November 5, 2010

Two Days, Two Amazing Friends

In the last two days I have met two incredible Mongolian friends who found me through the Advance Humanity project and it has been unbelievably inspiring for me.

Last night I met with Uuree, a wonderful woman who just finished her two master's degrees at Syracuse in Public Policy and International Development. Her English was better than mine and her smile and laugh were contagious. She talked to me about growing up in Mongolia and then going to school in the U.S., working since 2003 with USAID and then developing a passion for international development. “I wanted to talk with you,” she said, “because I want to help someone. I want to know that because of me someone’s life has changed for the better.” She read about our Community Fund project after hearing about it from our friend Yoomie and she wanted to learn more, so we met together to talk it over. The idea is still young, but it has a wonderful story developing around it: a family coming together, a grandmother learning how to read and write, a community store being built and a group of friends from all over the province honoring millenia of nomadic tradition while stepping into this new century.

After speaking for an hour, it was time for us to say goodbye. As we walked outside into the chilly Mongolian night air she turned to me and said, “Travis, I am so proud of you. You are so young and look how much you have already accomplished. You have a lot to be proud of.” I told her how happy I was that, because of this wonderful family and this wonderful project, we got this chance to meet together and work to help others. If this is how the Advance Humanity project continues to develop, we will all have a lot to be proud of.

Then tonight I met with Mendy, an ambitious man who just got back to Mongolia in the spring after attending the MBA program at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. “I was the youngest in my class by about 10 years,” he told me, “and when the instructors asked the other students in class, ‘So how many businesses have you started?’ I always had to answer none. I left the program to get some experience back here in Mongolia, but I am excited to go back and finish my degree in the next 5 years.” In the past few months, he has started a business that now has 30 employees and a waiting-list of 20 organizations who want to partner with him. The projects he listed in just a few minutes floored me, it was like listening a Mongolian Steve Jobs.

Over the next few months, one project we are excited to work on together is a TEDx Mongolia event. It’s a lot to take on for sure, but Mendy is all over it. Whether he’s pitching an idea to the Mongolian Prime Minister (which worked), or starting up Mongolian Silicon Valley (now under construction), fear doesn’t seem to be in Mendy’s vocabulary. I suppose it shouldn’t be in mine either.

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