Woody Packard

Words + Pictures

Lotus Guest House

On our way back from Darkhan on Friday we stayed at the Lotus Guest House while waiting in Ulaanbaatar for our Monday flight. It's a cozy place with an interesting history and purpose. It's a fund-raising business for a much larger operation—three orphanages for children from Ulaanbaatar.

The first orphanage was started eighteen years ago when Didi Kalika, an Australian living in Ulaanbaatar, started taking in abandoned children who were living underground in the sewers and steam tunnels. (Access is made easy by the lack of manhole covers here.) At one point she was taking care of 150 children, from infants to late teens. She is currently providing for eight children in three facilities in Erdenet, Ulaanbaatar, and the main site in Gachuunt, a small village east of Ulaanbaatar.

During our stay at the guest house, there were also three women from Sydney who had supported the Lotus effort through Rotary Club activities in Australia. They were going out to the orphanage with Didi to teach some children to sew small items to sell in the gift shop. They asked if we would like to come along and plant trees. Although Judy was busy, I volunteered to go.

Away from the city, the Lotus Children Center was built on a large piece of land that was already enclosed by a block wall. (You can see the wall, but not the buildings on google's old imagery.) Over the past several years Didi has built a school, three dormitories, and a kitchen. She has attracted volunteers from the Netherlands and Columbia to come and teach for a year at a time. She also hires Mongolian teachers.

I did not plant trees that day, but I did play soccer, listen to children who spoke good English, and tour the buildings with small children as my guides. And I got to meet Didi. Every once in a while you get to meet someone like this, who has stopped their life in its tracks to take on something more important.

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Lotus Guest House

Sewing Project

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Residents are learning to make items that can be sold in their gift shop to raise cash.