This Friday is Black Friday – synonymous with consumerism and excess but there is an alternative option – to help make a statement against what Black Friday has come to represent. Personally, I’ll be sticking my finger up at the event and here are a few ideas on how to mark the day by doing something different using my beloved Mongolia for inspiration.
If you feel the urge to go online, then support local – Made In Mongolia
Asral is a Mongolian based Buddhist NGO – founded by High Tibetan Lama, Ven. Panchen Ötrul Rinpoche. The core aim of Asral is to help keep Mongolian families together thereby preventing children from ending up on the street. Their multi-purpose centre located in the Bayangol district of UB houses many of Asral’s social initiatives, training projects and community activities.
This includes the base for Made in Mongolia (MIM) – an Asral initiative established to create employment for the women and to provide wider support for their communities. Women are trained by the MIM Project in sewing, embroidery and felt making in Ulaanbaatar and Underschil in the Gobi Desert. In the Asral Centre in the Bayangol district, there is a designated space to house the felt making and sewing project and products include slippers, cushions, tablet or laptop holders and fabric toys.
Read A Book – Make that mug of tea or coffee and sit down with a good book instead
The Association Goviin Khulan is a Mongolian NGO focusing on the protection and conservation of the Mongolian Wild Ass – the Khulan (Equus hemionus hemionus). It is one of the five recognised sub-species of the Asiatic Wild Ass and represents the largest population of this species in the world. As a result, Mongolia is a significant place for the conservation of this species.
The NGO also understands that the long-term success of a conservation project of an endangered species requires educating the local population. As part of their educational programme, the Association Goviin Khulan have written and published a conservation-based book The Lost Khulan of The Gobi with illustrations by a Mongolian artist Zolboo O. The funds of this book go back into conservation education carried out by the organisation in Mongolia.
It is a truly beautiful book.
If you feel the urge to do some retail therapy then shop ethical instead – Mongolian Quilting Centre
The Mongolian Quilting Centre is known more formally as the New Way Life NGO – established in 2005 to make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged and unemployed women. They are trained in the art of quilting, textiles and embroidery and use their skills to generate income for their families by crafting products to sell. Not only do the women of NWL make everyday items such as tote bags and tablecloths but also individual pieces of fabric artwork made from discarded and recycled material such as their stunning quilts.
They don’t currently have an on-line shop but head to their Quilting Shop on Seoul Street. Alternatively, get in touch with Tserendash Selenge the Director.
Put your wallet away and give your time – Volunteer instead
If you have time on your hands then volunteer for an hour or so at a local project. And once again I’ll bring up the Nogoon Nuur Community Space in Ulaanbaatar. As I always say, I love this place immensely. There are few safe community spaces within the ger districts of Ulaanbaatar – especially community spaces where children can play. But, Nogoon Nuur (Green Lake) is bucking this trend.
The whole vision is made possible by a committed individual, Ulzii. Ulzii has been committed to renovating this public space since 2012 and over this time has planted over 500 trees and focused on creating a healthy, green, public space for Mongolian people, especially children in the ger area.
As well as making financial and equipment donations, we also like to donate with our time. So, when the cry went out for help, we answered and went along to help plant more trees and with landscaping and the building of a composting system. I arranged for my female trip assistants that were available to go along and help provide some (female) manpower.
Embrace the great outdoors
Instead of spending time online searching for the best deals or queuing (or fighting) over sales items in shops, get out into the great beautiful outdoors. Whether you’re more a walk in the park type person or someone who embraces something a little more challenging go out and embrace the open horizons.