Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Helping Child Jockeys

by Kara

In my post last month I mentioned a project I'm working on for child jockeys here in Mongolia. I'm really starting to work on this project more now so I wanted to write a little more about it.

Since long before the time of Genghis Khan horse riding has been a popular tradition amongst Mongolians. Even today horse riding remains an important part of their cultural heritage.  In addition to the everyday use of horses by Mongolians, more formal horse races take place throughout the year. Some of the most dangerous races are during the winter when sub-zero temperatures create dangerous racing conditions. However, the biggest competitions occur every July at the Naadam Festivals taking place all over Mongolia. Every year more than 30,000 child jockeys ranging from the ages of 4-10 years old participate in 12-28 kilometer races. Unfortunately, on average, about 5% of these children fall off of their horses.  Due to the lack of financial resources, lack of knowledge, and indifference, many of the children embark on these races without proper protective gear like helmets and pads, and sometimes even without shoes or saddles. As a result, every year many children suffer from severe lifelong injuries, and for some of the most unfortunate, death. Though measures have been taken on a legislative level, none of the laws to provide the children with protective gear are being enforced. I personally have met one young girl in my town who became paralyzed as a result of falling off of a horse and will spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.   

My coworkers have recognized this need and want to do something about it. However, my organization does not have sufficient funding to purchase helmets for the children in our community. So, I'm trying to think about some ways to help. My first idea is to do what another PCV did in her province and submit letters to the editors of horse magazines and solicit donations from individuals. I started doing this this week and I've already had a few who said they'll publish it. But, if any of you have other ideas for about how to approach this, that'd be great! Do any of you have connections to companies who might be willing to donate children's helmets or pads? Can you think of a better way to mend this situation? If so, email me or comment on this post.
Also, if any of you would like to donate new or used helmets, elbow-pads, or knee-pads, let me know! Thanks!

This is me on a typical Mongolian horse this summer. Notice how small he is!
Blarg! I'm not wearing a helmet! 

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