Mongolia is 13,000 miles away from Flagstaff, but hands of help will soon reach across the miles and bring warm clothing and other much-needed items to the poor people of that country.
Over the past few months, organizers and volunteers in F.I.R.E., Flagstaff International Relief Effort, have held a series of clothing drives and packing parties to collect and prepare for shipping clothing and other relief items to send to Mongolia this fall.
David Edwards, an internationally-known photographer who specializes in images of Central Asia, spearheaded the start of the relief effort in 1993.
A big clothing drive was held May 7 in Heritage Square to coincide with National Orphans Day. Many of the recipients of the clothing will be orphans in the capitol of Ulan Bator and in more rural areas.
Response to that major clothing drive was excellent, but more clothing is needed.
"We got three tons in two months after that, but we basically need two tons more," said Meredith Potts, F.I.R.E. assistant director and studio manager at Edwards' studio.
The relief goods will be shipped by sea Sept. 2.
"We're running out of clothes," she said. "We've packed most all of what we have. We need more donations. We have too many clothes for a 20-foot container, but not enough for a 40-foot container, and there's no in-between size."
Potts said they are collecting winter clothes, blankets, bedding, crutches, wheelchairs, big pieces of fabric, stuffed animals, medical supplies (syringes, bandages, supplements, etc.), sleeping bags in good condition and toys for children that don't require batteries.
The container will go by sea to Beijing, then by train to Ulan Bator.
"We'll meet it ,and well try to get it out of customs," Potts said. "At the end of October, a team of six to eight volunteers will meet us over there and we'll all distribute it — one week in Ulan Bator, then north, south, east and west, out to inner Mongolia. We have contacts in three directions. I'm looking to work with the Peace Corps to get contacts in the south. Our volunteers will be happy, well-functioning little teams, and go in their directions."
Volunteers here in Flagstaff are needed to pick up clothes when people call with donations and to pick up empty boxes for packing, donated by the Eddie Bauer store in Flagstaff Mall.
Potts said that donations of money are also very much needed.
Call the David Edwards photography studio for more information at 779-1966.
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— Arizona Daily Sun