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!?
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!