November 17, 2006

The Scam Myth Debunked Yet Again

(No posting next week, Dear Readers, so an early Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, especially to Big Sister and her fambly! TMK and I will be spending it with our new "dinner club" friends, including Elaine and Leslie. A novel approach to Turkey Day for us, but we're both really looking forward to it. I am especially because TMK will be making Angry Pie!)

This is the event in the “Dulaan Year” that I live for: the arrival of the photos. This year they come courtesy of Cuzzin Tom, who accompanied F.I.R.E. to Sainshand, the provincial capital of Mongolia’s Eastern Gobi region. The Cuzzin sent two sets of photos, one of which he called the “Heartbreakers” and one of which he called the “Heartwarmers.” Today, the Heartbreakers, with commentary by Tom. Keep in mind as you look at these photos that the temperatures in Mongolia are already falling as low as 10° F (-12° C).

Photo #1. Children With No Shoes: We saw a lot of poverty and related nastiness, but these two freaked us out. It was nightfall and cold and here come these two, so young, with terrible clothes and no shoes. We just grabbed 'em and started stuffing them into warm clothes. In a lot of these kids, we sensed significant developmental problems.


Photo #2. Crosseyed Child: Here's one of them, after we found her felt booties and a warm hat. They were so emotionally unresponsive--a result of malnourishment? Hard to tell for sure.


Photo #3. Girl and Boy Glaring: This picture really affected me. I never see Mongolian children so wary and almost hostile. Look at the little one! The bigger girl was walking by with two of her little friends. They were so ill-clad that we corralled them and made them take clothes, like the wonderful mittens on both their hands. There's also something vulnerable about the girl that scares me. Can she be more than 12?


Photo #4. Older Sister: I'm guessing this is an older sister. Somehow this young girl was in charge of the two little ones. Too grownup, no? But...something. A little bit of hope? Unusual strength? Anyway, she has a new knit hat in her hand for herself, plus more. [Ed. Note. I believe the hats are Cloud Hats. I am so thrilled to see them in their new home!]


Photo #5. Poor Child in Blue: Another one for your "this is a scam" reader [Ed. note: Not a reader, but, still, someone who thinks I'm running a scam.] So hard already for such a small child.


6. Crippled Dog: Man, even the dogs in this neighborhood are having a terrible life. Missing a leg, so too relatively weak to get food in the street, hence so skinny, and just recently pregnant. And yet still playful. Mongolia.


Lastly, Cuzzin Tom says:

"In general, I was so moved by the knitted items I saw. So skillfully made, some individually wrapped, some with home-made tags. It was a sheer joy to give them away. I mean this. We gave tons of stuff to maybe 40 families that day; Meredith will have the country-wide total, but the Dulaanettes have touched so many lives. I tried to explain to each one that these were gifts of friendship. Almost everyone got a hat, scarf, kids all got sweaters, many got scarves and mittens, great stuff for babies (some pregnant ladies were thrilled). Old folks and little ones got felt blankets. You all made a difference. A big one."

I couldn't have said it better myself. (For more on Cuzzin Tom's trip to the Gobi, see his entry for today.)

(Side note: I had an unexpected, at least to me, reaction to these photos. I became seriously choked up and weepy but not so much out of sadness as out of feeling, for the first time, the overwhelming responsibility that comes with spearheading this charity. Don't get me wrong; it's a true blessing, in every sense of the word, to be able to do this and I get so much more out of it than I put into it, but photos like this make me think, what if Dulaan didn't exist? And how can I/we take care of even more people next year? And what if the Dulaan Brigadiers stop contributing? What if? What if? What if? Yep, a wee panic attack, but once I reminded myself that I was in my office and could not, in fact, lie down on the floor and roll around and sob, I recovered quite handily. I realize that all I can do is keep knitting and keep encouraging others to do the same.)

Posted by Ryan at November 17, 2006 10:51 AM


I just got my own copy of One Steppe at a Time... and my knitting needles are going at full speed. Hey - we're giving those people a small glimmer of warmth out there. What a feeling. Knit on Dulaaneers!


Posted by: Irina on November 17, 2006 11:03 AM

Stop knitting for Dulaan????? As if.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Posted by: Kirsten on November 17, 2006 11:04 AM

I didn't need to mess up my makeup here at work. I am making more hats, and mittens and perhaps some felted slippers for your "scam" (I say that in the most tongue in cheek way). When I get home, I am going to hug my kids soooo tight... Thanks for all your hard work.

Posted by: Angie on November 17, 2006 11:24 AM

Some of us out here are new to the project this year. I think you'll be heartened at the groundswell of support as time goes by.

Posted by: Sherilan on November 17, 2006 11:29 AM

What moving photos, Ryan. Thank you for sharing them and reminding me how even a little bit of time can help someone far away. I am lucky to have 3 kids who have all the warm clothes they need; they are my incentive to keep knitting for others.

Posted by: Carol on November 17, 2006 11:39 AM

Least I can do is help someone else's kids stay warm. I can't imagine my son having to live that way. The pictures and descriptions move me immensely. Thank you for organizing this. We can only do what we are connected to (like you through Cuzzin Tom and all of us through the blog) and know (hope?) that other people are helping where they have connection.

Posted by: Kate on November 17, 2006 12:19 PM



Posted by: Norma on November 17, 2006 12:19 PM


If you could have seen the pile of Dulaan items we had at the retreat.. Did you see the list on Clara's newsletter this week?? VERY AWESOME.

Have a very happy turkey day.

Posted by: anj on November 17, 2006 12:24 PM

I knit for Dulaan out of pure selfishness. If that were my child in the freezing cold with no hat or mittens or shoes, I would want the world to be such a place that people who, having their share of comfort, would make a hat or mitten or socks to bring warmth and hope to my precious baby.

Posted by: martha in mobile on November 17, 2006 12:26 PM

What an impact these photos have -- thank you for posting our inspiration!

Posted by: Barbara in California on November 17, 2006 12:41 PM

You know I'm all tough and hardened and stuff (and cynical! Don't forget cynical!) so none of those photos affected me at all. There seems to be a lot of dust in the air, though, and my eyes are watering a bit. Damned construction (on this house that was built 40 years ago ... yes, there's still sawdust, shut up).

I took one of the hats I'd intended for Dulaan out of the pile and put it in another pile, as it's awfully thin, but I've finished my five (four hats, one scarf). MaryB says I have to do more. I'm gonna try for 20. And if you keep posting photos like that, maybe 50 or something wacked.

Thank you for these.

Posted by: Rabbitch on November 17, 2006 12:51 PM

Well, the photos made me sad and happy at the same time, but your teary thoughts made my eyes get very watery.
The photos make you realize that every knitter can make a difference to someone's life in Mongolia or wherever there are cold, poor people. It must be a bit comforting to not only be a bit warmer but to know that some stranger took the time to make you something warm just because they care.

Posted by: Lydia on November 17, 2006 01:03 PM

Don't worry Ryan, if you keep posting pictures like that -- there will always be knitters for Dulaan!

Thanks you once again for your hard work that you do to get us all organized and knitting!

Posted by: Romy on November 17, 2006 01:17 PM


Those are heartbreaking. I have to race back to my knitting now.

Posted by: mkmorrow on November 17, 2006 01:57 PM

like anj said -- if you haven't seen the Dulaan table at the retreat you must go see the newsletter - it was fantastic. I have an idea of something to make but I am still trying to work it out in my mind and trying to see if someone else has thought of it somewhere out there in the knitting world and would have a pattern made up I can use.

Posted by: rho on November 17, 2006 02:29 PM

Those pictures are serious inspiration to knit more and faster. I think the mittens that the two little girls are wearing may be some that I made - the color looks right. I am planning to double my mitten output for Dulaan 2007 to 30 pairs (5 pairs each in 6 sizes)and 5 children's sweaters and one Avalanche Vest.

Posted by: Jennifer in Oak Park on November 17, 2006 02:51 PM


Posted by: Erika on November 17, 2006 03:34 PM

We will be tuned to the blog next week (or the week after) for the "after" pictures when our items are received. Thanks for posting these, Ryan dear. We all need a reality check on what we're doing here, and why we're doing it. It's not all just numbers and a contest to see how many we can knit.

Having said that, though, Rabbitch, I'm all for a "wacked" number of items--50 sounds good to me.! Mary B

Posted by: MaryB on November 17, 2006 03:36 PM

I had already been thinking about including shoes my boys have outgrown. Now I will definitely be thinking about warm feet items to add to my Dulaan box. Maybe we can create Avalanche booties?

Posted by: Jessica on November 17, 2006 05:05 PM

I've seen Dulaan pictures before, and yet I'm still stunned. My holiday knitting will be for Dulaan, everybody else is getting hickory farms.

Posted by: Elaine on November 17, 2006 05:21 PM

if there is a need, i will knit, until i can no longer

Posted by: minnie on November 17, 2006 06:55 PM

Ryan, those pictures are heartbreakers.Those poor little cold children. I don't think knitters will stop knitting for them any time soon!

I had to follow the links to see what the 'other sheila' had written, so from now on will sign myself as sheila b.

Thank you for all you do to warm up these children and older people too. I'm on my second little sweater but want to do more hats and scarves too. Knitting as fast as I can!

Posted by: sheila b. on November 17, 2006 07:07 PM

You know, I made a vow when I began knitting that I would never place a low value on my time and expertise--I knit only for those I love who value my expression of love. And that includes the people of Mongolia served by F.I.R.E., who clearly need both the warm clothing and the knowledge that someone cares about them.

Dang, I don't understand what's happening to my cheeks. Do we have a leak in the roof? Better go check...

Posted by: Janine on November 17, 2006 08:57 PM

Dear Girl,

You go right ahead and cry. It's completely appropriate. Not only because there are children and grownups out there who need us, but because you are doing a wonderful job of keeping all of us knitters informed as to what we can do.
Then you go and SHOW us what we have done!

We love to help. We love that you brought us this project, and we love that you and TMK and Cuzzin' Tom are keeping all of us posted. We love that we CAN DO SOMETHING for other people on the planet.

Thanks, Ryan. Have a tissue. We love you.

Posted by: kt on November 17, 2006 08:58 PM

Oh, bless you all. I confess I had become a wee bit cynical about F.I.R.E. until I actually went into this neighborhood. Now I have nothing but respect. It's actually quite draining to do what they do -- going home to home. Only in this one afternoon, I saw not only the poverty, but also drunkenness, abused women, disfigurements, and the other attending nastinesses that accompany such poverty. Mongolia's sudden shift to capitalism has created a handful of haves, and a whole bunch of have-nots. They're mindful of it, and their road to further development is fraught with challenges.'s cold right now. In UB, at night, it's below zero. Soon zero will be a wished-for high temp. I'm serious when I say I was proud to offer your extraordinary creations, and as you will see soon, it's not all unremitting misery. Mongolians are tough in the face of hardship, and there's a fuzzy-wuzzy side, promise.

Posted by: Cuzzin Tom on November 17, 2006 09:57 PM

Thanks for posting the photos and your cousin's comments about each one of them. Bless you for standing up, reaching out and creating a means for each of us a means to help out via our knitting.

Posted by: Kris on November 17, 2006 10:11 PM

Thanks for sharing the photos. I am glad you are staying strong in this project. Hope we can do more for the Mongolians emotionally with our clothing.

Posted by: Kimberly on November 18, 2006 01:21 AM

I work in the field of International Development, and I too have seen some pretty amazing people survive in some really tough conditions. And with just a bit of support, they can make a huge difference in their own lives. My work is currently in Africa (Mozambique, primarily) and although it can colder than you would think, it's nowhere like Mongolia (of course, there are other significant challenges). Therefore, I have started knitting for Dulaan and I talk about the project whenever I'm asked what I'm knitting (as I knit everywhere!)

I'm sure the knitters won't dry up anytime soon. This is my first year knitting for Dulaan (until a year ago I didn't know anything about knitting blogs - I know, I was living under a rock). I'm sure it will just keep spreading and spreading.

Posted by: Leanne on November 18, 2006 05:07 AM

Some people are just too stupid to live! They probably have "eat the poor" bumper stickers on their cars. I just returned from the KR Retreat and the Dulaan table was bountiful. I was able to complete a BFL sweater and two alpaca hats over the weekend. Pitiful compared to some, but I'm just warming up. Thank you for reaching out with this cause. I would still be shamefully ignorant if not for good people like yourself and Martha at Knitter's Review.

Posted by: rosi on November 18, 2006 07:11 AM

What does this "it's a scam" person think you're doing with all the knitted items? Some people are so willfully ignorant, it's frightening.

Posted by: Rinchen Gyatso on November 18, 2006 10:15 AM

Wow. Thank you so much for posting these. Very Touching. I am so glad to be some small part of this.

Can't wait to see the heartwarming stories. Now I gotta go knit through the tears so I can make more warm stuff for these people.


Posted by: KnittyOtter on November 18, 2006 03:28 PM

I have never heard of the Dulaan project before, but the pictures of the children are heartbreaking. I am sending handknit items asap.

Posted by: Heide on November 18, 2006 07:17 PM

The Dulaan Brigadiers? Stop contributing?! That is such a totally unreasonable fear that I just want to come up there and hug you till you stop hyperventilating. :) Thanks to you and Cuzzin Tom for all you do; we Brigadiers are glad to help!

Posted by: Julie on November 19, 2006 07:37 AM

Stop knitting for Dulaan? Nope, can't stop knitting....makes me twitchy just thinking about that. Thank you for sharing the pictures, my office must have the same dust eyes won't stop leaking. If only I could hug each and every one of those children and let them know that someone cares and someone loves them. Drat, there go my eyes again............

A thousand thank yous, Ryan and Cuzzin Tom, for being our inspiration. May you all have a peaceful and blessed Thanksgiving.

Posted by: Nancy O. on November 20, 2006 07:38 AM

We have to start something to get us all together at the Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat coming up in Tacoma.... who's up for it? Maybe we can have a continuous "Dulaan knit in" in the Sheraton's lobby? With a sign and a basket to collect items?

Posted by: Irina on November 20, 2006 09:25 AM


Now I must go and knit more, much faster!

Posted by: Rebecca on November 20, 2006 07:36 PM

Irina: I like your idea of getting together at the Madrona Fiber Arts retreat. Maybe we can ask Ryan if she'll post something on the blog and those of us attending can get together and have a mini-knit in at the Sheraton. MaryB

Posted by: Mary B on November 21, 2006 04:47 PM

I bought some yarn to work on Dulaan for NEXT YEAR. I live in Canada. Is there anyone in Canada who acts as a central depot for finished items?

Posted by: Scotia on November 22, 2006 01:46 PM

Gah. How many of these children are shoeless? Really. I want to know. Maybe we should be sewing leather to the bottom of those booties.

Posted by: Marie on November 23, 2006 09:54 AM
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