A group of students from the United States Military Academy at West Point volunteer in Mongolia
In June 2014, a group of students from the United States Military Academy embarked on a three week teaching and care project with Projects Abroad in Mongolia. One of the academy’s main priorities is to expose their students to different countries through international service projects and cultural immersion.
The cadets were eager to experience another culture and to take on a new challenge whilst also helping a local community. Jon Lindefjeld, Si Yi, Bryan Glick and Colin Dorner were led by Professor Don Rassler, and were placed at the Mongolian 4H Youth Organization. This is a nonprofit organization that helps youth acquire knowledge, develop life skills, and form attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive members of society. As his passion is to become a doctor, Joseph Broderick chose a care project and was placed at the Clinical Care Center for Infants instead. This is a home for young orphans and gave Joseph the opportunity to see the differences between the health care system in the United States and Mongolia.
As teaching volunteers, they had full responsibility for planning and teaching English lessons and for monitoring the progress of the students. Their duties consisted of preparing lessons on a wide variety of topics, including grammar and conversation, and teaching their own classes dependent on the students’ level of English. At his care project, Joseph was able to assist and shadow nurses in various activities such as medical treatments and looking after the children. Outside of their projects, all the cadets were also able to interact with their students. They taught them how to play frisbee, went hiking together, participated in a fundraiser for disabled young people, celebrated American Independence Day, and prepared performances for the students’ graduation ceremony.
“Through this experience, I think that the two main goals of this project - cultural immersion and service - were achieved. A great deal was certainly learnt about Mongolia, its transition, its people and our students’ everyday life. In terms of service, we’ve taught English, cared for children and contributed as much as we could. I think it was a success,” said their professor, Don Rassler.
Their students shared these feelings: “Being able to have them as our teachers was the one of the greatest opportunities we’ve ever had and it was such a pleasure and a rare opportunity for us. Their teaching method was unique and interesting as their lessons were studentcentered, which let us speak and interact more. They were always so eager to teach and share more about their country and culture. Likewise, they learned a lot about Mongolian culture that was also beneficial for a cultural exchange while we were learning English. They not only taught us English but also how important it is to be friendly and kind towards others. During hiking activities, we saw how they really care about others before thinking about their own comfort. In Mongolia, we have a saying that ‘long journeys challenge your humanity’. They helped anyone who fell down and showed kindness wherever they were.”
West Point students went above and beyond their volunteering duties by giving a presentation about American culture and their university. They also ran a discussion group with all of their students. This allowed the Mongolian students to know more about the military system in the U.S.A. and the profession itself. It also increased their interest in studying in America.
Projects Abroad thanks the whole group for their dedication.
We hope great stories like these inspire others to help Projects Abroad continue to make a difference, and by doing so, learn something themselves along the way.
This news story includes references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.