Volunteer to Work in a Mongolian TV Channel
Health and Safety
Submitted by Dylan smart - Newcastle Australia Uca | September 21, 2016
Firstly I’d like to state that I’ve traveled quite extensively throughout Asia and consider myself to be well accustomed to many of the living conditions, cultural differences etc.. so I figured i’d be perfectly fine In Mongolia. I’ve never written a complaint letter to underline my disappointment and dissatisfaction to a company before, but in this case I felt I had no choice.
On the website I signed up on it is stated that:
At the TV station you will get involved in the following types of activities:
Preparing various general entertainment and youth programmes
Coming up with new ideas for programmes, with full creative license offered to ‘Westernize’ current programme style and content
Assisting in the editing & recording of TV programmes
Proofreading of scripts and documents
Teaching English language and culture to the local staff
I did none of this.
“You will have the option of either staying in a fully furnished apartment, or staying in a Mongolian family homestay. You will get your own private room, with shared bathroom. Our coordinator will make sure you are comfortable and happy. Be sure to state your preferences with us when applying. All food is included in the homestay option, you will need to cook for yourself if you opt to stay in the apartment.”
I wasn't with a family as requested, despite explaining that I couldn't afford to pay for my own meals when I arrived, I also did not get my own private room, I was sharing with 2 other people. No effort was made to change this. I was definitely not happy with the situation.
“This is a very hands-on position in which you will work directly with the Director and the production team. “
I went out with an interview team once in my whole month for a couple of hours, none of this would have been beneficial to the team as I wasn't given the opportunity to assist in the filming or anything despite explaining my past experience and roles as a camera operator/ cinematographer.
In terms of food, I had to ask my parents to wire me money from England as I didn't have enough. A further £200 was spent when really this was meant to be covered by the organisation as I was meant to be with a family.
When I first arrived in Mongolia, I was not shown the post office, bank or supermarket despite this being clearly stated in the manual I received via Email. This was very frustrating especially after travelling for almost 20 hours - despite asking my "guide" he had no intent to show me them after telling me he had to leave early. As soon as I got out from the airport I was asked how much money I had with me I told him I had $150 to which he responded “ Not enough, must get more” I told him I’d prefer to get it changed after I’d got settled in which he didn’t seem happy about after asking multiple times whilst I tried to politely tell him I could sort it out the next day, after much pushing I eventually gave in and got taken to a cash point and withdrew another $100 just be polite more than anything. He took me to a phone shop to get a SIM card for my phone which didn’t work in my phone so he said I could buy his for 20 dollars he said he would set it up for me later on that night, after this I was taken down some back alley with my two heavy suitcases which he didn’t even help with, he told me I must get money changed to Mongolian and I was taken to some woman on the street which to me looked very seedy ( I was later told by a Mongolian to avoid these as they rip you off massively ) I refused and asked for him to take me to a bank or a proper money exchange he got quite angry at this but at the end of the day why should I? It’s common sense, why would I change $250 to someone on the street when theres a bank around the corner? Despite being polite about the whole situation I eventually lost my nerve and told him straight up I’d go to the bank tomorrow and sort it out myself as I just wanted to get to my accommodation and get some sleep.
One of the reasons I had signed up to this particular company was because I was told that I would be with a host family to gain a true cultural experience of Mongolia as well as having my meals paid for so I wouldn’t have to worry about that aspect; being a student I don’t have much money and the vast majority of it was spent with this in mind- I couldn’t afford it otherwise. He dropped me off at the flat and told me to be ready for 7pm and that he would take me to get some food. I waited for 3 hours, he didn't give me a key so I could not leave the apartment, when he did eventually show up he simply gave me the key and left. I also at this point found out that I wasn’t actually with a family and was sharing with an American in what can only be best described as a hostel with a kitchen. I looked past this as I was just happy to have somewhere to sleep.
It took 3 days before hearing anything from anyone despite trying to get in touch numerous times but eventually I was contacted and told to be ready for 9am the next day to get my orientation to the tv station. My guide showed up around 12:30 without apology and took me to the “TV station” when we got there he told me it was closed today and that I should come back tomorrow at 9:00 he told me that he had to leave immediately, I was left to find my own way back in a city I was unfamiliar with without an explanation. The next day I head to the station only to find that it was the Newspaper not the TV station, only one person spoke English and she had to try and explain in her broken english that I was not meant to be there- Again, I couldn’t contact any of my guides as they still hadn’t sorted out my Sim card.
The next day I was not made aware of where I was meant to be so I decided to try and get in touch with the other volunteers and sort it out myself, luckily my flatmate knew them but I was never introduced by the organisation. They had been having most of the problems I had, lack of communication, unresponsive guides and disorganization. They had signed up for the TV station as well but were in an office making their own videos as they had been given no work by the TV station (Apparently this was due to the elections that were occurring at the time) Still, I don't know why I wasn't made aware that there wouldn't be any work for me before I paid. As the week went by I became very frustrated. I have never in my life experienced so much disorganization. Still no phone, no TV station and no idea what I’d actually be doing. After a promise from Bayaarjargal that we would be at the station the next week this still wasn’t the case. I also made a point to tell him about my food situation and how I was struggling with the money I had to pay for food but his english isn’t as good as presumed and I don't think he understood my predicament ( I had 2 days left until they bought me some food…probably so that if i complained they could say they did buy me food) After countless complaints made and phone calls to Jeremy, They finally gave us a tape camera (Yes, a tape camera) and told us to do a video about climate change that was it… I had to use my own sound equipment and tripod, lucky I brought them. Throughout the next 3 weeks we decided to make our own videos separate from the organisation as they had taken 3 weeks to get us a cable so we couldn’t digitise the footage and edit it. So for 3 weeks we weren’t really doing anything apart from our separate projects outside. We brought it up on several occasions but it didn’t get resolved until the last few days by which time not all of us were still there, we decided to just drop it and work on our own projects.
So After 3 weeks we finally got the opportunity to go to the station, I think I ended up transcribing one 3 minute video into subtitles for the whole week, the rest of the time I was sitting around asking if there was any work I could do - the translator however spoke very little english so was unable to assist or give us much work. We went out with the news crew one day which was actually the only positive thing about this whole experience, not that we actually did much apart from watch but It was interesting nonetheless.
I would definitely argue anyone who would consider this an internship, It has been been sold as such and should be revoked immediately. I have wasted a lot of money and time to do something I could have done elsewhere with a much more rewarding experience- Hell, I could have stayed at home and done it. I don’t really have much positive to say and thats really upsetting because I tried so hard to look past all of the problems and think in a positive light, but at the end of the day I really just paid to stay in a flat of which I could have gotten a nice hotel for the same price- our host however Sete was very friendly and tried to help us with problems if we had any, although a lot of the times it would take a while for these to get resolved, he also didn't have a phone so we couldn't get in touch with him.
IF THERE WAS NO WORK AT THE STATION WHY WASN'T THIS STATED BEFORE I PAID MONEY, THIS IS WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR!
Jeremy from global nomadic ( who i booked through) has tried to be as helpful as he can and I'm not blaming this on him as my problem lies mainly with the organisation. I understand there is not much he can do from England, however I doubt Jeremy has actually been to Mongolia and met with any of the representatives of this company as there seems to be a complete lack of organisation and care for volunteers on their behalf so much sometimes that I actually worried for my well being being in a completely unfamiliar country on the other side of the world.
After weeks of trying to get in touch with organization through various different means they have refused to respond to any of my emails and pleads to refund any of my money. Disgusting they should be ashamed!
AVOID THIS PLEASE!