Three years ago, on September 2, 2009, the big moment had come: after months of collecting books, a long journey on the Transsiberian Railways and great teamwork with our Mongolian friends, we opened up our first learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia. It is amazing what has happened since then. It’s time to look back.
It all started with a visit to countryside schools in Southern Mongolia in 2005. The mere lack of books and teaching materials left a mark on us. Uuganaa, scout leader and English teacher, told us that we might be able to help by collecting English books.
Four years later, we returned to Arvaikheer. Besides our backpacks, we carried 13,000 books, donated by people of our hometown Neumarkt (Germany) as well as elementary schools across Bavaria.
What to do with 13,000 books? Just giving them away had never been an option for us. We all wanted them to be read and used. Together with Uuganaa, we decided to establish a learning center as a place for the whole community to come and learn.
From the beginning, the learning center had three goals. First, reading and learning materials in English and Mongolian allow for access to education. Second, free courses and activities enable global learning. Third, paid training services to the community turn every learning center into a social business with the goal to become financially self-sustained.
On September 2, 2009, the big moment had come: we celebrated the opening of the center in Arvaikheer. The very same day, Uuganaa decided to work full-time in the library. Buyina and Boogi joined her as librarians.
Today, three years later, we are amazed by the achievements the team made:
• 3,700 members were counted since the opening
• 2,500 students took part in courses
• 750 students benefited from activities offered
• 4,000 books have been borrowed during the past three years
• 2 full-time staff and four volunteers work in the center
• 100% of the operating costs are covered through course offerings to the community
And that is just the start. For the future, Uuganaa, Buyina, Jason and Baagi have a lot of ideas. Listen to what Uuganaa, Baagi and Buyina have to say. Also, they want to share their experience with the other seven learning centers which BOOKBRIDGE established in the Mongolian countryside in the meantime.
For their work in the community, Uuganaa and her team gained a lot of recognition. In 2011, Uuganaa was awarded “Woman of the Year” by the governor of her province. At the same time, her daughter Buba was awarded as an outstanding student by the Mongolian Prime Minister.
The learning center in Arvaikheer is a great example of what we want to achieve: empower people to become changemakers and leave a real impact in the community where we are active.
We would like thank all donors, volunteers, partners as well as the local team who contributed to the development and success of our very first learning center. Today, let‘s all celebrate together!