By Nyamdavaa Myagmartsooj ’19 (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, placed by CIEE in Harrisburg, NC)
During her FLEX exchange year, Purevdari Ganbat ’22 (Mongolia) eagerly worked to enhance her English proficiency. Her devotion to learning English led her to find a way to share her passion for the language with Mongolian students in her hometown who also enjoyed learning English. Alongside her host mother, Carol, Purevdari embarked on an ambitious project to help enthusiastic students in Mongolia.
In November of 2021, during Purevdari’s exchange year, she and Carol began to run a weekly, online English club for 10-15 classmates in Mongolia. Impressed by Carol’s extensive book collection, Purevdari shared her difficulties finding English books while living in Mongolia. Carol, who served as a tutor to Purevdari and her classmates, gave Purevdari the idea to organize a book drive from the United States to Mongolia to aid the students’ language-learning journeys.
Initially, Purevdari and Carol planned to privately organize the book drive, having raised $300 from their personal funds. However, Purevdari took the initiative to reach out to her homeroom teacher in the U.S., who was eager to assist. With this teacher’s assistance, Purevdari then wrote to the parents of the students at her host school and requested book donations or financial support to cover shipping costs, expanding the project to her entire school.
The response was overwhelmingly positive. In only three days, the English club collected over 250 books and raised more than $1,500, far exceeding the $700 needed for shipping costs. To make the most of the extra funds, Purevdari organized a cultural gift exchange between 20 high school students in the U.S. from her host school and 20 children from her English club in conjunction with the book drive. The students exchanged souvenirs and gifts that represented their culture, and the response was very positive on both sides. The gifts were sent with the books and the Mongolian gift shipment to the US was covered by the extra donation money.
Organizing such a massive project was not without its challenges. When asked about the obstacles they faced as they planned the project, Purevdari shared, “Timing was the tricky part, as [we initially thought] the books had to come with me to Mongolia to ensure proper oversight of the donation process and establishment of a library. Shipping options were either too expensive or too slow, but we ultimately managed to send the books through an affordable alternative that quickly sent the books to Mongolia.”
“We also aimed to provide options for the donors,” explained Purevdari. “Therefore, we created a book wish list on Amazon that potential donors could visit and then chose to donate the books we needed. Duplicate books were also welcome, as the English club students could work on the same book simultaneously.”
In May of 2022, the books and gifts arrived in Mongolia, and the books found a home in the newly established American Corner in Purevdari’s hometown of Dornogovi. The staff named a bookshelf after her, and to this day, Purevdari continues to lead an English Book Discussion Club with 10-15 students at the American Corner each Saturday. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and Holes by Louis Sachar were some of the students’ favorite books they read thanks to the donations.
“I only became an avid reader when I went to the U.S. and met my host mother,” said Purevdari. “She would read to me in the evenings, which significantly improved my English listening skills. Thanks to her, I discovered the effectiveness of learning English through reading and was inspired to share this knowledge with my community. I want to thank my host mother for her unwavering support.”
Purevdari Ganbat ’22 (Dornogovi, Mongolia, placed by AFS in Albuquerque, NM)