Updated: 3 days ago
by K. Douglas Erdmann, President & CEO, REI
In April we let you know about two new countries REI is opening … Uzbekistan and Mongolia. Joyce and I recently returned from visiting those countries, so I want to give you our “boots on the ground” impressions.
Twenty plus years ago REI was quite involved in Uzbekistan. A change in government forced all NGOs to leave, including REI. Another recent change in government has allowed us to return. Many Uzbeks remember REI and are excited to see us back.
One such person is Yusuf Abdullaev, head of the new Samarkand International University of Technology. Yusuf has put REI staff man, Ron Wiley, in charge of recruiting all the faculty for the university. Because faculty members have a significant influence on students, this is a great opportunity for REI to impact all the students who attend this university for years to come.
Another is Alisher Khazratov, head of the Commercialization of Scientific and Innovative Developments department at Karshi Engineering-Economics Institute. Trained in English at a school started by REI years ago, he contacted REI asking if we could help with English education at his university. We visited his university and were treated to a meeting with the dean and the heads of each department. Right now we have another senior staff couple visiting Uzbekistan, including this university, to determine if they should move there to teach English.
From Uzbekistan we flew to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. After a “stimulating” 4-hour, high speed taxi ride over pavement, gravel, and open field, we arrived in Darkhan. There we spent time with the Pattons, who are teaching English to faculty at a medical university. The Pattons are well-loved at this university and are eager to recruit other staff to join them as well as short-term medical teams.
One couple they are trying to recruit is Jeremy and Roxy Thiessen. The Thiessens have been in Mongolia thirty years and have introduced feed-lot beef ranching to Mongolia. Not only does this type of ranching produce higher quality beef than presently available in Mongolia, but also is an answer to the serious desertification problem Mongolia is facing. Farm animals (cattle, sheep, goats, yaks, horses and camels) outnumber people 50 to 1. They roam freely, and as a result, much of the land is overgrazed and beginning to turn into sand. Click here to see a good article about Jeremy’s work. Joyce and I met with him twice, and we hope that he and Roxy will say “yes” to joining REI.
What was striking to Joyce and me about both these countries is how open they are to foreigners who genuinely want to help improve their nations. In other countries we’ve seen how a sincere desire to help on the part of our staff opens the hearts of those they relate to. This is the way REI holistic vision is fulfilled: “People of emerging nations filled with hope as their countries are developed and their lives transformed.”