A friend indeed

The families of Daridulam and her husband have been herders for generations, with the couple continuing the centuries-old nomadic lifestyle as they tended to their sheep and cows and sold milk, meat and other produce. Known as Daria, the 36-year-old mother has three children and lives in Mongolia’s central Bayankhongor province, 630km from the capital, Ulaanbaatar. Some 30km from the nearest village, Erdenetsogt, the family were cut off from hospital care, schools and other services.   Malnourished and underweight as a baby, her youngest daughter, Oyunsuvd, was prone to fatigue and disorders such as diarrhoea until Daria joined World Vision to learn how to make wholesome meals with simple ingredients like potatoes, carrots, flour and meat. Now six years old, Oyunsuvd is healthy and happy and will start grade one this year. Seeing the fruit of the tree planted by World Vision’s volunteer mothers, Daria also signed up to assist the project. Working closely with a family hospital, she monitored 11 underweight under-fives, as well as making warm clothes for them and teaching cooking skills to their mothers. As a result, she is a hero for local women, who now understand the importance of nutrition. When her eldest son began school four years ago, Daria moved to the main village, while her husband stayed in the countryside to look after their livestock. Having no vocational skills, she was unemployed until 2013, when she formed a cooperative with other locals called ‘Power of Unity’. After World Vision gave five sewing machines to the cooperative and offered training in business skills, Daria opened a small tailoring shop to use the sewing skills she learned from her mother-in-law. The cooperative has also founded a savings group, with each member depositing an amount equal to at least five US dollars at the biweekly meetings. The money accumulated is then lent to support the members’ businesses.  Daria has invested her loan in a variety of materials to give her customers more choice, while business success means she has a stable source of income and can afford to send her three children to school. “Forming a cooperative has created a bond between the members. As herders, we were used to working alone,” she says. “But now we’re friends and help each other in times of need. When my children are sick, people come to help,” continues Daria, who has made lifelong friends and also collects discarded materials to renovate poor families’ shelters.