Reaching the Light in Mongolia

Reaching the Light in Mongolia

MAF Pilot Dallas Derksen witnessed first-hand how disabled children in the Mongolian Countryside are accessing services they need

During the early morning hours we took off from Chinggis Khan International Airport, Ulaanbaatar with a plane full of Reaching the Light (RTL) therapists.

RTL provides services for children with special needs and training for their families from their developmental centre in Ulaanbaatar.  They travel at regular intervals to carry out assessments in remote communities where 30% of the nation’s nomadic people live.  

 'The work Reaching the Light do, bringing physical and spiritual healing to these children and their families, is very special'

Our flight was shorter than usual, only one hour south to the town of Mandalgovi. By 9am we had arrived at our destination and the ladies had begun their long day assessing children.

There was already a long line of families and children waiting when we arrived at the small community centre.  The team quickly got to work, and by the time they speedily downed their lunch the ladies had already conducted assessments on over 50 children.  

As I looked out over the waiting families, it occurred to me that the expressions I was seeing were probably being replicated in doctor’s waiting rooms around the world. I could pick out the parents with genuine hope in their eyes, the parents who knew that their children had problems that could be overcome, with proper medical help. 

Then there were the special cases, mothers who had travelled up to 200km across the Gobi desert for a last desperate hope that somehow there was a miracle waiting for their disabled children in the skilled arms of the RTL team. Love for their children had brought them here, because even a minuscule chance for improvement – is still a chance. 

It was amazing to see the RTL staff work their way through the lines of families and children. Their basic assessment protocol gave them quick indicators of the physical and mental health of the children, enabling them to quickly hone in on and diagnose the individual problems. I saw medical records being passed to the doctors for inspection, and x-rays being held up to the light to be seen. 

By the end of the day, the team had assessed around 80 children – including many with medical problems that cannot be addressed by RTL. They did their best to give some basic medical advice to the parents which would go some way towards improving the quality of life for these kids. I asked them how many kids would end up going to Ulaanbaatar for treatment at the RTL centre, and was told that probably around 10 of the kids would be candidates for the intense two-week treatment that they offer.

The ladies were all looking a little weary as they boarded the plane for home.  By the time I levelled off in cruise flight they were all asleep. I have flown them several times in the past, but this was the first time that I was able to see what they do when they are not in my plane. The work they do, bringing physical and spiritual healing to these children and their families, is very special. I enjoyed my day and look forward to my next opportunity to fly with them.

 '... even a minuscule chance for improvement – is still a chance'