The people of Mongolia are directing their own transition and advancement and consider Peace Corps' development approach—which emphasizes human capacity building—as compatible with their country's own approach to development. Volunteers provide assistance to organizations and communities whose people lack basic technical skills or knowledge to assist in the transition. The Peace Corps/Mongolia program began with an English education project in 1991 and has expanded to include Volunteers working in numerous sectors directly relevant to national development priorities. In July 2005, President Nambaryn Enkhbayar and Prime Minister Tsakhiagiyn Elbegdorj both expressed their desire for increased numbers of Peace Corps Volunteers in Mongolia.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Mongolia
The Peace Corps established its program in Mongolia at the invitation of the Mongolian government in 1991. The first three Country Directors were Chuck Howell 91-91; Jean Mead 93-95 and Mark Alan Zober, Ph.D. 95-98. Since then, more than 600 Volunteers have served in Mongolia, working in the fields of education, environment, health, small business development, information and communications technology (ICT) and nongovernmental organization (NGO) capacity building. All Peace Corps Volunteers in Mongolia are considered community development workers and, as such, support community service activities as well as cross-sector initiatives including youth development, gender and development, HIV/AIDS awareness, and ICT. Currently, 104 Volunteers work in provinces throughout Mongolia.
The mission of Peace Corps/Mongolia Volunteers and staff is to provide community-based development assistance that addresses needs identified by Mongolian partners, and to promote cross-cultural understanding between Americans and Mongolians. Peace Corps/Mongolia programs emphasize sustainable community development and capacity building that rely on locally available resources.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Main article: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles in Mongolia
During pre-service training you will live with a host family. Housing at your future assigned site is inspected and approved by Peace Corps staff before your arrival at the site, and the cost of housing is usually paid for or shared by the host organization. During your two years of service, Volunteers live in small family compounds or in separate apartments, depending on what is available at their site. Most sites are located either in a provincial town center (aimag in Mongolian) anywhere from 50 to almost 2,000 kilometers (31 to 1,240 miles) by road from the capital, or in provincial villages (soums) that are up to four hours by car from an aimag. A few Volunteers are assigned to Ulaanbaatar.
Peace Corps’ minimum housing standards stipulate that housing must provide Volunteers with some private space, personal security, adequate heat and water, and, in most cases, a reliable source of electricity. It is Volunteers’ responsibility to work with staff to ensure that their housing conforms to these standards. Programming, safety and security, and medical staff visit Volunteers at their sites early in their service to reconfirm that housing is safe and secure.
If you are assigned to a larger city, you may live in a one-room or two-room apartment by yourself. If you are assigned to a rural area, you might be the only non-Mongolian in town, and you may live in your own apartment in a building with other Mongolian families, in your own ger (the traditional tent used by nomads), or in a small wooden house in a compound with a Mongolian family.
Main article: Training in Mongolia
The pre-service training hub site is based in a provincial town center, not in Ulaanbaatar, and lasts 11 weeks. You will stay at the provincial center with your entire training group for a few days before being separated into smaller groups by program sector (TEFL, CED, CYD or Health) and moving in with a host family located within one to two hours of the provincial center. The training group will be dispersed among a number of host communities. Married couples may be placed in separate host communities during pre-service training, but this depends on what their program sectors. This community-based approach places Volunteers in more realistic situations and begins to develop community integration skills early on.
The typical training day—running from approximately 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.—consisting of four hours of language class, followed by integrated activities and sessions on cross-cultural issues, technical skills related to your assignment, and personal health and safety. Each trainee is responsible for his or her preparation for becoming a Volunteer and is expected to take full advantage of what is offered. The Peace Corps staff strives to maintain an open and supportive learning environment and will provide objective feedback to help trainees develop behaviors that will lead to smoother cultural integration and more effective service.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health Care and Safety in Mongolia
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Mongolia maintains a clinic with two full-time medical officers who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Medical services such as testing and basic treatment are limited in Mongolia. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Property thefts and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. In addition, more than 84 percent of Volunteers surveyed in the 2004 Peace Corps Volunteer Survey say they would join the Peace Corps again.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues in Mongolia
In Mongolia, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Mongolia.
Outside of Mongolia’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What is viewed as “typical” cultural behavior or norms may be a narrow and selective interpretation, such as the perception in some countries that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Mongolia are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
Frequently Asked Questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Mongolia
- How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Mongolia?
- What is the electric current?
- How much money should I bring?
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
- What should I bring as gifts for Mongolian friends and my host family?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training, and how isolated will I be?
- How do Volunteers deal with the pressure to drink on social occasions?
- Are the heating systems as poor as some have said?
- Where will I eat during pre-service training?
- My friends and family keep telling me to pack toilet paper—is this necessary?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
Main article: Packing List for Mongolia
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Mongolia and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, remember that you have a 102-pound weight restriction on baggage.
You can find almost anything you need in Ulaanbaatar and many basics can be purchased in aimag centers (provincial capitals). Depending upon your site, you may have limited time to shop in Ulaanbaatar until your first in-service training, which is usually held in December. So think carefully about those essential winter items you will need during your first few months at your site.
- General Clothing
- For Women
- For Men
- Personal Hygiene & Toiletry Items
- Work Items for Health and Community and Youth Development Volunteers
Peace Corps News
The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.
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PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
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Contributions to the Mongolia Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Mongolia. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.
- List of resources for Mongolia
- Volunteers who served in Mongolia
- Friends of Mongolia
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Inspector General Reports