Lotus Children Centre

Posted on November 14, 2007. Filed under: Miracle Stories |

http://www.lotuschild.org – Australian kindergarten and yoga teacher in Ulaanbaatar started the Lotus Centre ..

In 1993 Didi Kalika, an Australian kindergarten and yoga teacher in Ulaanbaatar, was shocked by the plight of so many kids living on the streets. She started to help the kids by providing food and shelter and soon realized that there was a need for more.

In 1995, with the help of some friends, she started the Lotus Centre: a place that provides children who come from some of the most terrible backgrounds; abandonment, sexual abuse, malnutrition and domestic violence; a chance to change their lives for the better.

Through quality education, meaningful activities and by creating small family groups (10 children to one housemother), the Lotus Centre tries to give children a chance to make a positive future. Today 148 children call the Lotus Centre their home.

The Center has also helps many ultra poor families with income projects and food assistance, so that poverty does not tear their family unit apart. The Lotus Centre isn’t a large organization, we don’t have a marketing department or a fleet of 4 wheel drives, the majority of our core staff are volunteers, while nearly all of our staff work for discounted wages with no overtime. This is a fact that we are proud of, we are a child-focused organization and are a collection of people who are 100 percent committed to the welfare of our kids. Goals of Lotus At Lotus we have three simple goals:

1. To provide primary care to all of our children, which includes food, health care, clothing and accommodation

2. To provide the children with developmental care so that they can break free of the poverty cycle. For example, we aim to give each child a quality education, counseling, self esteem building exercises and the access to life skills.

3. To provide the children with support in their “post Lotus” lives, so that they have a safety net and are able to find employment and tertiary education placements.

Accommodation

We provide basic Mongolian houses and gers for our family units to live in. This accommodation is situated in Yarmag a ger suburb or shantytown, just out of the capital Ulaanbaatar. We provide this type of living environment for three reasons:

1. It is a very similar environment to where the children come from so the children settle in more easily.

2. Most of our children will grow into adults who will be able to afford similar accommodation. We aim not to build up their expectations for the “material things in life” and aim to foster realistic attitudes in adulthood.

3. By living in the ger-town environment with a yard, a dog, a house and daily chores, there is less likelihood that the children will be institutionalized, a problem facing many orphans.

At Lotus we also develop family groups of 10 children per housemother. This gives the children a family environment, which is very healthy for developing close relationships, conflict resolution skills and ultimately it will give each child a better chance of being able to maintain a family of their own once they leave Lotus.

Education

The Lotus Centre views education as one of the most important tools in breaking the poverty cycle. Currently, the Mongolian education system covers some subjects very well, but we feel that there are some gaps in what is taught. We also feel that the education system does not effectively meet the needs of children who have learning difficulties or who require special considerations. This is why we have developed our own kindergarten and are in the process of developing our own school.

In the future we aim to use education as a key tool for the development of each of our children. This means classes for children with special needs, vocational training for the manually minded and access to a good quality academic education for all.

Personal Development

The Lotus Centre has a small team of social workers, who try to give the children the skills they need to be positive individuals. This means counseling, a summer adventure camp, a tutoring program, career advice and workshops on conflict resolution & problem solving. Many of our children have had incredibily difficult life experiences. We feel that if our children are to develop away from their pasts, it is important that we give them the tools and support that they need.

Programs to Keep Families Together

Unfortunately 36% of Mongolians are classified as living below the poverty line. Many families and single mothers come to us, too poor to look after their children. Instead of taking the child we have developed options to keep families together. These are things like:

• A Sewing Project, that makes sample bags for mining companies. The family gets to gain an income by making the bags, while the profit from selling the bags goes to funding the Center’s running costs.

• Food for Work, which gives families food packages in exchange for doing odd jobs around the Lotus Centre. It provides short-term relief for families who are going through a “rough patch”.

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