Saturday, January 29, 2011

The LDS Church Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City Partners with the International Women's Association of Mongolia to Donate 75 Bales of Clothing and Bedding to Mongolia

The container of holding 75 bales of clothing being delivered

On October 6, 2010, a notification appeared on Deseret International Charities' CHaS (Church Humanitarian Reporting System) dashboard that a special project had been approved to ship clothing to the needy of Mongolia.  We were surprised to see it on our dashboard because we hadn't initiated it.  

To find out more about it, we called the John Yancey, who is the administrator of the project in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He told us that the LDS Church Humanitarian Center was partnering with the International Women's Association of Mongolia (IWAM) to accomplish this project.  IWAM is an organization of expatriate women from all over the world who for various reasons are residing in Mongolia. He told us that he was working with a woman named Julie Valoo, who is a member IWAM, and who had requested the clothing and bedding.  He told us that we should contact IWAM to see if there was anything we could do to help, but that IWAM would be responsible for the shipment.

We found out that Julie Valoo was moving to Mongolia from British Columbia and hadn't yet arrived in Mongolia, so we called Robin Hepburn who is the President of IWAM and set up a luncheon meeting at Millie's, one of our favorite American restaurants, for us to meet with her and several other members of IWAM.  At the meeting, we learned about IWAM and their humanitarian work in Mongolia.  We were impressed by the nature of their organization and by the good they are doing here.  We talked with them about plans for when the bales would arrive and offered our assistance.  We told them that we would be happy to help them in anyway.  They said they would notify us when the container arrived in Mongolia.  After talking to them, we were assured that the shipment would be in good hands with IWAM.  

Several days before the shipment arrived, Dr. Bat-Orgil, who is the director of the Burn Center in UB, came to our office.  He had heard about DIC from a Church member and had come seeking help. The Burn Center treats people for burns, frostbite, dog bites, poisoning, etc.  There are a lot of things he could have asked for, but he said what he really needed was clothing.  

He told us that many people who are treated at the Burn Center are homeless frostbite victims.  When they come to the center many have few clothes or their clothing is in such terrible condition, it has to be discarded.  He said the Burn Center needs clothes to give the homeless people so that, after they are treated, they can be released from the hospital.  We asked him if he could use some wheelchairs, canes, crutches, and walkers.  He said a definite, "Yes," but what he needed the most was some clothing. 

We told him about the shipment of clothing and bedding that IWAM was expecting, and told him that as soon as we could, we would deliver some clothing and bedding to the Burn Center.  We told him we would also be able to have DIC donate some wheelchairs, canes, crutches, and walkers to him, which we delivered to him the next day.  He was  delighted.

Several days later, Julie Valoo notified us that the bales of clothing and bedding were ready to be delivered.  She told us the place and time for unloading. That Friday at 10:00 a.m., Soyolmaa (the President of the Stake Relief Society), Richard and I met Julie and several other IWAM members at the Catholic Church where the bales were going to be unloaded and temporarily stored until they could be sorted and distributed.  It took longer than expected for the container to arrive at the Catholic church, so while we waited, we had a wonderful visit with IWAM ladies. They are super women who have great hearts and are working hard to help Mongolia!  

It was a long wait.  Julie called and found out that the truck that was delivering the container was down (having trouble), but we enjoyed our time together, so no one seemed too concerned about the delay.  The trucking company had already sent workers to the cathedral to help unload, so we knew the truck would be coming along soon.

During our visit, we discovered more about Julie Valoo, who had  orchestrated the project.  She had lived in Sandy, Utah for about six years while her husband worked for Rio Tinto, who owns Kennecott Copper Mines.  She used to take visitors on tours of Temple Square in Salt Lake City and even though she isn’t Mormon, she knows a lot about the Church and about its humanitarian program.  

Anyway, her family had moved to British Columbia and was getting ready to move to Mongolia.  Her husband’s company was paying for them to move their family’s belonging in a full 20-foot container from British Columbia to Mongolia, but her family only needed about 5 feet of the container, so she thought she would try to find an organization that would donate clothing to fill up the rest of the container. However, with only two days before she was to leave British Columbia, she had been unsuccessful in finding anyone to help. 

That morning at 6:00 AM, she woke up with the idea to call the Humanitarian Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City.  She immediately called and talked to John Yancy at the center.  She told him about the container and that her husband's company would pay for shipping the container from British Columbia to Mongolia. When she asked him if it was possible for the Church to help her, John immediately jumped on the idea.  He told her, “That’s a great idea.  Yes!” He said the Church would provide 75 bales of clothing and bedding and would pay the trucking costs of $1,300 to have them shipped to British Columbia.  Julie told him that she would arrange for the bales to be shipped from British Columbia to Mongolia and that IWAM would be responsible for distributing the bales of clothing and bedding once they arrived in Mongolia.  

As agreed, the Humanitarian Center shipped 75 bales of clothing and bedding to the moving company in British Columbia.  The company patiently held Julie's container until the bales arrived.  Then the company loaded the bales onto the container.  It was a miracle that they didn’t charge her extra for storage while they waited for the truckload of bales to arrive or for loading the bales.  Julie left British Columbia and the bales were soon on their way, too. 

The bales arrived in Mongolia.

Julie Valoo and Beverly Rhodes, IWAM members
IWAM member, Judy, helping unload bales

Emily really got into it!
Richard throwing bales like a real cowboy!

Some of the bales in a storage room

Richard, Carol and Soyolmaa (Stake Relief Society President)

The truck carrying the container finally arrived and soon the bales were practically flying out of the container.  It was exciting!  The bales weighed about 50 kilo (110 pounds) each, so moving them around was no easy task, but with the moving crew and all of the other help, they were soon unloaded and safely stored in a storage room in the basement of the church.

Julie called Father Herve and asked him if we could use some of the classrooms to sort clothing.  He told her, "My church is your church; use it any way you like."

So, we decided on a time to meet on Monday to sort the bales and everyone left for the day.

On the morning of January 24, 2011, we joined the International Women's Association of Mongolia (IWAM) at the church to sort clothing and bedding and to pack them for distribution.  We were accompanied by most of the senior couples, President and Sister Clark, Soyolmaa who is the Stake Relief Society President, Eggy, Zolo, Azzaya (translators), and several Relief Society members.  IWAM had a great group of women there too and it was amazing to see everyone working so hard.

The Father Herve told Julie and me that this week is worldwide Christian Unity Week.  I told them that we didn’t know that; it was an interesting coincidence.  

The Sropes are brand new in Mongolia and already hard at work!

Members of Ulaanbaatar West Stake Relief Society helping sort clothes

We left the cathedral with many bags of clothing and bedding to be delivered to the Burn Center, to the Zayu Taij homeless center, and to an addiction recovery group of mostly homeless people.

Ladies from IWAM busy at work!

Relief Society Members sorting
Richard folding blankets

Eggy, Sister Clark and Zolo sorting coats
While sorting clothes, Elder Powell finds a familiar sight!
A Great Team!
IWAM, DIC, Relief Society ladies, and Senior Missionaries
The IWAM ladies delivered bags of children’s clothing and bedding to the Children’s Welfare Center (the Center) run by the Metropolitan Police for street children, to the men's and women's prison, and to several other organizations.   The police at the Children's Welfare Center (the Center) told IWAM that the children would be especially happy because it is tradition to receive new clothes for Tsagaan Sar, which is next week, and even though the clothing is used, it is basically in good shape and will be new to the children.  We were happy to have IWAM give clothing and bedding to the Center, because we have also been working with it.

Next week DIC is having a ceremony at the Center to donate:  an industrial cooker, an industrial refrigerator/freezer, hygiene items, school supplies, and bedding for 50 children, and a bunch of games.  Children from another center for homeless street children will be performing at the ceremony.  We have seen them perform before and they are amazing.

Julie Valoo gives the project a big thumbs up! 

The following is an excerpt from a follow-up e-mail to us from Julie Valoo:
It was great working with you and it is so wonderful to know that you are also getting involved with the Child Welfare Centre which has been a pet project of ours for a number of years now.  I think they can use any and all help that they can get.  We are looking forward to being there to see the kids perform on the 7th.

Already, we have had a number of our members [IWAM] ask if we can figure out a way to do it again as it has been such a great success.  As of yesterday, we had delivered or had picked up over 95 % of the materials.  All that is left are the bales for Father Herve, and we have not, as yet, delivered to the men's prison.  That's it.  When we have the final list of all the charities I will send it to you.  If you do have any more photos from other groups, we would love to have copies.  

It was great working with you.  Thank you so much for all the help you have given us in getting this clothing distributed. It has been an absolute thrill for me to be able to actually take my idea and  make it work, and I think I can safely say that it did more than just work. Certainly from our perspective it was great!  Maybe we can do it again someday.  In the meantime, at least now when I see you in Millie's, I'll know who you are! 


  1. What a great project! This makes us really 'homesick' for Mongolia. What a great job you two are doing there!

  2. Richard & Carol- So Happy to read about this wonderful experience. We are grateful to hear that all the clothing and other supplies made it out to those in need so quickly. What a super event.
    Thinking of you and sending you our love.
    Robert & Julie xoxoxo

  3. What a marvelous story. All of these wonderful Humanitarian Groups working together for a common goal, to HELP THE PEOPLE OF MONGOLIA. I loved the pictures and the big smiles that everyone had. You wrote the story up so beautifully, Carol. I am impressed! Always, MOM