This is the VOA Special English Development Report.
In far northern Mongolia, the survival of the smallest ethnic group in the country depends on reindeer.
|Morgan Keay, right, with members of the Tsaatan community in Mongolia|
When she left, the chief gave her his grandfather's smoking pipe. That way she would remember the Tsaatan and try to help them. The Tsaatan have about five hundred members. About half are reindeer herders up in the Taiga mountains. The other half live in a town.
Back in the United States, Morgan Keay and a friend who had also studied in Mongolia started an organization. They named it Itgel -- the Mongolian word for hope.
The Itgel Foundation has helped bring foreign scientists to Mongolia to research and treat reindeer diseases. Itgel also helped Tsaatan workers build a community and visitor center. The building includes guest rooms for tourists.
The Tsaatan not only work as guides, they now provide all services for travelers. The community works in partnership with international tour operators. Those tour operators had formerly been in control of the services.
|Tsaatan volunteers and members of the Itgel Foundation in front of the community and visitor center|
Four years ago the Tsaatan had fewer than five hundred reindeer. Now Morgan Keay says the herd has just reached nine hundred.
Last year, the Tsaatan learned that the government of Mongolia planned to spend one and a half million dollars on their community. But no one had talked to the Tsaatan about the plans. The Itgel Foundation organized a meeting between community members and government representatives.
Morgan Keay says the Tsaatan are becoming economically independent for the first time. The Mongolian government is now considering a development plan written by the community. The plan deals with education, health, the environment and economics.
And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Karen Leggett. For pictures, transcripts and MP3 archives of our reports, go to 51voa.com.