I was happy to have the chance to meet Odgerel and give her a copy of the Gift Catalogue, starring her!
Stella Kuzmicki, a World Vision Australia employee, shares her search to find Odgerel, the smiling face of the 2013 Gifts Catalogue.
When I found out I was travelling to Mongolia in September, I was hoping I would meet Odgerel. The face of last year’s Gifts Catalogue, she was pictured smiling joyously and holding pencils. She became an instant favourite for many of the staff at World Vision, a happy example of how simple gifts from generous Australians can make a difference. The photo was taken in 2012, at a kindergarten that World Vision was helping vulnerable children get a good start to their education. Supplies like school pencils help give children like Odgerel the ability to write and draw, as their families struggle to provide basic school supplies. This is just one of the many ways your donations help children and communities in poverty.
I was spending a week in Bayankhongor, an Area Development Program (ADP) in Mongolia, to assess and report back on the impact of our programs on the community and children. This is where Odgerel and her family lived at the time the picture was taken. I knew my chances to meet her were slim. The very nature of nomadic Mongolians means that they move every three to four months. Not only that, there were 22 girls with the same name living in the area.
Every day I carried her picture with me, and every day I would ask staff if they knew where I could find her. Days went by and still no sight of Odgerel.
On the afternoon of my last day in Bayankhongor, we drove about half an hour to visit a family of traditional herders. As I got out of the car, we were greeted by a girl dressed in traditional Mongolian clothing, holding a bowl of horse milk. Known as the ‘Mongolian Coca-Cola’, horse milk is a traditional drink. I took a sip, looked up, and noticed everyone’s faces eagerly watching mine.
Why were they staring at me so intently? I passed the bowl back to the girl. Only then did our ADP Manager, Tseegii, ask me, “Stella, do you know who this girl is?”
I looked at the girl again, and realised it was Odgerel! I was shocked, surprised and happy. She had grown up so much, it was hard to recognise her. When it had sunken in, and I had composed myself, I went to the car to grab the Gifts Catalogue I had been carrying. I handed it to Odgerel, saying “this is yours to keep”.
She just looked at me, unsure of what to do. “It’s ok, you can keep this”, I said reassuring her. She took the catalogue and looked at her picture. A smile spread across her face.
Odgerel’s younger sister has been registered for Child Sponsorship, which is pleasing to hear after seeing firsthand the difference it makes to children’s development and self-confidence.
During my trip, I saw that World Vision had helped improve the well-being of children in the community, through programs such as education, water and sanitation and economic development. I’ve been sharing images and stories from my trip on World Vision’s Instagram – take a look to learn more about how we work in Mongolia.
Your gifts mean that children like Odgerel can make the most of school and learn to reach their dreams. Your support is helping to change the lives of children and communities all over the world. Thank you!