This summer was truly unforgettable, that is a phrase that is used a lot by many people but the memories and experiences I have had are almost unimaginable. I spent my summer volunteering with a university charity called Project Mongolia. They work very closely with the same charity in Mongolia itself. I spent so much time planning and carrying out fundraising events throughout the year for which the money goes to funding disadvantaged children to attend these summer camps completely free of charge. This in itself was very challenging! However as soon I met the children, if anything I wished I had fundraised even more. I decided to volunteer as I have a strong passion for going into humanitarian medicine when I graduate.
Seeing the happiness and joy and sense of relief on the children’s faces as we were chatting waiting for the train to take us to the countryside for the summer camp filled me with happiness and joy as well. That’s when I knew that the summer awaiting was going to unforgettable for the children as well as myself.
The summer camps were aimed to giving the children a break away from home, filled with many fun activities as well as English lessons. Teaching the English lessons filled me with anxiety to begin with as we had no training prior to three of us teaching over one hundred children (eek) however the kids loved them and seeing their English progress even just through conversations was really rewarding for us. But what was even more rewarding was seeing the progress of the kids personalities. A lot of the children were very quiet, down and reserved on the first day of the train station, almost scared to have fun. And by the end they were staying up late having pillow fights (it was surprising how strong they were), rolling down the hill with us, water fights and just truly having fun.
It was a very emotional and eye opening experience for me. After every camp, we would wait at the train station until every child was picked up. As it was a disadvantaged camp, most of the children didn’t have parents. Even now almost two months later I vividly remember one of the children who I really bonded with, we stood at the train station waiting over an hour for someone to pick her up and then we waiting at the local bus stop instead. Hearing her hysterical sobs, really made it kick into reality why these kids were at the summer camp. Being disadvantaged in the UK compared to being disadvantaged in Mongolia is on a completely different level. This girl was waiting to go back to a slum, where she looked after herself, worked 14 hours most days to earn enough for one small meal each day. This experience made me grow so much as person, to be a lot more aware of what children’s lives are like in developing countries and made me realise how I take so much for granted. It has made my passion for working in humanitarian medicine even stronger. Hearing the children say it was the ‘best week of my life’ made everything worth it.