With Brad Winters of Foulger-Pratt (My Hero) and his right hand man, Pugee
Some blog posts are easier to write than others. This one is a tough one. Not because the subject matter is difficult. Quite the opposite - the subject matter is so wonderful that I fear English may be short of superlatives to describe it...but here goes...
A few weeks ago I took some folks up to the Sanctuary and into the dump to see the lives of our people up close and personal. One of these people "knew a guy" who had a building he was trying to get rid of ...would we potentially be interested? Well, sure, I guess. We're fundraising to expand the kindergarten to help more kids and if we could get a fully completed building for a reasonable price...well, that might work. That's how it started. Two days later I had a phone call from Brad Winters, the Country Director for Foulger-Pratt and my own personal angel, as it turns out! Brad asked me about what we were doing up at the Peak, the Mission and long term goals of the Foundation and a few other probing and serious questions...and then he told me about the building.
Foulger-Pratt contracting is a construction company and the building had been their office building while they were working in Mongolia. A steel frame modular building built in Mongolia, it was designed and built for the cold weather here - always a problem in construction - and could easily ( well..with six very large trucks and the second largest crane in the country!!) be moved. The company was looking to sell the building but when Brad heard about our work he said he thought maybe he could work something out with his boss. So it was that two days later ( while out horseback riding) I got the call from Brad to come and have a look at the building and see if we could use it.
It was BEAUTIFUL!! Four thousand of the warmest, safest, most beautiful square feet that I have ever seen. It was apparent that with very little effort we could retrofit the 4 large conference rooms / 5 small offices / 2 kitchens / 2 bathrooms to make a spectacular 3 classroom / 1 kitchen / 1 dining room / 1 library / 1 boot & coat room / 4 office / 2 many little toileted bathroom kindergarten! As I walked through it marvelling at the international standard fittings (emergency lights, fully networked, fire extinguishers for heaven's sake!!) I knew that THIS was the perfect solution to our kindergarten expansion plan. The funny thing is that I have dozens of drawings that I did for a 6 container kindergarten building. I had it all laid out in my head - the containers seemed to me like the best way to quickly and efficiently get a building up and running ...but the local inspector had said that it was a problem because the pipes on containerized buildings so often freeze at minus 50 or so. So we had been in a real dilemma about how to construct a new building. But here was the answer. It was my 'container building' come to life - only much much better!
So, after we had walked around the ( fully plumbed, networked and wired..... Yahoo!) building and I had seen the wonderful potential..and wanted it for our kids, I was getting set to ask that universally difficult question..."How much do you want for it?..." When Brad preempted me by asking what I thought of the building - Could we use it?. What do I think..hmmmn..that's a tough one - could we use it? In my head I am dancing and whooping and turning cartwheels and yelling " Yes! Absolutely! I LOVE IT!!! It's Perfect - amazing ...Exactly what I had hoped for, imagined , envisaged...it's great!" But, as one does in these negotiations, I held that all in and said something like " Yes, I think it would be a very good fit for our expansion goals".
And then....and then Brad reached into his pocket and pulled out a key. And handed it to me. Just handed it to me. I couldn't breathe..but wanted to make sure I wasn't making one of those several thousand dollar erroneous assumptions so I asked " So, does this mean you are GIVING us the building??" "Yes," he said with a lovely ( somewhat watery ) smile " Yes we are. We couldn't think of a better use for this building than helping all those children up at the dump".
Well, it was time for my own waterworks and much joy and gratitude . What a wonderful human being to make a gift of this magnitude happen! And what a wonderful company! Foulger-Pratt is to give such an incredible gift that will literally change the future of thousands of children .
Well, that's how the donation came to pass... but there was one small hitch. When I met with Brad and toured the building on Wednesday, the building was set up in the compound at the American Embassy and Foulger-Pratt wanted to get it out of there...by Friday. Those of you familiar with Mongolia know that that short of a timeline is more or less like asking someone ( anyone...) to walk on water...backwards and blindfolded. BUT...where there's a will, there's a way. And we definitely had a will! And we found the way!
First of all, there was frantic meeting on Thursday up at the Peak to find or, as it turns out, make a place to put the building. Our construction guy, Ganbaa who was already up at the Sanctuary working on renovating our existing building was truly tremendous! He switched gears, BUILT a retaining wall, brought in a bunch more guys and in 48 hours had a spot cleaned, supported and designed for the new building. Everyone pitched in .. teachers, parents, construction people. The first building move was the play house off of the basketball court that would be home to the new building. We have a second property about 400 meters away where we have been holding summer camps this year, so the decision was quickly made to pick up the house and move it up there. That done, the team set about getting permissions from the appropriate departments to allow us transport the SIX enormous ( much larger than containers...for the record) sections through the town. Persmission was granted ON THE SAME DAY!! Baskaa - a miracle worker!
Brad organized ( AND paid for!!) the appropriate crane...read the second largest crane in the country! ....to show up at the Embassy on Friday morning at 8:00 and Baskaa organized the trucks. We don't have any photos of that process as the Embassy doesn't allow photographs on the grounds, but here we are as they were loaded on the trucks. Happy People anywhere?? Such a phenomenal thing to witness! I have never seen such a sight really ... and I have to admit that I was glad that our permission for transport was during the night and I wouldn't be there to witness it... The roads into the sanctuary are very narrow and rutted and in places the electrical wires hang very low. The logistics of getting up there were pretty daunting but the crew was phenomenal ! The trip took 6 1/2 hours ( instead of the 40 minutes it would have taken by car at that time of the night!) but by 7:00 a.m. everyone was there - through the rain and the muck and across the swollen creek / river that one needs to cross to get to the sanctuary they had all made it! Six laden trucks, the crane, Ganbaa's construction crew - and the rest of us lookie loos who just wanted to see how they were going to make this happen!
Piece by piece the sections were lifted off the trucks and gingerly , like the biggest tetris game ever, set into place beside and on top of their corresponding pieces. And EVERYWHERE you looked... there was Brad, making sure that it was level, that the construction guys were manoeuvring the lifting pegs properly, that they were being unloaded in the right order and that the sections were properly locked in place.
In short... he was supervising it all... and making sure the children would have a wonderful, safe new home for their kindergarten!
OH..and he was giving interviews as well! News star of the day! We had 5 television stations up and reporting on this wonderful donation. It is not every day in Mongolia that a foreign company makes such a direct impact on the lives of so many of the most disenfranchised people in the country. Through this building Foulger-Pratt and Brad will be leaving a remarkable legacy. Because of this building we will be able not only to take an additional 60 or so children each year, but we will be able to do it better. Much better . We will have an arts and crafts room, a library, a dining hall, a music and movement room and a construction / science room. We will have running water, flush toilets and a preparation room for the teachers. We will have a supply room and offices for our Kindergarten chief. We will free up what is now our kitchen building and will be able to immediately set up a location for our vocational training programmes. That means that in addition to helping more kindergarten aged children, we will be able to help somewhere in the neighbourhood of forty 8 - 16 year olds every year get a skill or a trade that will enable them to take their place in society at large. These children are currently up at the dump scavenging in the garbage for food, recyclables and fuel instead of going to school.
This also means that our operating expenses just doubled! Yikes!! So... I will be spending the next few months going door to figurative door raising money to make the best use possible and help the most children possible with this wonderful new building! Expect to see me soon asking for help so we can keep helping children like the ones in the photo below from our summer camp!!
So..that's the story! Here's some more photos from the day showing you how it all went! Enjoy!
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!