Greg Schroeder – Age 34
I’m from California.
I serve in Mongolia in the Community Youth and Development (CYD). While all sectors inevitably do some English instruction, CYD’s focus is to ready the youth to be independent adults and to work with the local service providers (parents, teachers, administrators, etc) to create sustainable programs that will build the skills necessary to prepare the younger generation to be responsible members of society. Typical CYD programs in Mongolia include presenting Life Skills trainings (e.g. emotions, communication, planning, empathy, etc) with the school social workers, encouraging disability awareness, environmental awareness, and peer-mentoring programs, and introducing the teachers to methods of Positive Youth Development for their approaches to education. In general, the school social worker is a CYD volunteer’s primary counterpart (CP), but we’re free to make a CP out of anyone, whether they be in or out of the school environment. Our country’s program also has Health and TEFL volunteers.
PC Mongolia volunteers live in a variety of housing, which is determined somewhat by personal preference and availability at site. I live in a ger, which is the traditional Mongolian nomadic housing. It’s very similar to what Americans know as a yurt. It’s a 16′ diameter circular structure and lined with felt. The ger is located within a hashaa (Mongolian for fenceline/property) which I share with a family that lives in a house next to my ger. Some volunteers have smaller gers. I have electricity, which is usually functioning (thanks to my proximity to the capital city), but I have to collect my water from the well down the street. Other ger-dwelling volunteers collect from rivers, especially in the winter when the wells freeze over and close. I have a stove that I use for burning coal and wood, which, during the 7-8 months that we average below-freezing temperatures (deep winter gets to around -40 degees C), is quite necessary. I saw and chop my firewood from the scrap lumber that is delivered to my property. Other volunteers live in gers, wooden houses, dormitory rooms (at schools), or apartments. With the exception of the apartment-dwellers, we all use pit toilets for bathroom needs. In terms of bathing, we’re issued a tumpun, which is a small plastic tub that we use for bathing, washing dishes, washing laundry, and all sorts of other tasks. Baby wipes are very popular for daily maintenance.
What are some of the most rewarding parts of your service? What have been some of your greatest challenges? Has PC service met/surpassed/trample don your expectations of what service would be like?
Prior to joining Peace Corps, I had a job that allowed me to travel. Though I enjoyed the position, I wanted something that would allow my travels to continue, but also enable me to be a bit more productive to the world. Working with youth after they’ve aged out of the foster system is something that I’m thinking about doing post-PC, so working with the CYD sector here is giving me more experience in the field. Ten months in, I’d say that those reasons still apply and are what keep me going.
Yes, I feel like the program is worthwhile. The challenge is to find HCAs that will follow through on their interest and aren’t sounding attractive just to acquire a volunteer as a trophy or free teacher. For the teachers and students that are interested in working with us, it’s a great program. I continue to meet people in the capital that tell me how a PCV taught them English as a child and improved their lives.
If you had to give a piece of advice to someone thinking about applying to PC or getting ready for staging, what would you say?
Any plans for post-Peace Corps?
Still open to multiple ideas. I could do a third year here (Peace Corps Response), apply for another country, go back to the circus, or work with foster youth. Too many ideas and too far off at this point.
Do you want to represent your country through an interview? I’m still looking for people to talk to! Get in touch with me here.