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Children at the Joyful Palace

The Joyful Palace: Caring for Kids With Disabilities in Mongolia

For the first time, children with disabilities living in an impoverished province of Mongolia will receive the support and help they need. Joyful Palace is one of Holt’s newest donor-funded programs, providing children with disabilities and their families with critical therapies, education, resources and more.

A girl with cerebral palsy sits on the floor and smiles
Enkhjargal has made amazing progress in her speech and mobility since she started coming to Joyful Palace.

Enkhjargal looks up from across the room where she was sitting, her eyes lighting up as she sees a group of people come in. She extends her arms, swoops around her legs and does a crawl of sorts across the floor. She stops in front of one of the visitors, and begins to speak in a string of Mongolian toddler-babble.

“When she first came here, she never would have been able to do this,” says one of the caregivers, referring to both her abilities to move and speak.

Enkhjargal has cerebral palsy and lives with her family in Mongolia. Up until several months ago, she was completely stationary and nonverbal. Not because she couldn’t do it, but because she had never had access to the specialized therapy and resources she needed to learn. For Enkhjargal and many more children to come, this development is all thanks to one of Holt’s newest donor-funded programs in Mongolia — Joyful Palace.

Holt Donors Visit Joyful Palace

The Holt donors behind this special new program just visited Mongolia as part of Holt’s 2024 Vision Trip to the country. This donor group from across the U.S. is made up of adoptees, adoptive families and other big-hearted people who want to make a life-changing difference for children in Mongolia. During their weeklong trip in the country, they visited many of the programs Holt sponsors and donors support, including the Red Stone School, care centers and of course, Joyful Palace — where they were part of the group that was greeted by Enkhjargal, scooting over to say hello.

A group photo of Holt donors and Holt Mongolia staff

“We found the perfect opportunity that we wanted to help with,” shares one participant on the trip who donated to make the Joyful Palace possible and wishes to remain anonymous. “We are so thrilled to be a part of [this program in] Mongolia […] We are very thankful for all of [Holt Mongolia’s] hard work and what they’ve turned this building into. It’s inspiring and it warms our hearts. The building is beautiful, but you can’t have the building without the love and compassion that [everyone here] brings.”

What makes Joyful Palace especially important is that there is nothing like it anywhere else in this province in Mongolia — and it is meeting the critical needs of a group of children and families who would otherwise go unseen and unserved.

Raising a Child With Disabilities in Mongolia

In Mongolia, families of disabled children often feel like there is nowhere to turn. Several months ago, when Joyful Palace began, Holt Mongolia held a special gathering for the families of children with disabilities in the area. And this is a sentiment that they shared over and over at this gathering.

The room was packed, as parents of children with disabilities shared their stories and the hardships they face every day. One mom in the group shared that many of these families are unemployed, socially isolated and deeply depressed. They can’t earn an adequate income because of the high demand of caring for a child with a disability. They feel helpless as their child’s needs go unaddressed, with no access to special education, medical care or therapy that could help.

Support & Resources to Help

Joyful Palace is fulfilling this critical need, as a comprehensive community center of sorts, all to provide services for children with disabilities. The rooms are filled with brightly colored beanbags and toys. The walls display murals of happy children who are in wheelchairs, have a prosthetic hand or other physical disabilities. There’s even a sensory area — where children with autism can find respite and interact with brightly colored lights, textured rugs and special toys that meet their sensory needs.

“It’s such an honor to be here at this center. It’s overwhelming to have it prepared for children and people with disabilities — it touches my heart.”

A full staff of physical, occupational, speech and massage therapists is available to help children develop and reach their goals. They host community trainings for teachers to increase their knowledge of working with disabled people. Parents of children with disabilities find support, resources and community they’ve never had before — all specifically tailored to their child and his or her needs.

A Place Just For Them

When a child first comes to Joyful Palace, they receive an assessment so that their needs are fully known and understood. From there, Joyful Palace will help provide the support and resources they and their families need to thrive. Some nomadic, herding families travel for hours or even days to get here, which is why there are even bunk rooms where families can rest, or even stay overnight, while their child receives support.

When you walk into Joyful Palace, you can feel just what a special place it is. Especially when you begin to meet the children and families.

A mom with her two children and sister at the Joyful Palace

Down one hallway, the group on Holt’s 2024 Vision Trip met a young single mom of two as she held her oldest daughter, who has a physical disability. This mom used to feel so alone, but now she has a community of other parents who she can lean on as she parents her children and seeks to provide for her daughter as best she can.

In another room, a young boy with a bowl-cut haircut and clear glasses sits on a rug, and his mom helps him walk across the room. He proudly shows everyone his notebook where he is practicing writing in English.

A boy with glasses smiles and shows his notebook of English words

Many of the children who come to Joyful Palace have physical disabilities that would otherwise keep them from attending the government schools — yet they have no cognitive limitations, and want to learn! But here, they have access to specialized resources they need to meet their fullest potential.

Jordan Love is one of Holt’s donor relations officers and has been a part of the project since the beginning. Because of his own experience having dwarfism, he understands in a special way what an exceptional place Joyful Palace is for children with disabilities.

“It’s such an honor to be here at this center,” Jordan says. “It’s overwhelming to have it prepared for children and people with disabilities — it touches my heart. Because I myself have a disability, to see the level of care and support here is overwhelming.”

Support to Reach Their Fullest Potential

This overwhelming care and support will have a lifelong impact on the children who attend this joyful place — helping them to meet the physical and developmental milestones they may never otherwise reach. It’s giving them a brighter future, and the opportunity to grow that they so deserve.

“Together, hand in hand, we’re not just overcoming obstacles – we’re crafting a future filled with love, support and boundless possibilities,” says Holt Mongolia staff. “This is the essence of the Joyful Palace – where every smile, every triumph, is a testament to the beauty of compassion and solidarity.”

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