For most, summer time is a relaxing time, filled with beach visits and trips to Florida. For me, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Selenge Aimag, Mongolia, summer has been a roller coaster of projects and facilitation. This, for me, is preferable, after my first year of feeling as if nothing was getting done.
I have recently completed one camp, am in the middle of an English summer program and a summer newsletter for English teachers in my area, and am on the verge of starting two new projects (the good father project and an application to conduct a session as part of a TEFL seminar in UB with my Mongolian counterpart). Needless to say, I have been busy.
The summer camp, which was a partnership with World Vision, focused on leadership through sports. Although very few of the sessions were structured, and we did not get to half of the activities in the agenda, I felt as though the three day camp was a success. We, the volunteers, Peace Corps and Mongolian, established real connections with youth from my community, especially the girls, showing them that girls could play just as rough as the boys. In the beginning, it was just the boys who participated in game play. By the end of camp, boys and girls were equal partners in the games, and it was often the girls who took the lead.
The English summer program is basically a summer school. Instead of formal English class though, the students learn English almost exclusively through games. These games have included: “Simon Says”, question relay and bowling for verbs. Through games, I really feel as though all of the students have been comfortable and able to participate.
The newsletter is an idea that the language methodologist and I came up with after a seminar for English teachers in Sukhbaatar city, my city within Selenge Aimag. This is a fairly new project but the thought is that it will prompt better communication between teachers and the education department.
The Good Father project was a project started two years ago in the Gobi (southern) region of Mongolia. It focuses on promoting positive relationships between children and their fathers. This project is beneficial in Mongolia due to the reverse gender unemployment rate (meaning that the highest number of employed peoples in Mongolia is female), and alcoholism is rampant around men in the community. The project will hopefully take the form of an essay contest for children from first grade to twelfth grade in which the prompt is: “My father is a good father because….”. After all of the essays are submitted, the fathers whose children’s essays are chosen will be interviewed. Next the fathers and children who win will be given an award at a public ceremony. I hope that this will prompt Selenge to see the important role fathers play in the community.
Those are just a few of the activities underway and completed through the summer in Selenge. I am finding that, through these activities, I am building a deeper connection with the community and establishing myself as a resource for my community to use. Also, I am learning a lot about the things my community needs and the people who live here. It is helping me to truly establish relationships with people, important to both here in Mongolia and something that I will bring back to the United States.
Karissa Hultgren is doing Peace Corps service in Mongolia as she earns her master’s degree in Educational Studies at Wheelock College. Read some of her earlier posts about her Peace Corps experience.