Winter is arriving: sparkling snow; bundled-up children in a multitude of colored scarves and coats; the pungent smell of coal smoke in the air; dark mornings; early evenings; and Christmas.
I sat in a workroom in the town of Altai, surrounded by artisans who were describing their project. It felt like Christmas. These ladies at ArtisAltai were saying goodbye to Edith and welcome to Sondra as their project leader. There were tears of sadness but more tears of gratitude as they described their involvement in the project and what it meant to them and their families. As they shared, it felt like unwrapping beautiful gifts in the presence of trusted friends.
“I didn’t know how we would be able to look after my family. All of us were doing what we could and it was never enough, especially since one of my children is disabled and needs so much extra help. Magda suggested that I apply for a job to make jewelry for the project, but I never dreamt that I would get it. It has meant so much to our family: warmth in the winter, food on the table, books and clothes for my children. But more than that, it has meant that all of you have become my new friends. What seemed impossible before, has become possible now.”
“I felt so awkward when I first came. I didn’t know how I would fit in. But now you are close friends. I only wish I had known you sooner.”
“This job has helped our family to buy our own ger, and you have welcomed me as a friend.”
As I listened, I was reminded of the fact that as project leaders and those in professional placements we do much more than share know-ledge and train people. We come and build relationships. What I heard people sharing was that we all need somebody who believes that we have value. We need to know that we belong to something important. We need friends and family. When I read our JCS registration statement, I sometimes get caught up in managing the business of projects and making them successful. However, when I visit our projects, I am reminded that our real purpose is to have Mongolians and expats alike being joined as new family members.
May it be granted to you to discover the present of having a new brother or sister this Christmas season!