A new Kindergarten school has been built in the Mongolian capital of Ulaambaatar, thanks to the work of Landmark Education graduate Lois Libby Juster. The school, which is due to open in September, is the second kindergarten to be built in Mongolia as a result of the work she began while in Landmark Education’s Self-Expression and Leadership Program several years ago.
At the time, Juster was travelling in Mongolia and wanted to do something to connect children in Mongolia to children in back in her home state of Minnesota. She created a classroom exchange between two schools. In the course of the project Juster visited schools and orphanages and saw that there were some fundamental problems with elementary education in Mongolia. In the mining town of Baagnur, there are about 700 children of kindergarten age, most of whom don’t go to school and are left to fend for themselves. Furthermore, while there are public schools in Mongolia, many of them have no money going towards them and are consequently dilapidated and without the resources to educate the children.
Juster, along with fellow Landmark Forum graduate Anne Alger, formed the Bridge Project as a non-profit organization and funded and caused the building of a kindergarten in Baagnur. Juster saw a need to do more. She also had the partnership of two extraordinary people, a University director in Mongolia, Lkhavursen, and his wife Hugjilmaa. Hugjilmaa worked on site in Baagnur to make sure the school was built properly and that the teachers were paid, and she is taking on the same role with the school in Ulaambaatar. This school is more ambitious, because the first two floors of an addition to the university are being built as the kindergarten. The vision Ann and Lois have is that each year a new floor will be added to the school for a new grade of students, so that the students will have an opportunity to complete their elementary school education in the school.
To raise money for the school, Juster and the Bridge Project held a fundraiser at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis. Entertainers at the event included musicians, singers and Mongolian contortionists. Juster even convinced the Mayor of Minneapolis to declare “Mongolian Education Day” in Minneapolis. The Bridge Project raised $14,000 for the school last year, mostly from the fundraiser.
Juster continues to work to overcome the challenges that lie in front of her. Language issues can be daunting, since she doesn’t speak Mongolian and the Mongolians she works with only speak a little English. She is also working to get herself more educated on how schools are funded and supported. This April she is travelling to Nepal with a group she is involved with called Advocates for Minnesota for Human Rights to observe a school building project there and to do research and interviews while in Nepal on what the needs for children are in that country. She also hopes to return to Mongolia this summer to review the work being done there.
To find out more information, contact Juster at [email protected].