childhood Care & Development

In Mongolia, Holt sponsors and donors support several different early childhood care and development programs. Holt-supported daycare provides a critical early education and nourishing meals for children living in impoverished communities of Ulaanbaatar. At some daycare sites, children also receive quarterly malnutrition screenings through Holt’s child nutrition program. If needed, children receive supplements to treat malnutrition or anemia, as well as health checkups provided by health care workers from local government hospitals.  

Woman holding baby in Mongolia

In Ulaanbaatar, Holt sponsors and donors also make it possible for children with special needs to attend a special daycare program at the National Children’s Sanitorium (NCS) —  Mongolia’s primary government care center for orphaned and abandoned children under age 4. In addition, Holt has begun support for the Special Needs Development Rehabilitation Center. Through these programs, teams of medical professionals, caregivers and occupational therapists design individual curricula around each child’s particular physical, developmental or cognitive needs. Services include occupational, language, music and physio therapies, structural and non-structural life skills trainings such as self-care and toilet training, as well as regular nutrition for children — all of whom come from low-income families who struggle to afford the cost of daycare for their child.

While children attend the daycare program at NCS, their parents receive training in how to provide therapy and massage. They also learn how to provide specialized feeding to ensure, for example, that kids with cerebral palsy receive the support to eat while sitting up — a critical position to prevent children from choking on their food, and a cornerstone of Holt’s child nutrition program training.

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Economic Empowerment

Many children in Holt Mongolia programs live with their families, but their families struggle with poverty and unemployment. Many of these families have migrated from the countryside and are struggling to adapt to a new way of life in the city. For struggling parents, sponsors and donors help provide vocational training and employment assistance — empowering them to earn a more stable income to support their children. Holt Mongolia staff also provide training in worker’s rights and help parents apply for government assistance or small business microloans that are available to them. Out of desperation, some families pull children out of school to help earn an income. But through this program, Holt provides a sustainable alternative so children can stay in school.

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Nutrition & Health

Many of the families that Holt sponsors and donors support in Mongolia live in what is known locally as the “ger district” — the most impoverished district in Ulaanbaatar and home to roughly 65,000 people. Many of these families have migrated from the countryside in search of work, and they live either in makeshift dwellings or in the traditional Mongolian homes called “gers.” Essentially insulated tents, gers do not have running water or internal plumbing. In the summer, families in the ger district will bathe in nearby rivers. In winter, they will often go months at a time without bathing — causing frequent outbreaks of lice, skin rashes and generally poor hygiene. Many of the children growing up in these communities avoid school for fear of being bullied or teased because they smell or their clothes are dirty. But at the sponsor-supported Red Stone School for the children of this community, children can wash and change into freshly laundered uniforms and no one teases them because of where they live. Through sponsorship, children receive the essential resources they need to maintain good health and hygiene.

Before the Red Stone School opened for children living near the city garbage dump in Ulaanbaatar, meals would often consist of whatever they could find in the dump. A rotting loaf of bread. A bone with some meat on it. Plastic bottles that could be recycled to buy food. But with the support of sponsors and donors, Red Stone students receive a hot, nutritious meal every day. In many cases, this is their only guaranteed meal of the day.

In several impoverished communities, sponsors and donors also support community health centers that provide medical checkups, care and therapy for children with special needs. Through Holt’s child nutrition program, parents receive training in proper nutrition and feeding techniques for their children. Holt’s daycare and after-school programs in Mongolia provide nourishing meals and health checkups for vulnerable children. As many families use dangerous coal stoves to heat their gers, Holt’s team in Mongolia also provides burn prevention training for parents living in the ger communities, and have partnered with local doctors to provide families with training in burn injury first aid and treatment.

 

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Domestic Violence Shelters

green plastic bin full of stuffed animals

Mongolia has among the highest rates of domestic violence in Asia, with 47% of children and 1 in 3 women having experienced violence in the home. Cases are often higher in communities with high poverty and low education rates, like those where Holt has programs for children and families. To address this need, Holt sponsors and donors directly support three domestic violence shelters for women and children in Ulaanbaatar. Donors also support emergency helplines to report incidents of abuse. 

Through the National Center Against Violence, women also receive legal representation to help sever ties with their abuser and gain custody of their children. The women are provided information and training in the legal protections afforded to them under Mongolian law. Children who have been victims of sexual abuse receive specialized counseling and support.

Every year, Holt donors help provide care and services for between 200-300 women and children at the shelters. Each woman receives housing and support to rebuild her life, giving her shelter until she can find a way to safely live on her own. Women often arrive at the shelters with small children in tow — children who are equally scared and unsure about what their future holds. In some cases, children will come to the shelter on their own. Holt sponsors and donors not only give these children a safe place to live, but also nutrition, medical care and the resources to continue their education. Women and children receive mental health counseling and support as they recover from trauma.

Orphan & Vulnerable Children Care

Caring for Mongolia’s Most Vulnerable Children

In impoverished urban Mongolia, many children come into institutional care because their parents struggle to provide for them. Sponsors and donors help meet children’s needs while in care and support efforts to reunite them with their birth families or unite them with loving families in Mongolia.

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Family Reunification

Whenever a child comes into the care of our partnering care centers, our first priority is always to reunite them with their family. In Mongolia, poverty often separates children from their families. A family that’s struggling to meet their child’s needs may place them for temporary care in an orphanage. Holt partners with three care centers in Mongolia that provide short-term care for children — the National Children’s Sanitorium, the Big Family Center and Children of the Sun Orphanage. Families that place their child in temporary care are encouraged to maintain regular contact with their child while they work to regain stability and overcome the crisis they are facing. And before and after a child returns home, Holt’s social work team will visit the family to ensure they can provide a safe, stable home environment.

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Standards of Care

Holt’s partnering care centers in Mongolia uphold a standard of care for children that in many ways exceed government-set standards. Through the years, Holt sponsors and donors have helped to establish this high quality care. When Holt first came to Mongolia in the late 1990s, they began partnering with the National Children’s Sanatorium (NCS) in Ulaanbaatar — the primary government care center for abandoned infants and children under the age of 4. With support from donors, Holt began to address critical needs at the center such as the need for a neonatal care unit. At the time, the NCS didn’t have an incubator for the premature and medically fragile infants that they brought into care. Instead, they used “kangaroo care” — skin-on-skin contact — which, though effective at a 90-percent survival rate, fell short of the advanced medical care available in more developed countries.

Holt helped to develop a complete neonatal care unit, providing at-risk infants and toddlers with the critical medical care, nutrition and nurture they needed to recover and thrive. Today, the hospital supports premature or low birth weight infants and families from around Mongolia with high-quality care, breastfeeding support and other post-natal services. 

When children age out of the National Children’s Sanatorium at the age of 4, they are transferred to the Big Family Center — Mongolia’s state orphanage for children ages 5 through 18. At the center, children and teens attend school and receive the physical and emotional support they need. Many of the children are waiting for a loving, permanent family through domestic adoption. Older children also receive the transitional support they’ll need to live on their own upon turning 19. Currently, Holt sponsors and donors support both the older children and the kindergarten at the Big Family Center — providing critical early education and a foundation of learning to empower each child’s future.

Outside the city of Ulaanbaatar, Holt sponsors and donors also support Children of the Sun Orphanage. This orphanage provides an extremely high standard of care, with vocational training and resources to help prepare children who are about to age out of care, as well as support to the young adults now living on their own. At every care center in Mongolia, Holt has also implemented our child nutrition program — training caregivers in nutrition and feeding practices and tracking children’s growth as they develop.

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Adoption in Birth Country

At Holt, we believe every child should have the opportunity to grow up in the country and culture of their birth. That’s why we always strive to help children join loving families in their birth country before pursuing international adoption. At present, Holt does not have an international adoption program in Mongolia. But many children in Mongolia are able to join domestic adoptive families, and Holt supports this practice at each of our partnering care centers.

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Nutrition & Health

In Mongolia, lack of food diversity is a major concern. The country’s high altitude, extreme temperature fluctuations, long winters and low precipitation severely limits the number of crops that can grow — causing much of the country’s food to be imported from neighboring countries. Many families struggle to afford the high cost of imported foods, limiting the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet. As a result, families in poverty and children in orphanage care subsist primarily on milk, potatoes and high-fat mutton. Harsh weather also keeps children inside and deficient of vitamin D.

girl eating from bowl with spoon

Holt’s child nutrition program began work in Mongolia in 2016 to assess and meet the nutritional needs of children in orphanage care. Through this program, orphanage staff learned how to track children’s growth and provide individualized nutrition interventions for each child. They learned best practices in food preparation and feeding methods — especially for children with special needs. They also learned how to meet child’s nutritional deficiencies through improved diet and supplements.

Children in care at Holt’s partnering orphanages also receive regular medical checkups and any needed medical care or rehabilitative therapies. At Children of the Sun Orphanage, children receive training in food preparation, and those preparing to age out of institutional care learn about nutrition and budgeting.

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Job Skills Training for Youth Aging Out of Care

Two of Holt’s partnering care centers in Mongolia provide special programs that prepare children to live independently once they age out of care and leave the orphanage. Through a robust vocational training program, teens in care at the Big Family Center and the Children of the Sun Orphanage learn independent living skills and training that will help them get a job and earn income to support themselves. At the Children of the Sun Orphanage, they can work at an on-site car wash, bakery or arts workshops. They can receive training in music and dance, and are paid to provide performances at venues across Mongolia. They have even traveled to perform overseas! The teens also receive essential life skills training such as learning how to prepare food. 

children holding awards in chef hats


Once they leave the orphanage, they continue to receive lifelong support from the long-standing director of the orphanage — a woman who considers every one of them her children. She maintains a strong relationship with every youth who ages out of care, filling in the roles that customarily would be performed by birth parents. For example, when a young adult who aged out of care decides to marry, the director will accompany them to meet with the family of their prospective spouse. She will stand with the person, vouch for their character and even perform the role of birth parent during the wedding ceremony. During traditional Mongolian holidays and other celebrations, these families will return to the Children of the Sun Orphanage to celebrate with her and all of the children who are in care as one very large and happy family.

Sponsor a Child in Mongolia

Your monthly support will go toward food, clothing, education and more — helping a child in Mongolia thrive in the loving care of their family!