Youth volunteers unite for a better community

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These high school students work together to make their community a better place

As an emerging economy, Mongolia has taken an important role in supplying coal to the world market with a gigantic deposit of mineral resources recently discovered in the southern part of the country. This sudden push in the economy has brought growth to the capital city Ulaanbaatar, where tall skyscrapers decorate the booming town.

Yet, Mongolia is still a struggling country even today. Only 50 km to the east of this town, in a small district called Nalaikh, the development frenzy is taking longer to reach. Many people work in a closed coal mine nearby, hand-digging for the mineral, which has long become a way of earning a living. Due to the low-income, many people struggle to get by, especially in the harsh winter. Therefore, in this struggling society, it is hard to find somebody who would be willing to work as a volunteer.

Even so there are those willing to make a change for the better, voluntarily offering their own services to the community free of charge – high school students. They are united under a project, Child Participation and Leading Committee (CPLC), initiated by World Vision Mongolia’s Child Protection and Development Program.

It has been ten years since the project was launched and it has taken off in the community, bringing in a variety of positive impact. “[The CPLC] conduct various activities for the community and the children like health workshops to raise awareness on handwashing,” says Ankhbayar Khurelchuluun, project officer at Nalaikh Area Development Program. Ten years ago, Ankhbayar was one of the first members of the CLPC, himself. “It was a great experience that has helped me gain a lot of skills,” he added.
Today there are over 30 high school students in the CLPC. They gather twice every week to discuss the upcoming workshops including health awareness on hepatitis, the harmful effects of alcohol and tobacco, basic understanding of economics for kids and more. “These children are so effective with their workshops that during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak, there was no case of infection in our district thanks to the CLPC’s immediate help with raising awareness on precaution and helpful tips [on the disease],” says Ankhbayar.

The secret ingredient to building such a motivated team? The experience. “We do not give the CLPC anything of monetary value. These kids are working as volunteers trying to make their community better,” says Ankhbayar. “The best deal for them is the learning experience from their workshops in exchange for joining the CLPC as a member.”  This matters a lot, because it helps children discover and develop their own uncharted talents. “We learn so many things that are not taught in school,” says junior Munkhbaatar Sambuu. “For example, through organizing our workshops, I learned to write the guideline, make a plan, implement it and reflect on the results. Best of all, I learned of leadership,” he added.

Others get motivation from different things. “Many students show respect to us because we taught them important things through our workshops,” says junior Munkh-Erdene Sainbayar. “Some students treat me as if I were their teacher.”

But to become a member, one doesn’t have to be a class-leader. “We primarily focus on children who are having trouble expressing themselves, rather than the highly competitive A-students,” he added. Through the workshops, the children learned to be more open with others, thus improving their studies and expectations. “I used to dream that I would become a teacher or a doctor when I grow up,” said Enkhjin Sojdorj. “But now I really want to be the CEO of a giant company.”

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