When I met Maagaa she was working as a cleaner. Quiet and reserved she did an excellent and very thorough job but hesitated to engage in conversation - even though her English was quite good. Gradually as I got to know her I found out about her passionate desire ( unabated!) to become a professional and I came to respect her unswerving honesty and attention to detail. When it became obvious that the Children of the Peak Sanctuary Project was going to need a bookkeeper I went to Maagaa. I knew she had previously kept the books for a restaurant where she worked and I also knew that the single most important thing to ensure the success of the Project was me being able to have 100% confidence that the money was being properly managed. I needed someone I knew - someone I could trust. And it was obvious to me that that person was Maagaa - I just had to convince her of it!
In fact, convincing her was easy. She was thrilled to be able to have an opportunity to finally find a way back into the field she had for so long wanted to join but hadn't been able to. About 4 months into her job she came to me and told me that she needed more training. She needed more experience. She told me that if she was to do her job properly, she had to get certified.....oh, and she had already registered for school.
So began the journey of our very first participant in the Staff Development programme at the Peak. Maagaa insisted on paying for her own school even though we offered to pay. She looked at me very seriously and told me that it was inappropriate to pay for staff development unless the staff member had already proven that they were going to be capable of their new role. She was very clear about the fact that I didn't know if she was going to pass and therefore it wasn't right for me to help her - it was up to her and her alone. She worked full time ( very full time!) putting together monthly reports for the Mongolian Government, for us, for our accountants in Canada and other intereted parties. She oversaw the spending at the Kindergarten - not always a smooth and easy task given the many different demands from many different parties. As her husband says, if she has a dollar in her hand you have to take it three times before you end up with any money,! I could see from the reports and from being at the kindergarten that Maagaa was ensuring that we got the very best value for every dollar we were spending and that made it possible for me to continue with our expansion and development without worry. She did her job so seamlessly that I almost forgot she was also going to school full time!
It's been a very challenging 2 years for Maagaa and her family. She has worked full time AND done a 4 year programme in 2 years. Yesterday was her graduation. I was touched and honoured to be welcomed to the graduation as part of the family. Maagaa graduated with honours...94%. She was smiling and laughing and radiant. It was beautiful to see her dream come true and even more beautiful to see how confident, outing and secure she has become as she has travelled this journey. It was beautiful to see her mother awash in tears of pride and her husband and daughter looking at her with joy and admiration. It is inspirational to me to see how she ( and her family!) have managed these two years. Many days she was at work at 7:00 int he morning and not back from school until 11:00 at night and THEN had to do her homework. Her complete dedication was the thing that pulled her through and I am very proud not only of her but to know her and to have her as part of the team up at the Children of the Peak Sanctuary.
When I told her yesterday that I was reimbursing her for her tuition for the 2 years of school as part of our Professional Development Programme ( FYI those monies come from our own personal donations, not from yours!) she was stunned and shocked. Then she smiled a huge smile and said, "I'll give it to other people - I'll help others with it! You have helped me and this is a way I can pass that along". Tears...yes indeed, there were tears. That's just too beautiful, and just the kind of person she is.
Congratulations Maagaa ! Excellent job well done!