From a rural English teacher to a nation-wide role model: Uugantsetseg Gantumur became BOOKBRIDGE's first social entrepreneur in 2010. Since then, she has revolutionized the education of young people. The Mongolian government awarded her twice for her achievements in empowering the country's youth. In this interview, Uugantsetseg alias "Una" reveals how she finds the power for what she is doing and how BOOKBRIDGE helped her to not only improve her skills but also to live from them.
With the help of BOOKBRIDGE, Una learnt how to put her skills as a coach and teacher in the center of her social business.
Uuganaa, share with us 3 important facts that people should know about you.
I founded BOOKBRIDGE’s first social enterprise!
I have more than 2,500 students.
After being part of BOOKBRIDGE for 10 years, my 10-letter-long first name (Uugantsetseg) became “Una”.
Why was your motivation to become a social entrepreneur?
Before BOOKBRIDGE, I was a normal English teacher at a rural Mongolian school. I had two kids, ran a scout group and saw little chances for the youth in our community.
With a youth exchange with German scouts in 2005, my situation changed completely. The scouts started to collect and send used English books to my school. I visited them twice in Germany and learnt more about their school and education system. We had many inspiring discussions about how to foster children best – according to their individual skills.
This together with my background in scouting (where every single child is to be fostered according to its skills and gifts) made me think about discovering new ways of education. I started to think about founding a learning center where I could use the books and combine my teaching profession with a new approach on educating young people.
Una (center) with some of her students during an English camp in the province of Arvaikheer.
4 years later and supported by BOOKBRIDGE, I opened my own social enterprise, a community learning center. It was the first learning center in my hometown Arvaikheer and it immediately was a big success. By 2020, I have taught and fostered 2,400 children and students from my community.
Which highlight as social entrepreneur do you remember?
My highlights are always connected to my students and kids. So there were many of them in the last years!
Of course, getting an own building for my learning center was a great moment. But seeing my students getting scholarships to study all around the world (Hungary, USA, Japan...) makes me super-proud. Every single time it happens.
For my work, I got awarded twice by the Mongolian government. This shows me that after 10 years I´m still on the right way.
My best moment last year was celebrating the 10th anniversary of BOOKBRIDGE with the people founding it, Bridgebuilders, program alumni, current and former students as well community members.
With many people from the bridgebuilder family, Una (center in white shirt) celebrated BOOKBRIDGE's 10th anniversary in summer 2019 at her learning center where everything had begun in 2005.
Which impact did BOOKBRIDGE have on your community?
With the help of BOOKBRIDGE, I have changed the youth in my community. By providing young people with educational offerings that go beyond the public ones, I have given them better job and life chances. Educational and job situations are difficult in rural Mongolia but with my offerings I could create a new perspective for my community.
Most people assume that countryside kids are little bit timid. I follow the scout approach that means that I give children responsibility and projects they can grow on. Believing in children can change them forever!
It feels great when parents come to me saying how much their kids have developed. They became responsible, engaged young people and young adults. Of course not only because they participated in my classes and activities. I only offered them things they could grow on and encouraged them to develop their skills. This helps them to make the best out of themselves.
Thanks to her year-long experiences as a teacher and coach, Una became an advisor for other Mongolian social entrepreneurs in the field of education (third from right).
... and on your private life?
BOOKBRIDGE gave me a new perspective. 10 years ago I felt like my life would stand still. I was an English teacher, I was a mother and a wife. Was that all I had expected from life?
A decade ago I started as an English teacher. Today, I´m a life skills trainer, coach, mentor and social entrepreneur. Thanks to BOOKBRIDGE I do much more than teaching English or playing games with scouts.
I have discovered that serving my community by coaching young people is my calling. By working with children I could use the skills I had and develop them beyond school teaching. I am very grateful I had this chance.
Thank you Una for sharing your experience and your learnings with us. We are proud that you are part of our BOOKBRIDGE Family!