ELKO — Mongolians looked in Elko this week for ideas for social programs.
“They are trying to see how America does different family services,” said professional translator Ellen Batjargal. “... They want to adapt what works in Mongolia, rather than adapt from one country.”
The new social welfare agency in Mongolia sent representatives to Ruby Mountain Resource Center and Meals on Wheels on Wednesday. The trip took place in collaboration with the University of Nevada School of Medicine.
Julie Caldwell, who worked for the Mongolian Youth Federation and is a private community development consultant, contacted the university. Caldwell knew one of the women in the group as a former colleague.
“Nevada is really similar to Mongolia,” she told the Free Press. “... Half of their population lives in their capital. The rest are nomads.”
Furthermore, the climate is similar, she said.
The General Authority of Social Welfare Service Government Implementing Agency was recently formed in Mongolia, having once been part of the labor agency, Batjargal said. In Elko, the department representatives learned about how Americans work with the elderly and the disabled.
“It’s kind of neat to see them building a foundation,” said Keith Clark, director of rural outreach for the University of Nevada School of Medicine.
The visitors asked Ruby Mountain Resource Center Director Naomi Leahy about her organization. Leahy shared information about how the workers are paid.
“Our task is to train them with employment skills so they may go out and get a job if they want to,” Leahy said.
Several employees spoke to the visitors with assistance from the translator, and Leahy also shared a few success stories.
“It is my favorite organization in Elko for demonstrating integrated services,” Caldwell said.
Agency representatives were able to ask questions about the welfare system. For example, one woman asked why a certain man and woman with disabilities would lose their government benefits if they were married. Other questions included what kind of government money the program receives.
Abigail Wheeler, Elko County transit coordinator for Get My Ride, also spoke to the group.
“A lot of these people would not have transportation if there was not a public transportation system,” Wheeler said.
After the presentations, the Mongolian visitors toured the Ruby Mountain Resource Center thrift store and boutique. Some women even purchased a few items. The employees greeted the visitors enthusiastically.
“They come from various family backgrounds,” Wheeler said. “... They have a family with each other and the staff and they look forward to coming here.”
Departments of the Mongolian agency that were represented included development, population, evaluation and internal audit, social welfare and IT.
“They’re now developing for the first time all these services,” Caldwell said.
The women arrived on Monday and will be leaving Nevada on Saturday. Their tour of Nevada includes trips to Reno, Carson City, Fallon and Las Vegas. Clark said they will also be shown the School of Medicine’s telemedicine program.
Caldwell said this visit is part of an exchange program. Next year, Elko residents will be able to sign up for a two-week trip to Mongolia through the Great Basin College Continuing Education department. It is funded by a grant from World Bank, Caldwell said.