Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Building a kindergarten...

Four girls are working together with the duplo blocks. "Teacher Naomi, look, we're building a kindergarten. It's our kindergarten!"

Some boys describe to me the project they have been working on all afternoon. "So our company makes building materials. Our company's name is 'Good team'. The crane moves the materials after they come down the chutes. Over on this property we make the buildings."

Note the chutes on the left for building materials to slide down

Note the crane, designed by these boys, which can move pieces of lego

The idea grows, as does the company! Everyone has their own tasks and responsibilities

The founders of the "Good Team" building company

If only it were so simple... building a kindergarten, starting a company. Oh to have the heart of a child, for whom all things are within reach. We want a kindergarten? We just build one!  We want to design a company- go for it! I really do appreciate that about children... their ideas are not dampened by seeming ever increasing obstacles and adult doubt. Oh to have the heart of a child!

Dream Family NGO has a vision to start a kindergarten that will be a model for change in the way that early childhood education happens in Mongolia. It has a vision to be a centre for the training and developing of student teachers and professional development and support for teachers, a kindergarten where children are encouraged to explore, to think, to create... to start companies- and their teachers are trained to encourage and facilitate that!! We have a great start: a team of amazing Mongolians who have caught the vision, and who know that now is the time for change and a new direction for Mongolian children and their education. We have the makings of a kindergarten with wonderful learning resources, toys, books, even furniture! There is just one thing that is holding us back... the actual building.

There are 299 kindergartens in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. That seems like quite a lot, right? Even so, 33% of Ulaanbaatar's children are not receiving formal early childhood education. Many children can not enter kindergarten because the classes are already full to overflowing (most government kindergartens have 40-50 children per class). Private kindergartens are seemingly plentiful but fees very high and most families can not afford them (many private kindergartens now cost the equivalent of studying a degree at a Mongolian university). I hear of so many children who are left at home- some in the company of a grandparent, others on their own, because their parents have to work and have not been able to secure a place in a kindergarten. Most weeks I have at least one parent share with me their burden for their children's education, asking when our kindergarten will be open, if we take children full time...

At this stage Dream Family NGO is running an after school care program for primary school aged children, while also taking in a handful of kindergarten aged children whose families could not send them elsewhere. We are not running a kindergarten at the moment, as we have not yet been able to meet all the requirements in order to get the permission. And what is it that is standing in our way? A space, and about $210,000 to buy it! We wanted to start the kindergarten last year, but discovered that one of the requirements is that you may not rent your space, you must own it. This has a lot of merit and advantages, but where does one find $210,000 to buy an apartment or building that will meet the governments requirements for a kindergarten? Some days I just feel so frustrated- the need is so evident, and yet it feels like they are making it almost impossible to do... unless of course you have lots of money (which I obviously don't). On those days I almost feel like giving up hope. It just can't be done... but then I see these children in my care, these young ones full of hope and ideas and creativity and dreams. And I remember that it is for THEM, for their childhood and for their future that I am striving, it is for Mongolia and her people that I have come. I have not come to give up as soon as it looks too hard. I have not come to give in because the path to change is not as smooth as I had hoped. 

So... here I am. Looking for possibilities amongst the seemingly impossible. Looking for an opportunity where it seems there isn't one. Looking for others who can catch the vision, get passionate about Mongolian children- about protecting their childhoods, nurturing them to reach their potential and believing in their future. And in all of that I am looking for $210,000- or the donation of a building or apartment, I'm not picky, I'll take either! J

Yes... this is why I am here!

If you are interested in supporting Dream Family Mongolia or would like to contribute to the building fund leave me a note and I will get back to you on how you can best do that. If you have thoughts or advice on fundraising we are open to that too! J


  1. I love this! You are doing an amazing job, Naomi. Don't give up :)

    1. Thanks so much Terri! Those encouraging words mean a lot to me! I won't be giving up any time soon :-)