Mongolia: Dariimaa Jamba, community worker


        
    
With Dariimaa Jamba in her yurt quarter. Photos: Ulzii Lkhagvakhorol

        
    
Flat houses with colourful roofs and round, white yurts characterise the townscape of Shand, a district of Erdenet, Mongolia‘s second biggest city.
Flat houses with colourful roofs and round, white yurts characterise the townscape of Shand, a district of Erdenet, Mongolia‘s second biggest city.

        
    
For Dariimaa Jamba, a nice house and a car are a luxury. But more gratifying to her is a smiling face and inner peace. Her daughter‘s yurt can be seen in the background.
For Dariimaa Jamba, a nice house and a car are a luxury. But more gratifying to her is a smiling face and inner peace. Her daughter‘s yurt can be seen in the background.

        
    
Dariimaa Jamba prepares the typical Mongolian milk tea. When the former teacher retired, she was not content with the role of housewife.
Dariimaa Jamba prepares the typical Mongolian milk tea. When the former teacher retired, she was not content with the role of housewife.

        
    
In Mongolia, family bonds are usually very tight. Dariimaa Jamba is chatting with one of her four daughters.
In Mongolia, family bonds are usually very tight. Dariimaa Jamba is chatting with one of her four daughters.

        
    
Dariimaa Jamba in her street. There were no streetlights here in 2011. Her self-help group is working to expand and maintain the street lighting.
Dariimaa Jamba in her street. There were no streetlights here in 2011. Her self-help group is working to expand and maintain the street lighting.

        
    
A 85-year-old kiosk owner on the edge of town. Neighbours buy odds and ends here and helped her pep up her shop.
A 85-year-old kiosk owner on the edge of town. Neighbours buy odds and ends here and helped her pep up her shop.

        
    
In Mongolia, lively neighbourly interaction is rather uncommon, but the establishment of communities has created bonds of friendship.
In Mongolia, lively neighbourly interaction is rather uncommon, but the establishment of communities has created bonds of friendship.

        
    
One of the first community projects in the quarter - the planting of gardens with local vegetable varieties. Harvesting them is also community work.
One of the first community projects in the quarter - the planting of gardens with local vegetable varieties. Harvesting them is also community work.

        
    
Offers for older people are particularly close to Dariimaa Jamba‘s heart. Pensioners have free entry to the fitness studio set up by her action group.
Offers for older people are particularly close to Dariimaa Jamba‘s heart. Pensioners have free entry to the fitness studio set up by her action group.

        
    
A computer and media room was also established. Dariimaa shows other older women how to use a computer.
A computer and media room was also established. Dariimaa shows other older women how to use a computer.

        
    
Development worker Anna Kleinschroth (on the right) advises the self-help groups.
Development worker Anna Kleinschroth (on the right) advises the self-help groups.

While family bonds are traditionally very close in Mongolia, good neighbourly relations are rather an exception in the land of nomads. Nevertheless, sixty-year-old Dariimaa Jamba has succeeded in mobilising her community and joining together in tackling the problems in the socially weak yurt quarter. A GIZ development worker offers advice to 25 self-help projects of the community on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

What was the biggest change in your life so far?

My retirement was a turning point. After 31 years working as a chemistry and biology teacher I found life without a job unfulfilling. I am a mother of five children. My daughters and my son are grown up now. I told myself: life is not over at 60. So I became involved in social activities.

What led to your new task?

I had never heard of community development before such work started in my area. We assembled some people and held meetings. To us it was important to improve our living conditions first, so we began by building toilets and gardening our yards. It was a first step. We finished quickly because many households worked together, not everyone on their own. So we decided to form a community and continue what we started.

You are the speaker of the community. What is your vision?

There are many poor people around here and a lot of problems to solve: the waste on the ground, the lack of street lighting, and the living conditions of the elderly, to name a few. Many residents are isolated. I try to activate them, involve them in the community work and connect them with each other. I hope that they become able to improve their lives with their own power and skills.

What is the biggest challenge for achieving this goal?

When people work together to change things, funding is the most difficult part – for an office where we can work, training that raises understanding, and diverse material you need to provide financing. Another challenge is to obtain everybody’s support. Some don’t trust you or simply don’t want your help.

You don’t get paid for your work. What motivates you?

I like to do something good for the people and I have got many ideas. When someone smiles, I am inspired. That gives me strength. It is my salary to be a happy person and my work gives me a lot of energy – every day.