I came from my native Germany to New York in 1995. Since then, I am lucky enough to be able to make a living doing what I love, and in March 2008 I was hired to shoot a documentary about Street Children in Mongolia by UN-TV. I immediately fell in love with the country, its size and vastness, but mainly with its people.
During the shoot, I met and interviewed Baaskaa, a then 16 year-old boy who had been living on the street for 8 years. I was very taken by the boy. I also met Ayurzana Chogdov, a Police Lieutenant Colonel, who is the head of the temporary childcare center where Baaskaa was placed after the interview.
I was unable to forget about Baaskaa, so I decided to help him find a home.
With the support of Ayurzana and a few other Mongolian friends, we found a foster family for Baaskaa. With my financial help, we bought him a yurt, set it up on his new family’s farm and bought everything else he needed for a jump-start. Baaskaa settled in quickly and the family liked him and treated him as one of their own. Three months later, he enrolled in school.
I discovered that with a little extra effort, I could help turn a child’s life around. With the Mongolians I developed an action plan that gets kids off the street, places them with educated and well-meaning foster parents, enables them to learn a trade like traditional herding, and encourages them to enroll in school and accumulate savings. All of this will make it possible for them to build a future.
Khosoo & Ayurzana Selenge
Inspired by Baaskaa’s success, I started to collect donations from my friends and colleagues. Thanks to their generosity I was able to go back twice and set up more children. I will continue doing this on a small scale, personal level, until we have built a network of foster parents and supporters. As we are still discovering, what is best for the children and most doable for us, we learn how to combine our short term goals, getting them off the street and the long terms goals, building their future. But the reward of pulling these young lives around is equally shared between the kids and all of us involved!