Interview with Uuganaa, Community Hero in Arvaikheer

Part of BOOKBRIDGE since its beginnings: Uuganaa Gantumur

Today, BOOKBRIDGE turns five years. Exactly five years ago we opened the first learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia. Uugantsetseg “Uuganaa” Gantumur is Community Hero in Arvaikheer and manages the learning center. In this interview with Carsten she talks about the beginnings of BOOKBRIDGE and what has developed since then.

Carsten: Uuganaa, you and your learning center are an inspiration for many other bridgebuilders around the world. What do you remember the most from the opening ceremony of your learning center on September 2, 2009?
Uuganaa: After 5 years of friendship [with a group of European scouts, most of them from Neumarkt, Germany] we decided to open something helpful for my community in Arvaikheer. It was BOOKBRIDGE. Our governor education center director and others were really excited to hear about BOOKBRIDGE so our work was very quickly organized and set up. Many scouts from my community and Germany were involved in this activity. It was incredible! The only one thing was we have to work hard to deliver this books to community youth through our service.

Participants of Uuganaa's summer training
Participants of Uuganaa’s this year’s summer training

You quit your job as a teacher and started to work in your own learning center. This was a big risk, not only financially but also for your reputation as a teacher. What has been the biggest challenge for you in the last five years? Where did you grow personally the most?
It wasn’t easy for me to quit my job, for example because of health insurance, social insurance, my colleagues and the high salary just to name some important things of my life. I had been working as an instructor for the local university for six years before I became a full-time worker at BOOKBRIDGE. But I realized I couldn’t focus on two things at the same time and a lot of parents and students wanted me to work at BOOKBRIDGE. At last I found out I should be there instead of teaching English at the university. Anyone can teach but nobody take care of my BOOKBRIDGE everyday like me. It is my baby. I have to lead it. Now everybody knows BOOKBRIDGE in my community and many people wnat to send their children there and all people want to support us and are proud of our service! Now I can understand what I achieved [during the last five years].

Uuganaa practising pronouncation with little students
Uuganaa practising pronouncation with little students

In Mongolia, we now have seven more learning centers. What makes you proud of them?
That we frequently train the other learning centers and always share ideas with each other. It makes us a very friendly and skilled team. They [the other learning center managers] are younger women so they are very good at learning new things and to see the other’s improvement. I like them a lot. [After experiencing some difficulties in the beginnings] they now know where are they going and where they should reach. Also I will be responsible for training people until I want to have what centers in Mongolia.

Uuganaa (left) with her volunteers that help her with activities and courses
Uuganaa (left) with some of her former students who help her as volunteers with activities and courses

Since 2011, we have also been active in Cambodia. Are you curious what is happening there? If yes, what interests you the most?
Of course we are happy that there are new centers somewhere else. I am really interested in their activities and methods used for their everyday activities. Also what challenges they experience in their work and how they handle them. Maybe we have some experience that can be useful for their situations so I want to share them and learn things and ideas that we can use in Mongolia.

It is the birthday of BOOKBRIDGE today – is there any wish which you have for BOOKBRIDGE?
Work together, learn from each other, help the youth and I will do my best!
Thanks for everyone who helps BOOKBRIDGE. We love BOOKBRIDGE.

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