Oral

The red gated orphanage in Ulgii in winter
The red gated orphanage in Ulgii in winter

Oral lives in an Orphanage in Ulgii, Western Mongolia. Her father was killed in a traffic accident and her mother drowned in the Khovd River attempting to rescue Oral’s younger brother. Oral has extended family who live in Kazakhstan and visit her occasionally. She takes care of her older brother who has a severe mental disability and who also lives in the Orphanage.

The Orphanage is run down and the furniture is in a poor state but there is a large communal TV. It’s home for anyone without a family including young people, older people, and disabled people. It didn’t have the feel of state institution, more a small community or an extended family home.

Oral was very close to one of the older resident women and clearly she saw her as mother figure but she was also close to the cook and the Orphanage’s manager. Oral has a shuffling gait crossing the open area in front of the Orphanage because she was born with both feet pointing backwards making walking difficult. She is often seen with her arm gently linked through the arm of her adopted mother.

The State provided only basic subsistence but the Orphanage provided a ‘family’ were, Oral told me, she was happy.

Oral
Oral
Oral in her bedroom which she shares with her brother
Oral in her bedroom which she shares with her brother
Outside the community bedroom
Outside the community TV room
The dining room
The dining room
Oral hanging out her washing
Oral hanging out her washing
Oral helping the cook
Oral helping the cook
Oral pouring tea for her brother
Oral pouring tea for her brother
Oral and her brother at tea time
Oral and her brother at tea time
Oral with her brother and two friends in the TV room
Oral with her brother and two friends in the TV room
A formal ‘family’ photograph
A formal ‘family’ photograph
wanted her photograph taken with the manager of the orphanage
wanted her photograph taken with the manager of the orphanage
Oral in the winter of 2016 wearing her favourite shoes and looking pleased to see me again
Oral in the winter of 2016 wearing her favourite shoes and looking pleased to see me again
Oral with her adopted mother. her body language and face are saying 'I'm happy'.
Oral with her adopted mother. her body language and face are saying ‘I’m happy’.
Oral's most treasured possession - a photograph taken of her brother in the capitol Ulaanbaatar
Oral’s most treasured possession – a photograph taken of her brother in the capitol Ulaanbaatar