April 27, 2005

The Unadorned Truth

(Picture-heavy; may be slow to load.)

This week I learned, with abrupt and sudden totality, that, until now, the Dulaan Project has been an abstraction for me. The idea of knitting things for the children in Mongolia, albeit homeless children, still had, perhaps, a tinge of “sweetness” or “cuteness” to it. That is, until yesterday, when Meredith, the Executive Director of F.I.R.E., sent me the pictures below.

Meredith reports that, in 1990, when the Russians left Mongolia, a tremendous homelessness problem was created. The Mongolian government's response to this was to make it illegal to be homeless if you are under 16 years of age, and the police now go on regular round-ups to pick up the homeless children. Meredith went with a police officer on one of the round-ups and that is when the majority of these pictures were taken.

Picture 1: The police officer and one of the holes the children use to get in and out of the underground heating ducts. If you look closely you can see one of the children looking up through the hole.

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Pictures 2 and 3: Some of the children living in the heating duct tunnel. These children were 17 years or older, so they were not taken to a shelter.

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Picture 4-7: 11- and 12-year-old children living in a stairwell. These children were taken to a half-way house where they were given a shower and clean clothes. They stayed at this shelter until their families could be located. If they did not have families, or if their families did not want them, or they did not want to go back to their families, then they went to a shelter to be taken care of and to acquire better life-skills.

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Pictures 8 and 9: The light, literally, at the end of the tunnel. These are before-and-after pictures of two of the children shown earlier, after some time spent in a shelter, after they have been given a shower, some clothes, some food, and a place to sleep.

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Meredith concluded her email to me by saying, "Over half of all street children have STD's, even as young as eight. There is really no drug abuse, but there is a lot of petty theft, rape and prostitution. Still, many of the kids choose the streets over their abusive, poor and/or alcoholic families. Mongolia has a tremendous alcohol problem due to the vodka introduced by the Russians, which leaves a huge number of women raising their families without the fathers."

Meredith has sent me many more pictures, some of them worse than these and some very moving, uplifting and bittersweet. I'll be posting those pictures over the next couple of blog entries. (And need I say Meredith is not happy with person who said there are no homeless children in Mongolia and that Dulaan was a scam?)

Also, I received an email from Karen Blankenship in Texas who says that, due to the imminent arrival of her baby, she will not be able to knit for Dulaan, but she has some yarn that she is willing to mail to anyone who wants to use it for the project. Please let me know if you're interested and I'll put you in touch with Karen.

Posted by Ryan at April 27, 2005 11:40 AM
Comments

The pictures say it all, don't they? Even if these were the only children that were homeless in Mongolia my heart is moved (and my knitting needles too!)

Must knit more!

Posted by: laura on April 27, 2005 11:47 AM

I watch things like the camel film and I forget there are cities. Cuzzin Tom said UB had a population of 1 million - it really struck me then, it's going to have the usual city problems but so much worse because of the political instability.
Some of it really strikes home with me because I was abused as a child and it's informed my whole life. I just got out of an abusive relationship a few months ago and I'm working really hard on healing, and learning so much about how our childhoods define us. (egad, I've outed myself on the Internets)
Is there more that can be done (that we can do) to help support the shelters?

Posted by: Patti on April 27, 2005 11:59 AM

Ryan, Thanks so much for posting those pictures. They really help to explain and illustrate the dire need for this project we're helping to support.

Posted by: Susie on April 27, 2005 12:00 PM

Here I sit, grumbling about being too warm and having started *another* boring pair of mittens for the Dulaan Project. And then I see these photos. Must finish said pair of mitts and start another pair! Thanks for the reminder.

As an aside -- my neighbour has volunteered to give me her inherited stash for this project. Will they be accepting donations for next year for those projects not completed in time for this year's shipment?

Posted by: Carol on April 27, 2005 12:14 PM

Thanks Ryan. I hope by now the grouch is suitably embarrassed. I'm mailing another hat this week.

Posted by: CarolineF on April 27, 2005 12:16 PM

Those pictures are heart wrenching! I must confess...I read cheerfully through your blog, starting waayyy back in the archives. Until I did that and read more about it this Dulaan project held no interest to me. Now I'm thinking "must knit." Did I mention I live on the Eastside so I could even deliver my goods in person?

Suppose I should introduce myself...yes I did go waaayyy back into the archives and read from the beginning....I was amazed to find that your middle name is Richardson. It's my last name and my son's middle name (and a great one, I think!:) I was dying to meet you until you said everyone thinks you're bitchy when they first meet you. I got scared and thought...."what if I think that?" But I don't think so. I bet you're just wonderfully outgoing (as am I and everyone thinks I'm bitchy when they first meet me too! heheh)

You, TMK, and Frankie keep me wonderfully entertained at work, and it'd be great to meet you in person some day. I do have one of those frightening child like things hanging off me, but I'm sure I could get the old DH to keep an eye on him to meet up for knitting. I'm thinking of joining the knitting guild, but a drive into Seattle after working all day isn't all that inspiring....yet. Maybe soon.

But I do want to knit some things for the Dulaan project, so knowing me I'll probably go home tonight. Knit like crazy for ooohhhh....about a week or so. And then keep coming back to look at those pictures to remind me why I'm knitting with cheapo acrylic yarn. Hopefully I'll have some finished things soon.

Sam

Posted by: Sam on April 27, 2005 12:17 PM

Ryan, thanks for today's post and the pictures. I'm so deeply moved--obviously what we're doing is important, but not a long term solution. What else can we do--does Meridith have any other suggestions?

2,000 items is hardly going to be enough! Also, it struck me that, after seeing these pictures, we should be making more items for older kids and teens. These larger garments take a bit more to knit, but will be so welcomed!

Mary B

Posted by: Mary B on April 27, 2005 12:22 PM

Like Patti, I want to know what else we can do to help the shelters. Who runs them?

Posted by: Judy on April 27, 2005 12:42 PM

To add a P.S. to my earlier post--if any of the Brigade Knitters is knitting with acrylic yarns exclusivly, thinking that acrylics are the only fiber accepted for this project, wool is definitely acceptable! Because of it's greater warmth properties, it might even be better for the task at hand. (I don't think machine-washable is going to be a consideration for the recipients of our knitted items!)

This is not to say acrylics are not welcomed--and I know wool is sometimes costlier, but wool/acrylic blends also work great! Mary B

Posted by: Mary B on April 27, 2005 12:47 PM

Thank you to everyone for their questions and comments. I think what I will do is I will start Friday's entry with answers to all of these questions, and then post more pictures to keep you going! However, right now I will echo what Mary said, and say that any fibers are useful, acrylics, wools, blends...

Patti, all I can say, is given your history, it's all the more amazing that when you walk into a room, the room seems to light up. Really. You're just one of those people. I know I don't know you very well, but I thought you might like to know that, for me at least, that is the first impression you give off.

Sam from the East Side, I work on the East Side, in Bellevue, so if you ever want to get together at my office for a noon-time kwik-knit, or to give me some finished items, let me know! Also, I can assure you, if you come to Guild, you won't be a "stranger." I'll be there, and a lot of the other Dear Readers will be there to make your first visit fun!

Posted by: Ryan on April 27, 2005 01:06 PM

I must say, after reading my dear Blog Mistress' post, I don't feel as down about having just cut 8 inches off of my hair. Those poor children....it's just awful. I have to go knit more now.

Posted by: Stalker Angie on April 27, 2005 01:46 PM

Well, all I can say is any improvement you do is better than none. The government should be more militant in helping these people, because today's impoverished could become tomorrow's criminals (out of necessity or ignorance). Hopefully they will feel love from your gifts.

Posted by: Tachometra on April 27, 2005 01:51 PM

Whatddya know....I work in Bellevue also! Right downtown, on 108th. Do tell...what is your fav yarn shop? I just found Skeins! Ltd (we recently moved down here) but am still on the hunt for that perfect LYS.

I would love to meet up one day for a little knitting time. The weather is starting to get nice enough, maybe a little meet up at downtown park would be in order?

And thanks for the reminder about wools/acrylics. I was thinking I'd like to knit some wool for them because it's so nice and warm, but for some odd reason I though acrylic was it. So instead of yicky yucky acrylic I'll be knitting away on some nice *wool* things for those kids.

Posted by: Sam on April 27, 2005 02:07 PM

When I looked at the first couple photos, my main thought was that these kids need a lot more than a handknit hat. But seeing the last two "before-and-after" shots really drives it home: the hat/mittens/blanket can be an important part of the larger project of improving their outlook.
I recently inherited a big stash of yarn and hope to make a few more items before the deadline. And finish up a UFO or two from the inherited stash to donate as well.

Posted by: Emily on April 27, 2005 02:31 PM

Emily, wait until you see the photos I post on Monday of the Mongolians receiving their items from last year's shipment. Trust me, you will understand what a difference an item like a hat or a blanket can make!

Posted by: Ryan on April 27, 2005 02:55 PM

Is it wrong to be this jealous of Sam? I mean, I'm the stalker and I'm stuck in Texas. And there she is making knitting dates in the park. I am a horrid, horrid person. Hi Sam!!!

Posted by: Stalker Angie on April 27, 2005 03:06 PM

Thank you so much for posting those pictures Ryan and inspiring me to knit more Dulaan items. Somehow the measly 8 items I have posted to F.I.R.E. so far just don't seem to be enough. Off to knit more.

Posted by: shell james on April 27, 2005 03:14 PM

Ooohhh, but StalkerAngie...you have had your *name* mentioned on Ryan's blog. I think she's even given you a virtual wave. I'll look forward to filling you in about about our park meeting (Although Ryan has to agree to meet me first) *wink*.

Posted by: Sam on April 27, 2005 03:23 PM

Those pictures... terrible conditions. Must finish another hat. And buy fleece for blankets...

Posted by: melissa on April 27, 2005 03:32 PM

Thank you Ryan. Really I feel pretty invisible. And ridiculously shy (no way was I going to stand up at the Guild meeting!).

What about toys? Noah and I were talking about putting some small stuffed animals in our box of stuff.

Posted by: Patti on April 27, 2005 04:01 PM

Patti, I will check with F.I.R.E. about toys. However, I think space is so valuable in the shipping container that maybe sticking to clothing or other necessities would be best. The F.I.R.E. site lists specifically, "New or used clothing (blankets, coats, sweaters, hats), crutches and medical supplies."

(Hmmm, apparently I am caught in a tug-o'-war between Stalker Angie and Sam. This must be a blog milestone of *some* kind.)

Posted by: Ryan on April 27, 2005 04:10 PM

Now, wait a minute here. I am getting in on this tug-o-war, but only because I want Ryan and TMK for myself. And the dog. See, I'm here in MN, and for the past three days we have had "Seattle snow" (you know, the white stuff that is wet and doesn't stick to anything but spits from the sky like milk through a seive?), and I think I should get to knit with them.

I was thinking I might ride my bike to Seattle. If I get there, will someone let me camp in their yard, and maybe use their shower?

Posted by: Sara* on April 27, 2005 07:52 PM

Ok, ok, I'm knitting, I'm knitting. Turned in the last paper of the semester today... As soon as the hands uncramp from the typing I'll cramp them right back up again with the knitting!

Posted by: Kristen on April 27, 2005 09:24 PM

Hey, Ryan? You are awesome. Thank you.

Posted by: Rachael on April 28, 2005 02:18 AM

Thank you for this post, Ryan.

Posted by: Lolly on April 28, 2005 04:44 AM

Hey Sam, wanna know what's truly sad? If you Google
"Stalker Angie" it will list my profile for blogger first, but Ms. Ryan's blog gets listed before mine does. And I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. I think maybe I'm spending too much time hovering around Ye Olde Mossy Cottage. Heck, I'm not even sure how I feel about being "googled" at all. Creeeepy. *shudder*

Posted by: Stalker Angie on April 28, 2005 08:38 AM

Sara,
If you ride your bike all the way from Minnesota to Seattle, I can guarantee you'll at least get hosed off and fed when you get here! (Frankie might even share her doggy bed with you!) ;-) TMK

Posted by: The Mysterious K on April 28, 2005 09:07 AM

Thanks for those pictures Ryan. It really drives home the importance of this project and the reason why needles are flying for Dulaan all over the world (including London, which is where I live). I am just about to send off a parcel containing 7 hats to FIRE and will have a rifle around in my stash to see what else there is to inspire me. I can see us passing the 2000 items goal post sooner rather than later.

Posted by: Atropos on April 28, 2005 09:23 AM

These pictures are great motivation! I have been slacking off on the Dulaan stuff lately (anyone who drops in on my blog will see why - short and to the point: the store that I work in just got into yarn and knitting stuff - I love it!). Anyways, this makes me want to put everything else aside and just concentrate on reaching my personal goal of 20 items. (I think I have 8 more to go.)

This is cute - my 5 year old started learning to knit last night. It was his idea, so I started him off on a basic garter stitch scarf. His favorite color is green, so I told him until I could get him some green yarn to make a scarf for himself he could do this one in grey/white ragg yarn to send away to Mongolia. "How far away is she?" he asked! Too cute! (Then I tried to explain it to him.) Anyways, I will probably end up knitting most of it, but he's trying!

Posted by: Sheri on April 28, 2005 09:42 AM

Ryan, I asked a couple of non-knitting friends to make blankets, and will direct them to your post here for further illustration as to why I wanted to spend a full moon rit doing this. However, just to clarify as they are both non-knitters - if they make other fleecey items (hats and/or mittens, or purchase those items), they can go in the box with the blankets, right? Any more info would be great.

Thank you, a million times over, for organizing this.

Posted by: perclexed on April 28, 2005 10:08 AM

Wow. I know these things, as you say, in abstract. But the pictures are truly humbling. There but for the grace of . . .well. fill in according to your personal beliefs. I have been thinking about this project in terms of small children. These bigger kids' lives are just beyond my ability to imagine. I'll give my own an extra hug tonight.
I wrote up my Dulaan mitten pattern last night and posted it on my blog. I hope my knit club will make a few pairs. I have a sweater and a hat done. I'll send them soon.

Posted by: julia fc on April 28, 2005 03:19 PM

Thanks for the pattern, Julia. I'll post a link to it on the blog!

Posted by: Ryan on April 28, 2005 03:36 PM

*knitting faster, knitting faster* That comment (from someone, I'm sorry I'm not going to take the time to go back and look -- it's time away from Dulaan knitting) that some larger items are needed is a good one. I think I'll get going on a teen-size sweater next.

Posted by: Norma on April 28, 2005 05:07 PM

Dear Ryan,

I'd like to knit some items for the Dulaan project. Can you get me in touch with Karen Blankenship in TX to ask her for her stash, or is it already given away? Thank you.

Posted by: Lorraine Cottrell on April 28, 2005 10:20 PM
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