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Nov 26

Adventure continues...

Posted on November 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Khongorzul Amarsanaa

Dear AACOG Staff:

It seems like just yesterday when I started my fellowship at AACOG, but I have already been here 3½ months. My first weeks in Texas was very hot and humid, it felt like being roasted in the oven. And when I started working here on the 19th of August, Tiffany took me around and introduced me to each of you.

It was great pleasure for me to work at AACOG, definitely I have learned, felt, explored and discovered many things. I really do appreciate AACOG’s contribution to both my professional and my personal development.  It will not only stay with me, I will share my experiences with my fellow Mongolians, and my family and friends.

Here are just a few highlights from my work here at AACOG:

It was really great knowing Dr. Spinks, and Gloria Vasquez; and the aging program staff. I learned a lot from this program about caring for senior citizens.  It reminded me how much we need these kinds of services in Mongolia.  I received a lot of new knowledge and information about services for senior citizens, and about falls prevention. 

Maria Wilson took me to many of the different counties, and community centers in the region.  We had many insightful discussions in the car during these trips.  It was wonderful visiting the Kerrville Historical Genealogical Center, the Kerrville Library, and the community center, which was run by locals. 

For the ART program, I had the opportunity to carpool with Beverly Lutz, participate in the AACOG Road Show in Floresville and McMullen County, and learn about AACOG’s services to the local communities.

With Tiffany Harris, I went to many places throughout the region, and got a real taste of Texas.  We went to Celebrate Bandera, the Rodeo at the Comal County Fair, Wurstfest, and even watched a Bon Jovi concert. Nearly every day we explored new restaurants and tried many different foods. Food is an inseparable part of the culture. Texas indeed has many varieties of great food. Through food and conversation and laughter we learned a lot from each other.  We attended the Human Trafficking Task Force meeting in Austin. Indeed she was a very thoughtful, caring, and kind supervisor.

Tim Treviño recently took me to Austin for a meeting with TAASA (Texas Association Against Sexual Assault) staff, and Senator Leticia Van De Putte’s office. During this trip we had a very insightful discussion about the history of human trafficking, and how the state has been combating it and what the prevention are, etc. 

Both Tim and Tiffany were very supportive and contributed to my personal and professional development.

To read more about my journey at AACOG, you can view my blog at  Thank you all for the experience! 


Nov 13

Busy Weeks

Posted on November 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Khongorzul Amarsanaa

The past few weeks have kept me quite busy on both my professional and my personal journey. I had a chance to meet with people from various levels of government agencies, from a local district attorney and staff, to a State Senator's office. Besides the official meetings with government officials, I also had a chance to introduce Mongolia to rural high school students. This four-month fellowship have been very exploratory, insightful in every way, indeed it is opening another door in my heart. In order to learn about new cultures/people's livelihood we should leave our cultural background and worldview behind, and only then will we be able to widen our horizon.  

Natalia ISDNatalia is a small country town, located in the southwest of the Alamo Region in Texas. Natalia Independent School District has four schools and its High School serves 300 students from ninth through twelfth grades. With my community mentor, Tim Treviño, Senior Director of Strategic Planning & Agency Communications at AACOG, we gave a talk about Mongolia and Malawi to five World Geography classes. Tim Treviño visited Malawi in June 2013 to provide support to former IREX fellow, Ishmael Kumwenda, for his follow on project. Tim shared his experiences from Malawi, such as how people live, what is poverty, how people work to improve their livelihood, etc. My talk mainly focused on the cultural, social, and historical background of Mongolia. Through our talk, we aimed at providing new information to the students about different countries, and to expose them to diverse cultures. There were quite a few students who were really interested in what we were talking about, especially when Tim talked about his experiences on safari, and showed them pictures.

floresvilleAACOG holds road shows for communities in the rural counties. I participated in two road shows, in Tilden in McMullen County (the newest county to join AACOG), and in Floresville in Wilson County.  The road shows provide information about services AACOG provides.  I noticed that through the road shows residents are given the opportunity to receive information based on their needs.  For example, individuals can be assisted in finding employment, or learn about regional transportation available to all in their community. These road shows include participation from other organizations such as local health clinics or veteran care services.

Human Trafficking Legislation: I had a meeting with a district attorney's state, a state non-profit that educates law enforcement officials, and State Senator Leticia Van De Putte'szola at the capitol policy analyst Servando Esparza. Each of them shared their experiences and insights of trafficking issues in Texas, and the history of legislation in place today. At the local level, we visited a District Attorney's office in Wilson County, and spoke with his staff about human trafficking legislation.  

Since Texas is a major destination for human trafficking victims, the state has passed comprehensive anti-human trafficking legislation. All four professionals, from different levels of combating human trafficking (local to state), they all expressed the same intention that victim protection is their main concern, and trafficking in persons is a felony. The state legislated victim protection, prevention, and all law enforcement personnel have to recieve training on combating human trafficking. Trauma Informed Care is a major part of this legislation, where all service providers have to receive training on human trafficking, how to work with victims, etc. [Picture right: He is a policy analyst Servando Esparza at the Senator Leticia Van De Putte's office]

wurstfestOctober and November are celebratory months for Germans. In the Alamo Area, there are a few towns that  began as German settlements. My supervisor, Tiffany Harris, took me to Wurstfest, which is celebrated for two weeks in New Braunfels every November.  This celebration of family and friends and everything German, features German Food, German Music, and beer.  There were plenty of people dressed in traditional German clothes, and everyone seemed quite joyous. 

vet dayVeterans Day is celebrated throughout the United States, to honor the veterans who courageously fought for their country.  In the past 3.5 months I have been learning that Americans really do care about their veterans, and provide comprehensive services, including nursing homes and mental health services.  AACOG offers a variety of services for veterans, and also hosts monthly meetings of the San Antonio Coalition for Veterans and Families

dallasDuring this Veterans' Day long weekend, I traveled to Dallas, to experience another part of Texas. It was a wonderful place, rich with history, culture, and art. I spent three hours (very rushed) at the Dallas Art Museum, which provides workshops to the public every weekend.  It has art pieces from all over the world, including Europe, Asia, and South America.

Every day is a new discovery, with new things to learn, and new insights to find. Never stop learning, discovering, and exploring, Life only stops when you do. Don't limit yourself!

Oct 18

It's My Life

Posted on October 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Khongorzul Amarsanaa

It's my life bonjovi
It's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive
(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just wanna live while I'm alive
It's my life...

Are you familiar with this lyrics? Yes you are right it is a lyric of the song, "It's My Life", sang by Jon Bon Jovi.

Jon Bon Jovi and his band are on their “Because We Can” tour, and they performed at the AT&T Center, The atmosphere at the stadium of 20000 people during the concert was authentic, vibrant, exciting and zestful. Indeed it was one of those exciting evenings.

I just wanna live while I’m alive

It’s my life....(do you hear him singing? :-)

aacog cspThe Community Solutions Program (CSP) is a professional development program for the best and brightest global community leaders working in Transparency and Accountability, Tolerance and Conflict Resolution, Environmental Issues, and Women and Gender Issues. CSP is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, and implemented by IREX, an international non governmental organization.
This week, Michelle Weisse Trueheart from Community Solutions Program came to San Antonio, and visited AACOG to present about the Community Solutions Program that that brings the best and brightest community leaders from 62 countries around the world to the U.S. for a four-month training and fellowship with a like-minded U.S. based organization. The program accommodates global leaders from developing countries (Asia, Pacific, Eastern and Central Europe, Africa, and central America) where they all have chance of working at US host organizations based on their expertise, and interest in thematic areas. This program gives a chance to both the leader and the host organization to grow together, and to learn from each other. The host organization provides mentorship allowing leaders like me to expand their knowledge and experience.

foodbankThe San Antonio Food Bank provides food and groceries to more than 500 partner organizations in 16 counties. Initially I thought the Food Bank just provides food to those in need. However, I was wrong, they also do advocacy and provide education. Food is a fundamental human right, one has to have clean drinking water and good nutritious food. I don’t know how many of us think about nutritious food when we provide food to the people. I noticed that the Food Bank definitely is the organization who pays attention to nutrition, it even has a Nutrition Department. As I contemplate on Food Bank's strategy, it employs a human rights-based approach, using food to work on other human rights issues of those people in need. For example, they have an education department, so people could attend culinary courses, upon their completion they will have employment opportunities. So here, they are dealing with the right to food, the right to education, and the right to labor, which promotes sustainability. Through providing education and employment, the Food Bank gives opportunity to the people to have quality of life with social and mental health. Another example is that through food they also provide referral services.  If a client is struggling with housing, they would refer them to an appropriate organization.  In addition, I was stunned at how the Food Bank works with other organizations and truly cares about the community, providing Food Security and advocating on effective policy.  For example, if a natural disaster occurs and children can't go to schools and can't get food, they tackle this issue by providing an online food voucher.  School food programs also promotes bonding between seniors and children (seniors helps kids to eat food during their breaks, etc)

Food Bank indeed is a great organization bringing the community together to make a change in the community. They work with more than 150 volunteers and just last year provided more than 48 million pounds of food.

I have been at AACOG 8 weeks now. My journey indeed has been very fruitful and adventerous. Every day and every week is a new learning chance.

This blog post was written October 18, 2013 by Khongorzul Amarsanaa (Zola).