From August 21-23, 2015, Ms. Victoria Augustine, Fulbright Program Officer from the East Asia and Pacific branch at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) visited Amarbayasgalant Monastery, the site of a $500,000 grant from the U.S. government’s Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP). Amarbayasgalant Monastery is a critical part of Mongolia’s cultural and historical heritage. Almost 250 years old, Amarbayasgalant is one of the few remaining historical wooden architectural structures in the country. At the Monastery, Ms. Augustine met with the head llama Mr. Erdenechuluun to discuss grant progress, and exchange ideas on different ways to collaborate with the U.S. government and support educational opportunities for the religious community.
The Monastery is not only a historically and architecturally unique site, but it also is a religious school that provides both secular general education and Buddhist training to over 30 students annually. The students come from diverse backgrounds and represent various Mongolian provinces. During her visit, Ms. Augustine met with 25 resident llama students to hear about their education at the Monastery. She distributed information to the llamas on scholarship opportunities funded by the U.S. government and she provided the boys with English language learning materials and books on America for the Monastery’s student library.
In addition to checking in on the Monastery’s AFCP project, Ms. Augustine’s visit coincided that of four Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs). The Fulbright ETAs spent the weekend near Amarbayasgalant to learn about Mongolian culture and traditions, and to practice their recently-acquired language skills. The ETAs visited the Monastery and did an overnight homestay with local nomadic families. While enjoying the natural beauty of the Selenge province, ETAs had fun learning to assemble a Mongolian ger, went horseback riding, and assisted with daily chores associated with nomadic life.
Everyone enjoyed visiting Amarbayasgalant Monastery, and returned to Ulaanbaatar with a greater appreciation for the hospitality and friendliness found across Mongolia.
The AFCP was established in 2001, and since then has supported more than 500 projects to preserve cultural heritage in more than 100 countries. Together, the Fund has contributed more than $16 million towards global cultural preservation. Since 2002, the Fund has contributed $175,000 to fund cultural preservation in Mongolia. Three projects have targeted archaeological sites, two have helped preserve monasteries, and one helped support a collection of folk, artistic, and traditional literary and local dialectical treasures of Mongolia’s pastoral nomads.