In the summer of 2000, I spent 5 weeks in Buryatia, Russia, a republic located in south central Siberia, working as an intern with REAP (Rural Enterprise Adaptation Program) International, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization. REAP is an Iowa based grass-roots organization which seeks to assist rural communities to achieve sustainable development by serving as a resource for these communities. To this end, REAP enlists American volunteers to work with their Buryat counterparts, local people acting as agents for change by improving their schools, finding a way to fund youth activities, and fighting environmental degradation. I witnessed the problems Buryats and Americans experienced in attaining the program’s goals, and have concluded that many of these difficulties stem from cultural differences between Buryats and Americans. From the American perspective, the more rigid hierarchical structure of Buryat society, Buryat perceptions of youth leaders!
Hip, and the different manners in which Buryats and Americans approach work were particularly prominent. These differences caused some interesting and often frustrating interactions between my adopted NGO and various Russian entities, making it difficult to attain our similar goals.
Amy Audetat, ’01 Lancaster, WI
Major: International Relations, Russian
Sponsor: Robert Givens