Khishigt “Kelly” Manlaibayar ’17 turned the adage “think globally; act locally” on its head to feed hungry children in her native Mongolia and received recognition from that country’s president for her efforts.
Manlaibayar, who is a University of the Pacific Humanities Scholar and had been studying three majors, said the project helped set a focus for her future.
“I’ve found my life’s purpose through this,” she said. “If I can do this when I’m 22, I wonder what I can do when I’m 42.”
Manlaibayar witnessed child hunger during a visit to her home country’s capital city of Ulan Bator where children as young as 4 migrate to the city during the summer to sell trinkets and beg for money on the street in order to feed themselves. She decided to apply a solution she learned volunteering with her Alpha Phi sorority sisters at Stockton’s St. Mary’s Dining Room and proposed setting up pop-up food stands in Ulan Bator’s neighborhoods to provide sandwiches and tea with milk.
As it happened, Mongolia wanted to set up public-private partnerships to tackle problems in the country and was looking for ideas from its young people. Manlaibayar wrote grant proposals to several Mongolian companies asking for donations. A dozen pop-up stands were built the following summer, operated for three months and ended when the children returned to their homes in the countryside.
The Mongolian government does not have a history of running public welfare projects, so there were lessons to learn from this one, Manlaibayar said. For example, there needed to be a better understanding of the population the project served and how to reach them.
“The children didn’t know what was going on because they don’t have access to news. So, they didn’t realize that these stands were for them,” Manlaibayar said.
Nonetheless, the government was impressed with the project and recognized Manlaibayar for her entrepreneurial and humanitarian spirit earlier this summer.
She said attending Pacific helped her acquire skills for leadership and made her realize it’s important to act on her passion.
“It’s important not to wait. You’ve got to do something,” she said. “Essentially, my generation is coming into the time when we’re supposed to take care of our world. We can’t wait for our parents to solve everything. Everyone can do something. It’s time for my generation to become mobile and to activate.”