The Meandering Social Worker

wandering : wondering : learning

Archive for the tag “winter”

Mongolia: extreme cold forces families from traditional living to urban slums – IFRC

Outside of the city of Ulaanbaatar the Mongolian nomadic peoples live a lifestyle that has all but died out elsewhere in the world.  Their childlike curiosity and interest in visitors does not inspire jealousy or envy.  Their lives are hard, unimaginably hard, and you can see this etched on their faces.  Yet their lives have a simple quality: work to provide for their livestock and their families with little concern for what is not necessary.  Community spirit is alive in individual family groups of between two and five gers (their tented homes) working in conjunction with their neighbours to make the best use of the sparse grazing land.  Consumerism is not a good idea when you pack up all your personal belongings, furniture and heavy felt tent to “move house” every two or three months.  Just enough vehicles for you and your neighbours in your area to share makes more sense than having more than you need or can afford.  There is little in the way of “keeping up with the Joneses” here.  The few luxuries in recent years are solar or wind generated power to run a few lights and the satellite TV.  This is a form of living easily seen as “poverty”, but being forced to abandon your way of life to live in the slums of Ulaanbaatar, a sprawling city that contains easily a third of the entire population of the whole country, leads to a far greater poverty: poverty not only of low income, but now a social poverty borne of a loss of livelihood, independence, self-sufficiency, pride, family and community connections, and a whole way of life.

Mongolia: extreme cold forces families from traditional living to urban slums – IFRC.

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Let is snow, let it snow, let it snow

The news of deaths during the current winter weather is always sad but why is the wintry weather so much more of a crisis and so much more ‘difficult’ to deal with than it used to be 40 years ago?  Even the current weather, which is more severe than we have seen in perhaps the last 10 or so years is no worse than I recall from my childhood in the 1960’s.

Or perhaps it’s society that’s changed.  In the 1960’s we were more dependent on walking and less dependent on travelling by car.  It was more likely that our families and our jobs were within walking distance and we hadn’t yet developed the habit of holidaying abroad, especially at Christmas. We were less likely to expect it to be our right to travel whenever  and wherever we wanted, regardless of the weather.  We knew the dangers of getting hypothermia and took more precautions to protect ourselves.  And I can’t help feeling that our news services were a little less inclined to hype up into such a drama every negative bit of news and comment that came their way.

So let’s recap.  It’s winter.  It’s cold.  It’s snowed and is snowing still.  Now lets strike a blow for common sense and just get on with it.  Help the old and vulnerable if you are able.  Use modern communications to keep in touch.  Instead of moaning about what we cannot do lets boast about how we coped and how much fun we had instead.  Like we used to in the old days.  And plan next year’s special long distance visits when it’s less likely to be dangerous to travel (or so expensive).

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