Two decades after Mongolian independence from Soviet control, much of the isolated northern Mongolian town of Khatgal still lies in ruins, families live in extreme poverty, and the struggling government is limited in the support and opportunities it can provide.
With tourism on the rise in the area, many have turned to traditional craft making. Local artisans labor in their one room cabins or Mongolian tents, working in homes smaller than the average American bedroom. During the short-lived summer months, women and children wander for miles through scattered camps placing their wares on the ground to display to foreign travelers. With an average annual income of less than $500, dreams of making a living for their families too often fades under the hardships.
Mission Director Mickey Cofer and his wife Trina are on location working to make a difference. Their backgrounds as professional artists prepared them to be able to reach out to the needs of poverty-stricken artisans. They have set up a nonprofit organization called Local Craftsmen Foundation where individuals can receive training in quality craftsmanship and effective marketing. Through the generous gifts of American churches, the foundation has purchased a 100,000 square foot abandoned Soviet factory – a five building complex sitting on twelve acres of lakefront property.
They are planning to turn the roadfront building into an Arts and Crafts Center to create a vibrant showcase and market opportunity for local artisans. The midsection of the factory is allocated for a Leadership Training Institute, and the lakeside facility is being renovated into a Summer Youth Camp and Community Center.
The gift of a brand new Wood-Mizer LT40 hydraulic sawmill is making the renovation of this incredible site possible. It has afforded Mongolian Missions the opportunity to labor efficiently and inexpensively using local labor and materials. Through the help of this amazing tool the Cofer’s are working to help revitalize the region. Once renovations are complete, the sawmill will continue to be the main piece of equipment used for the long-term woodcraft project; not only producing crafts for tourists, but the furniture, frames and floors of their traditional Mongolian yurts for families around the country.
Through partnerships with people and organizations like Wood-Mizer, dreams are becoming a reality, and major steps are being taken toward strengthening one of the most charming and unique societies left on the face of the earth.
Inspired? Get involved with Mickey’s work: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact address: Mickey Cofer, Mongolian Missions, PO Box 189 Winchester OH 45697
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