Profile: Brian DaRin
YOU MUST UNDERSTAND A COUNTRY'S PEOPLE AND THEIR CULTURE, BEFORE YOU CAN UNDERSTAND HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. "It's what you make of it, definitely, whether you're in a mosquito-infested swamp in Papua New Guinea or out in the middle of the flat, endless steppe in Mongolia." Peace Corps Volunteers have a lot of freedom to decide the best way to help their community. Freedom to develop programs that meet the needs of the community as well as fit the strengths and skills of the Volunteer. It's one of many ways the Peace Corps experience is what the Volunteer makes it. And it's one of the things environmental Volunteer Brian DaRin has found most rewarding.
Brian DaRin has worked throughout Mongolia during his time in the Peace Corps, and he's currently living in the capital, Ulan Bator. There, he works with a newly formed environmental, non-governmental organization (NGO), organizing, setting goals, establishing a direction for the organization, and spreading word of the organization to Mongolians, foreign aid organizations, and foreign scientists. As is often the case, Brian's NGO is in an excellent position to initiate changes.
"I've gained a lot of confidence in Mongolia. I feel that I've gained the ability to develop ideas and the confidence to go ahead and act on them. I get a lot of freedom and trust within the NGO to develop ideas with my counterpart and implement them."
Much of his confidence comes from the fact that he's worked extremely hard to understand the Mongolian culture. "My greatest professional challenge has been cross-cultural understanding. And that's not just about not understanding Mongolian dancing. It's not even simply about good language skills. It's about understanding the way they speak. And it's helpful if they understand you and the culture you come from."
That mutual understanding has been a lifesaver for Brian, who early in his service was the only westerner within 300 kilometers. "You're having a bad day, and you're wondering, 'Who can I go to? Who can I talk to?' But you're not alone, there are Mongolian friends there, and if you know them well enough, you can open up to them. And that's been my savior."
Through it all, Brian's discovered that, despite the many challenges and frustrations, he's made a difference. "I first came and thought, 'Yea, I'm going to change the place.' And I came to the realization, I can't change this whole country. But I've touched a lot of lives and just as importantly, those lives have touched me."
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