Alumna of the Month: Ms. Oyuntugs Bayaraa

Ms. Oyuntugs (Oyut) Bayaraa, a 2016-2017 Fulbright Foreign Student and Founder of the Firefly House NGO

On her path to become a knowledgeable rehabilitation counselor, Oyut had to understand that rehabilitation should not make the disease or disability the focus, but instead rehabilitation needed to be person-centered. “I used to believe that I could only work with people with vision impairment basing on my own experiences, however through Fulbright I gained knowledge and tools for disability advocacy,” shared Oyut. Her Fulbright experience helped shape Oyut into a well-rounded rehabilitation counselor by providing her with a comprehensive understanding of disabilities and chronic diseases, as well as modern rehabilitation frameworks.

Similarly, Oyut’s story does not focus on her own vision impairment. Well before she gradually started to lose her eyesight due to the side effects of a glaucoma medication, Oyut had advanced in her career. After graduating in 2002 from the University of Science and Technology of Mongolia, majoring in Japanese and English Translation, she worked at a variety of organizations, including Women for Social Progress NGO, XacBank, Save the Children, and the Mongolian National Federation of the Blind (MNFB). During her time at MNFB, Oyut received words of encouragement to apply for the Fulbright Program by two Fulbright alumni, the President of MNFB, Ms. Gerel Dondovdorj, and an executive board member for the Council on Diversity and Inclusion at the U.S. Embassy in Japan, Ms. Uyange Erdenebold.

Soon after, Oyut successfully applied to be a Fulbright Foreign Student and traveled to the U.S. to pursue a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. In addition to her training program, she earned multiple rehabilitation-related certifications, including “Level 1 and Facilitator of 16 Guidelines to Happiness,” and participated a two-week comprehensive on-site training for Clubhouse, a community mental health service model that helps people with a history of serious mental illness rejoin society and maintain their place in it. Oyut also conducted an internship in 2017-2018 at the University of Arkansas’ Center for Educational Access, where she provided services to students with disabilities and administered accessibility assessments.

After completing her program, Oyut returned back to Mongolia and founded Firefly House, a non-government organization that offers rehabilitation counseling services for persons with disabilities. She has also spoken at various events and conferences raising awareness of and advocating for persons with disabilities. In 2020, while speaking on employing persons with disabilities and determining job accommodations at the Oyu Tolgoi LLC, Oyut was approached by the Epiroc Mongolia LLC for consultations to hire persons with disabilities when filling six vacancies. Oyut is eager to continue to expand her reach and efforts to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities throughout Mongolia.