ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia --
A sick child can be trying on both the mind and the heart. That weight can be greatly increased when the child is afflicted with a neurological disorder such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy; and imagine the hardship when the only hospital in the country capable of treating these disorders is completely dilapidated.
Fortunately for the children of Mongolia, a wing of the State Research Center of Maternal and Child Health is getting a complete makeover at the hands of Mongolian Armed Forces engineers and United States soldiers from the 389th Engineer Battalion.
When the Humanitarian Civic Assistance project is done, the 11 soldiers from each nation will have replaced 43 windows and 56 doors and a host of other renovations.
“We came into this hospital looking at a couple of things, but our priority was for health and sanitation,” said Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Dailey, the project officer in charge for the 389th. “We’re going through and replacing all the electrical and giving them new lighting.”
Within a child’s reach were exposed electrical wires and open sockets which presented a potentially deadly health hazard. Also, much of the wing’s plumbing and ventilation are being redone.
Another health concern was the thermal insulation of the wing. Mongolia’s average winter temperature is just -13 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We came through here with a doctor,” relates Dailey. “And she said the ink in her pen was freezing in the wintertime.”
But a project of this nature is not without challenges, and the biggest hurdle up front was the language barrier.
“The language was is hard,” says Lt. Col. Rumur Ururbagan, the lead MAF engineer. “But when they work, they work through it.”
Dailey echoed Ururbagan’s sentiment, noting “even though we have an interpreter, the Mongolians look at things a little differently. One thing we’re really hard on is safety, trying to make sure they have eye protection and hearing protection.”
Though the Mongolians may not be quite as safety-conscious as their counterparts, they have taught the Americans a thing or two.
“The main thing they’re good at is mortaring and plastering,” said Dailey. “So when we were going around the windows, once we set the windows in place, we mortar and then plaster over it. And they were showing our guys how to finish it properly.”
At the same time, the Americans are showing the Mongolians how to properly do the plumbing and electrical work. The hope is by teaching them these skills, they can, in turn, go to other countries and pass that knowledge on.
This project should help restore much needed life to the wing which was originally built in 1982.
“This is the first time in its history this wing has had such a large renovation done,” says Eukhchimeg Ochirbat, one of the wing’s doctors. “I really appreciate all the work being done here for the children.”
By the end of the project, that appreciation should help those involved feel a certain level of satisfaction, knowing what they’ve done will help those who aren’t old enough to help themselves.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting new people, learning some of their culture, learning how they construct here,” says Dailey. “But it’s mainly the satisfaction of looking around and seeing that we’re helping out.”