South Gobi Desert
June 4th 2018 marked the beginning of the 2018 Gobi Gallop - Adventure Back Through The Desert. Eight intrepid riders from around the world met at the Chinggis Khan International Airport and headed off on a flight to Dalaznzadgad in the Soth Gobi where they et their fearless leader, Saraa of Horse Trek Mongolia along with the infamous Loya, driver of the yellow bus soon to be named Priscilla ( of the desert..) that would symbolize home and safety at the end of each long 70 kilometers day across the desert as the riders endeavoured to cross 700 kilometres of the Gobi Desert in just 10 days of riding.
Soon they would meet their trusty steeds, 9 very hard Mongolian horses who had been trucked down from the Khangai region close to Ulaanbaatar to undertake the journey. Amongst these horses was one who would end up being the most valiant. Only one who made the entire trek from beginning to end - Boroogui
Bearing almost all of the riders at some point in time or the other, Boroogui was ridden for almost 600 of the 700 kilometres. He crossed deep sand dune, miles and miles of sharp rocks, gravel, large rocks and sand. He survived places where feed was not only sparse, but actually nonexistent and all there was to eat was the forage and grain brought along by Saraa and Baagii of Horse Trek Mongolia. He drank water from a water tank, puddles, springs, streams and wells. He took thousands and thousands of steps - each one drawing us a little nearer to our destination. But Boroogui is a veteran. He's done all 6 Gobi Gallops and 3 similar crew rides. He understands what these long rides are about and his experience came in very hand for him. For the riders...only Julie knew what she was getting in to.
Starting in far south Gobi
A look at how unexpected additions to our team are not only making a difference to the whole community but also helping the Fran London Fabric Arts Centre live up to its name.
Pictured above, table settings designed by Uugantsetseg of Khariin Khurim and crafted with pride by the ladies of the Fran London Fabric Arts Centre
What motivates people to come forward and help their fellow man ( and woman!)? Who are these people who step up and give of their time, talents and ideas to help the less fortunate and how do they come up with their plans for helping? I have been doing this work for a long time and am very often struck by the extraordinary kindness and generosity offered by a huge variety of people and so I thought I would share just one story with you of a lady who is truly helping us change lives. . This person is Khariin Khurim Director Uugantsetseg Bayarsaikhan. On the surface, you wouldn't think that Uuganaa, one of Mongolia's premier designers and the ladies from our Fabric Arts Center all of whom are ladies who previously scavenged to survive would have much in common. That is where you would be wrong. They have humanity, and beauty, and pride in handiwork in common and recently we got to see just how wonderful that can be.
We met Ugaanaa in 2016 and when she learned of the work that we do she immediately was motivated to help not only the children but also the entire Songino - Khaikhan / Ulaanchuuluut community in any way she could. As one of Mongolia's premiere designers and fashion artist, her exceptional talent and kind heart has resulted in a few really outstanding collaborations which have had tremendous impact on our community.
Ugaanaa helped us initially by designing and creating two fabulous Modern Deals that highlighted our Custom Jade snuff bottle and button sets as an auction item at our 2017 Gobi Gallop Gala charity auction and provided professional models and other designs for a very elegant addition to our event. I thought that that was going to be the extent of it. I mean, really, it didn't seem to me that there was much interface possible between the folks from the landfill and this amazing artist. Boy was I wrong!
Recently after a visit to our Children of the Peak Sanctuary Project, together her friend Solongo Bumkhuu at Profile Agency and Enkhjin at Lenox Mongolia, Uuganaa came up with the idea to help the ladies at our sewing centre increase the professionalism and detail of their work by sharing her skills, knowledge and talent with them. The help of such a true professional was very well received by our seamstresses and lead to further collaboration over the holiday season. Together, in December, there was a wonderful example of collaboration between two groups that might never otherwise have found each other - and it resulted in not only beautiful things that are now gracing many Mongolian homes, but increased self worth for our seamstresses, great exposure for our project and new and long lasting friendships.
Thanks to Uuganaa and her team, not only did the ladies from the Fran London Fabric Arts Centre begin creating beautiful wares that anyone would be proud to display on their holiday tables but we were able to sell them at Khariin Khurim's design salon and elsewhere with the proceeds being enough to cover the materials used PLUS the salaries of 2 of our seamstresses for a month!
In addition to adding value and self worth to the ladies' work and helping the financial bottom line, the resulting awareness of the work that we are doing has already had additional impacts as more and more people seeing what the ladies are capable of and witnessing themselves the community follow on from helping the less fortunate. Ugaanaa is inspiring other to step forward to join our team and helpothers in the community. Helping each other truly is the gift that keeps on giving and really is the secret to our success! Thank you Uuganaa , Solongo and Enkhjin for your unique way of helping us make a difference!
Some of the ladies from the Fran London Fabric Arts Centre with some of the other handiwork they are mastering.
Well, our first Sponsor Appreciation evening is over and what a wonderful evening it was! It was so terrific to gather so many supporters of the children in one room and have the opportunity to share amongst them the kinds of wonderful support that everyone on the team is making for the kids. It was also a great chance for me to really thank everyone in person and let them know what a great, great contribution they have made to making life better for so many children up at the dump. I can't emphasize enough how many people , companies and organizations are part of the team that have, thus far this year, DIRECTLY impacted over 2000 of the most disenfranchised children and families around!
We ate ( gorgeous food prepared by our very own kindergarten chef and assistant cooks and served by our kindergarten staff... I see a burgeoning catering business arising!), drank lovely wine donated by the wonderful Graham of Xanadu Wines, chatted, laughed, browsed the great selection of leather bags there with Morit Khas, one of our wonderful entrepreneurial philanthropy partners who donates 20% of the sales price of any items sold in conjunction with our events or our referrals, checked out the amazing and innovative new designs being produced up at the Peak Sewing Centre as part of the Greening Mongolia Bag Project, sat on our first commercially produced UPCycle Sofa ( sold already...we're now taking orders for more!). People were awed by the wonderful painting by Zaya ( ANOTHER Of our great entrepreneurial Philanthropy partners) and just generally had a wonderful time eating, drinking and being merry...and celebrating the great work that together we are able to do.
For those of you who couldn't make it - here's our looping slide show that was on display at the event, and below are some shots of the evening itself. As always, it was inspirational to spend time with these generous hearted and kind people. Looking forward to making this an annual event and next year, I hope to see YOU there!
Just a quick peak as some of the work we have done together and a quick shout out to some of our ongoing Corporate Sponsors.
The sights and smiles of the Veloo Foundation Sponsor Appreciation Night! Thank you to our WONDERFUL team of sponsors! You are truly making a difference!
You're very welcome up at the Children of the Peak Sanctuary Kindergarten ...and now it's easy to find us!
Well, we made it! into the 21st century! Recently browsing Google Maps to give someone a map of how to get up to the Peak I realized that the satellite photo had been updated and now incudes an up to date shot of our facilities - including the 2 get kindergartens ( shiny metal roofs and all!) , The Foulger Pratt wing ( Blue roof and red roof for the kitchen!), the Brad Winters Community Library ( Dark Brown roof) and our 2 foster care gers and our security / guard house in the containers by the fence. This was hugely exciting news for me because it meant we could submit our location to Google Maps and have it available for people who want to search for us on the map by name! We just found out it's been added to Google Maps - how cool is that?! Now you can find us by typing in Veloo Foundation or Children of the Peak Sanctuary Kindergarten into the search bar on Google Maps and we can pinpoint our location and share it with anyone who wants to come up and find us - which means finding us is going to be a lot easier now! So, you have no excuses people - our volunteer programme happens every week on Fridays and our doors are always open for visitors. See you up there!
You know the one. That moment when the guy who has been dragging himself along in the dirt because he didn't have a wheelchair ....gets one. It doesn't get better than this people. Seriously. Nothing is better than this. Full stories of more distributions will be added to the post as we go along over the next few weeks. I just wanted to start your weekend off on this awesome note!
Bat-Erdene, a dedicated father and talented artisan and leather craftsman living in Ulaanbaatar has dedicated himself to his craft for years as a way to make ends meet. Not an easy thing to do anywhere . Really not easy to do in post Soviet Mongoia and particularly when you happen to be missing a leg and dependent upon crutches to get around. Not an easy thing to do in Mongolia period. Unable to afford a workshop space on the ground level he has spend years hopping down a steep narrow staircase to his workshop. Him making a go of it in a regular job was not much of an option. You see, in Mongolia being handicapped pretty much means that no one will hire you and if you are going to have a decent life you have to be a go getter. an innovator. An entrepreneur. And Bat-Erdene fits the bill. Quiet, and engaging his smile is quick and shy and when presented with a leather design challenge his head cocks quietly to the side as he mentally runs through the process , seeing in his mind the construction and finishing of the requested bag, belt, saddle bag or chaps ( yes chaps!) followed inevitably with the serious nod and a quiet " Bolon"..I can do that..
I have known and admired Bat-ERdene for 5 years now. He is a caring and gentle soul and has designed and made me purses, belts, wallets, saddle bags ( lots and LOTS of saddle bags for the Gobi Gallop) and hat bands ( remember the ..."Bolon"..) Recently this gentle, hard working entrepreneur has also become the most unexpected of all things a philanthropist.
He called me up when I was last in Mongolia and told me that he was dissolving his NGO which had been his way of helping his fellow handicapped people and being an engine for positive change in the community. Instead he was going to become a for-profit business. "Wonderful!" I said thinking that this spoke to a great move forward for his business. Then he leaned across the table and said "Julie, I have been making your Gobi Gallop sadldle bags and hat bands and I have been talking to Bayaraa and Miriam ( Foundation logistics managers) and I am so impressed with the work you are doing to help Mongolian Children. I have heard that you also are bringing in wheelchairs to help Mongolian handicapped people. You are a foreigner and are doing such great things for the children. I would like to help you help the Mongolian children."
Breathtaking. And very moving. I was so touched by his desire to help. He and his wife have worked and worked for years and now when they are on the threshold of making it, his first thought is to help us help the children. Of course, he doesn't have a lot of money to give straight away. What he proposed is that he give a portion of the profits from the sales of his bags to the Children of the Peak. It seems to be a model whose time has come. Like Horse Trek Mongolia and Art of Zaya, Bat-Erdene and his Morit Khas brand want to be part of the solution for their country, part of the answer to the question " How will Mongolia move forward?" It is really lovely- and we are honured to be a partner in this new approach to giving.
So, to help him (and the children) out, I have brought over a selection of some of his designs and with the help of a few friends we are showing them to shops and individuals who might want to become part of this movement to purchase responsibly and help the children through their purchases. Just one more way that we can help more and more people and spread the word about the plight of the children we help. SO....if you want a hand made, custom designed purse, wallet, or a camera bag, or a backpack, or chaps ( yes chaps!), hat bands...really anything made out of leather, I know where you can get them. And, if you know someone who has a shop and would like to participate in ethical entrepreneurial philanthropy, let me know and I'll put you in touch. It's a wonderful feeling, be part of an ever expanding team dedicated to making sure that we truly can move forward and make a difference...one child at a time.
In the meantime, just so you know what I'm really talking about - here are a few of his traditional and fashion forward designs....with prices. Oh, and yes, everything can come in every colour. Every colour...you're talking to a girl who has teal saddle bags that Bat-Erdene made for me! How fun is this!?
They're here!! Earlier this week the shipment containing over 300 wheelchairs and other similar medical devices that left Canada mid-June, arrived! It has now cleared customs and is on its way, with the help of the Mongolian National Handicapped Association, to help literally hundreds of handicapped people in Mongolia! This unexpected and unlooked for donation is changing hundreds of lives - and we're thrilled to be a part of it!
How this came about....
Just a few last thoughts...
This has been one of those things in life that comes without warning. Our work with the children and families at the garbage dump has brought me into many homes where handicapped people suffer in isolation. To have been able to make this connection between the donors and those in need across Mongolia has truly been an honour and I am grateful for the opportunity. I love that our work in Mongolia meant that someone out there knew about us and was able to bring our name forward as a partner for these kinds of shipments.
Future updates and details of some of the 300+ stories that this distribution will result in will be posted here as the stories unfold and while this may well be the only such shipment that we are ever able to coordinate and make happen, I am so happy to have been able to be apart of the chain that is making such a HUGE difference ...one chair at a time.
The Soaring Crane Summer Camp has been a dream since the beginning. It has been the goal to be able to deliver a programme that is fun, interesting, important and life changing to the older children from the dump community and other disadvantaged children who don't currently see a way forward to a meaningful, productive life. Imagine a camp where you get to visit a replica of a 13th Century Mongol Warrior camp and handle their weapons, wear their armour and hang out in exact replicas of their lodging? Imagine then crossing the wild steppe to another part of the village to learn about the history of religion, philosophy and writing. Imagine being able to visit the largest equestrian statue in the world and get to climb up onto the head of the horse! Imagine wearing fur and jewels and skins like your ancestors did and seeing what traditional handicrafts were like in the 13th century. Then imagine you get to milk cows, make dairy products, ride horses , hike, draw, and play in the river. And you get to think about and dream big for your future. You get to think about your past and the past of your people and with pride plan your own future. This is Soaring Crane Summer Camp. It is designed to ground the campers in their wonderful history while encouraging them to seek their own personal greatness by taking control of their own future. It is designed to provide the spark!
Centre's Baacandorj. The kids? Well they come from some of the toughest, hard scrabble homes around . In addition, we have hired a young herder to manage our herd of 8 cows from which we get milk, cheese & yogurt for the camp and will also be getting meat for the kindergarten. Next year the children will also be planting and caring for a whole veggie garden to enhance their life skills AND provide food for the camp and the kindergarten. All in all , it's just a simple thing. Win. Win. Win.
Thanks to Genco Tour Bureau, Oyu Tolgoi, Erdene Soum , Nomadic School of Business and with a number of Volunteer English Teachers & Soaring Crane Camp counsellors we're able to offer the amazing programme as outlined in the brochure below.
What goes on at the camp? Check out our brochure below - be sure to scroll to the 2nd page!
The Gobi Gallop is a charity horseback ride held every year in Mongolia. Each year the ride covers a different 700 kilometre route in 10 days ( yes, you read that right - 700 kms in 10 days!) and the riders fees along with money they raise through corporate and private sponsorship and money raised at a charity auction and Gala event upon their return ALL goes to help the Children of the Peak Sanctuary Project Initiatives. It is, we believe, the longest annual charity horseback ride in the world.
Before I tell the tale, I would like to let you know that this year's Edition of the Gobi Gallop was a stunning panorama of beauty and adventure and, as its stated goal is to raise money to help the children, I am thrilled to announce we raised (in combination with the Gobi Gallop Gala) a little over $100,000.00, all of which will go directly to help the children up at the Children of the Peak Sanctuary Project!
Serious and heartfelt thanks to the riders, their sponsors, our corporate partners Ford, Oyu Tolgoi and KalTech along with the whole crew at Horse Trek Mongolia and all of the volunteers who worked so hard to make it such a success. Without all of your effort and support we could not do what we do.
Thank you for helping us make a difference...one child at a time.
So, as you might imagine, 700 kilometres of adventure takes quite the telling. As I sit here sorting through literally thousands of gorgeous photos trying to work it down to a manageable number to show you what it was like for me, I thought I would take something of a short cut and first introduce you to the Gobi Gallop 2016 through the magic of Follow the Lens Photography and their very very nifty drone... enjoy the show..and then scroll down to where I've done my best to outline what is one of the most special rides on the planet.
(So I'm not too sure where to begin. The Gobi Gallop is a really unique and amazing experience and each year it somehow defies my ability to hold it all in my head at that same time much less string it together into something that looks like a cohesive look at what happened out there on the steppe. Every year I wonder " How can I communicate how special this was?" and every year I give up and just dive in - randomly stringing together the unmatched corners of thrill, excitement and pain to hopefully share with you what it's like to ride the wild Mongolian Steppe!
So here goes...How about we start with with 10 EPIC riders from around the world, 14 fabulous Mongolian and Foreign crew , untold miles of stunning , breathtaking scenery, 4 support vehicles (including the fabulous Ford Raptor well equipped with a very well used winch!)and 32 of the most valiant and capable horses on the planet. We began as strangers and quickly moved to become great friends - friends who shared laughs and pain and very public bathroom situations. Friends who cared for and nurtured each other at their weak moments and then let themselves be nurtured at their own weak moments. Friends with very bad language (some of them...some had to be taught bad language!) and very beautiful hearts. Friends whose poetry and grace glittered and cascaded around us all as we all, overwhelmed by the emotion of the experience, struggled to try somehow to put words to the beauty and the majesty we were experiencing. Strangers who became the points of a unique and beautiful star that was made up those of us who had the uncanny great fortune to ride the Gobi Gallop 2016 - In the Steps of the Khaan.
Retracing the famous footsteps of one of the world's greatest leader and man of the millenium Chinggis Khaan, we began with a simple and inauspicious visit to the Children of the Peak Sanctuary Kindergarten ( please note - I do not purport to endorse a previous visit by Chinggis Khaan to the kindergarten....although I don't rule it out either!) where the riders had the chance to meet the little ones who would be benefitting from the ride. They had a chance to laugh, play and giggle with the children who are, as always, my inspiration for this ride. It was lovely to see all the riders along with some of our corporate sponsors share the joy of shared play with the children and even more touchg was to see how many of them had brought along sometimes VERY LARGE suitcases filled with toys, warm socks, pencils and papers and other supplies for the kindergarten. Thank you to all the riders to keeping the children first and foremost in your thoughts and making such a great effort to help us make a difference to these children. On another note...lease note how clean and well put together the riders look. Spoiler Alert - They won't stay that way for long!
The intrepid riders from left to right - Alix Crittenden (U.S.A), Katie Hayes (Canada by way of New Zealand), Ally Rankin (Saudi Arabia by way of New Zealand), Steve Kraakman (N.Z.) Leslie Sobol (U.S.A.) Steve Potter (Mongolia by way of England), Julie Veloo(Canada) , Cedar Waslewski (Canada) , Josie Stoker (Mongolia by way of England) , Teresa Wong (Singapore), Robyn Hepburn (Australia). Holding the flag for our fantastic corporate ride sponsor, Ford Asia, is Garrett Wilson and Aart Jongenjans , and of course, the stars of the event, the gorgeous children front he Children of the Peak Sanctuary Kindergarten.
The Ride itself - a thousand unexpected glittering moments
So combing through said hundreds ( thousands?) of photos to try and make this a manageable look for those of you who haven't yet had the pleasure of riding the Gobi Gallop, I tried to put together group of photos that give a feeling for what it was like. The slideshow below covers the some of the highlights of this the 4th Annual Gobi Gallop - some of the fun, crazy moments, the difficult rain splattered boggy moments, the painful "I- think-I've-broken-a-bone" minutes ( and he had...!), the unending uplifting vistas and spiritual sights, heat rash and saddle sores, crazy folk herding the unridden horses through (into!) blowing 100 kilometre wind & rain, the lone National Performer Laureate we met herding his sheep because he had turned down the offer to go and be the Official National Singer / Composer...because he loved the land .and yes , he sang for us! (video below), the buying of the 2 horses to replace horses sent home because of hoof problems and buying a horse donated by one of the riders from the Crew Ride (separate blog!) to start our horse herd at the Soaring Crane Summer camp, hip hop dancing on open steppe with the famous Angarac, our so much more than translator, and endless herds of free ranging semi wild horses, camaraderie of an excellent group that decorated the steppe with the hoots of wild laughter and shared stories ( and scandals!) of their lives, horses stuck in the bog, meeting gorgeous children on their valiant steeds as they herded their family animals, shrines, stables, caves where monks spent years in isolation praying, small riders dotting across epic 10 mile wide and 20 mile long valleys, sunrises and sunset, dips in the water and collapsing into a sleep in the shade. That's the Gallop. At least that's part of the Gallop...it's something special and unique for everyone. This is what it was for me.
The Gobi Gallop could not happen without the support of some really amazing companies. We'd like to take a moment to let you know how some of these companies have (and continue to!) support us.
Thanks to everyone for all your support. Hope to see you next year out on the wild Mongolian Steppe as we ride
Well, I'm just a bit behind but put that down to having ridden 1500 kilometres in the last 6 weeks ( the Gobi Gallop Crew Ride and the Gobi Gallop 2016 - in the Steps of the Khaan) in support of the kids. Follow that up with an epic Gobi Gallop Gala at the Shangri-La Hotel here in UB and all that that entails and that gives you some idea as to what I've been up to!
Excuses aside, here's a look at what children's day looked like up at the Peak. Our celebration happened a couple of days before the official Children's day on June 1st so that the chldren and teachers would be able to spend time with their own families as it is a BIG deal here in Mongolia. We took advantage of the day to celebrate the achievement of our 3rd graduating class at the Children of the Peak Sanctuary Kindergarten. There were the usual songs and dance from the children. Awards were awards, certificates distributed, teachers thanked and special guests entertained. There were over 50 children who graduated, but about 10 of them had been with us for three years That means they were part of that first crazy day all the way back when that was full of crazy crying children . That first day when the professional teachers promised by the Government didn't show up. That first day when accountants, cleaners, visitors, assistant teacher and drivers all juggled crying babies and tried to distract them and make them smile. That day when no one had any idea of what was coming - least of all the children.
It was beautiful and bitter sweet for me to see this group graduate. This is the last first. This was wonderful to see them all smiling and happy. To see them dressed up in their Sunday best and holding hands and skipping around arm in arm. It was wonderful to get their hugs and to be able to give them best wishes for what promises to be a brighter future for them all. I gave me a huge lump in my throat when "Cheeks" threw his arms around me and when Batmunkh gave me the sweetest of all sweet smiles and thanked me for the kindergarten. ... Batmunkh who came to the kindergarten complete with swinging fists, very active kicking feet and teeth that were happy to chomp on anyone who got in his way. Batmunkh who brought us Jijig Altai, a gentle caring grandma from the dump who was his teacher's aide and who kept the other children safe for the 3 weeks it took him to settle and learn that kindergarten was fun. Jijig Altai who is now one of our assistant teachers and has a home, security and a job with benefits.
These children were the fabric that made up the beginning of the work. They were the first installation on what we hope will be a long and colourful bolt of material. There were jagged corners and rough edges at the beginning but those have smoothed out now. The fabric is looking wonderful, happy and optimistic. Thank you to the children and families that made up that first group. I'm happy to call many of you friends now an I am so excited to see what is ahed for these children and all of their friends who "graduated" with them.
And thank you to all of you whose ongoing generosity has made it possible for these children to have this opportunity. We truly could not do it without you all!!
Hello, my name is Julie and I am the Vice-President of the Veloo Foundation. Welcome to the Blog, where I will post new activities and events going on with the foundation. Enjoy!