Friday, November 13, 2015

What is Work!! Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more.

Many of you have probably been wondering what I do. The main reason I have not written anything on work until now, is because it has been slow to start.
I am a Community Youth Development (CYD) Volunteer. This mouthful means that rather than being focused entirely on English and Teaching English, my focus is more on developing projects that improve the community and youth. These projects include and are not limited to social clubs, life skills, summer camps, and training for teachers. My focus could be in anything. This is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I am free to design and incorporate projects that fit my skills, but on the other hand it is very difficult to accurately assess the needs of the community with limited language skills. Also, it can be hard to get projects going when dealing with Mongolian Standard Time (see Cultural Differences Part 2).
Photo from one Halloween Party--I'm the Ghost.
 When the Mongolians ask me what I do, I tell them I am a social worker (Нийгмийн Ажилтан) and PCV.  This has been very useful because social workers are a relatively new and prestigious position in Mongolia. Often when encountering groups of drunk men in Chinggis Town, I will explain my profession and where I work. It is has been a useful tool for deterring unwanted attention, because they seem to respect the role of social worker. I also drop the name of my coworker and that seems to generate even more respect.
So, what does a school social worker do in Mongolia? The short answer is everything. Social workers in schools are perhaps the busiest people, because they are often doing the jobs of 3 or 4 people. It is not uncommon for a social worker in Mongolia to be in charge of planning student events and parties, organizing extracurricular student organizations (Scouts, Student leadership,  Young Doctors, Young Policemen, etc.), organizing awareness and life skill activities, collaborating with local police departments on research, collaborating with the local government as a school representative, discipline of deviant students, programs for students with special needs, collecting information on students, working with families that need assistance, etc. There are probably some things that I have left out, but you get the gist. This naturally leads to hard working individuals who are overworked, very busy, and unable to complete tasks efficiently or accurately. Often tasks that seem less important are not completed or fall by the wayside (e.g. working with families and students in need).
Photo of second Halloween Party--Kids are watching a scary film.
So, where do I come in? My school has 1500 students and is arguably the largest in our aimag. We also have one social worker. PC has placed me in this school to work directly with him as my primary counterpart (CP). He is a very capable individual who has mastered the knack of being in multiple places at once. Some of my coworkers nicknamed him “The Wind.” This seems to be a suiting description. Sometimes I will be walking behind him in the school and will stop for a second to say “Hi” to a teacher I know. When I look up, he will have vanished. I seem to run into him all over town, but when I need to find him it is almost impossible. The best solution for locating him is to wait in the office that we share, but that can sometimes take hours. He also speaks very little English, so we are often communicating in Monglish (broken English and broken Mongolian). This can be difficult for projects and collaboration, but I am studying my Mongolian all the time.   
I also have 5 English teachers who are my secondary counterparts. Their English is pretty good, and they have had two previous TEFL volunteers, so they are pretty competent teachers too. In the future, I may also collaborate with the school doctor on health projects. With the exception of my Social Worker, CP’s are flexible positions. If I find a teacher that wants to collaborate on a project that person becomes a CP. If I have a current CP that is not willing to work with me, than I can stop doing so.
Second Halloween Party--I'm still the ghost
That’s all good Caleb, but we still have no idea what you are doing? The short answer is integrating and not much. I have been slow to push new projects, because I have treated that last few months as a time to observe and establish myself as a coworker. A lot of PCV’s come to site expecting to jump right into meaningful work, but the reality is that things do not move that fast here. So here is a summary of what I have done and what I would like to do by the end of the year.

September—spent observing counterpart and starting relationships with various CPs.
S      1.   Started an English club for foreign language teachers, we have been meeting 3-4 times a week.     2.      Attended various athletic competitions both student and teacher based. 
        3.      Observed and assisted social worker in electronically entering student’s personal information to            database/ files.


      1.      Organized an alcohol awareness meeting for students in the 10th grade. Social worker presented         PowerPoint that I created.  Other speakers from health department also participated.
      2.      Started an English speaking club for students grade 10-12th. This club meets twice a week for one       hour.
      3.      Helped plan and put on two Halloween parties for two different English speaking clubs.
      4.      Began planning possible beginners speaking club for teachers and a movie club.
      5.      Began talking about children participation organizations that social worker and I will be putting           on. (My social worker and I are to be in charge of 7 clubs, but with MST they have not started             yet.) 

Goals for next semester

     1.      Start English movie club that is in the works.
     2.      Start beginning English speaking club for teachers.
     3.      Begin various children clubs that are supposed to start with social worker.
     4.      Start pushing for possible life skills clubs that might be needed by the school.
     5.      Collaborate with school doctor and health PCV on possible health awareness.
     6.      Continue to better improve my Mongolian so as to make conversation more achievable.
     7.      Meet with Child and Family Development Center to collaborate on Summer camps for next                summer.
     8.      Continue current English clubs and work with English CPs

Posing with fellow teachers during Chinggis Khan's Birthday

   I hope this helps paint a picture of what I am doing. In addition to this, I spend a lot of time                  waiting for the ball to roll on various activities and have been reading a lot.


1 comment:

  1. I love this attempt at explaining. Both your parkas are really lovely. I love the purple Sally's. I hope you are warm enough.