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Meet D.Sodnomsamdan, the energetic leader of the popular Hiking and Photography Club at the UNFPA/SDC supported Youth Development Center (YDC) in Bayankhongor aimag, Western Mongolia.


Through the Youth Development Programme, the UNFPA, the Government of Mongolia, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Government of Luxembourg, and Oyu Tolgoi LLC have established 16 Youth Development Centres (YDCs) throughout the country to provide young people with opportunities for training and coaching on life-skills; peer counseling; information on and services in sexual and reproductive health; and support in education, communications and psychology; all while in a fun, safe and nurturing environment. These YDCs have since reached hundreds of youth between the ages 15-35, from different circumstances and with different challenges, often in under-served communities, and have helped set them on the path to positive personal development, empowerment and advocacy. The "Young Voices" series documents their experiences and shares their stories.

Meet D.Sodnomsamdan, the energetic leader of popular Hiking and Photography Club at the UNFPA/SDC supported Youth Development Center (YDC) in Bayankhongor aimag, Western Mongolia.

D.Sodnomsamdan graduated from University in 2014 with a degree in Specialized Tourism, and traveled to India where he discovered a passion for hiking and nature. Upon his return to Bayankhongor, D.Sodnomsamdan heard about the newly-established Youth Development Center and spoke with the YDC staff and members about creating an interest club for young people to explore their province through hiking. D.Sodnomsamdan also incorporated his expertise in tourism to share information about history and nature within the aimag and organize tour groups.

D.Sodnomsamdan found that many young people were motivated to join the interest club, and so the YDC began to hold weekly hiking excursions. Photography soon became an added element to the hiking trips, with young people showing great talent in capturing the landscapes and people they encountered along their way.

To encourage and exhibit the talents of young people, a photography competition was held at the Bayankhongor YDC. The many submissions displayed the unique natural beauty of the aimag and raised awareness of issues that were important to young people such as environmental protection, inspiring community members to take pride in the nature and history of their homeland.

D.Sodnomsamdan feels that the benefits of the interest club are three-fold. Not only has the Hiking and Photography Club provided an opportunity for young people to unite and share their passion for environmental protection through photography, it also provides an opportunity for promoting positive physical and mental health through exercise and social support. The Hiking and Photography Club also hopes to expand career opportunities in eco-tourism by opening up profitable hiking tour groups for visitors to Bayankhongor aimag in the future.

Youth Development Centers offer a safe and fun space for young people, where their psychosocial wellbeing is supported through a sense of belonging to a caring community, opportunities to increase their self-efficacy and build upon their personal strengths, increasing their self-confidence. Programs such as interest clubs, like Bayankhongor’s Hiking and Photography Club, are youth participation activities, based on the interests of young people, that enable them to explore their talents and express their feelings on issues that affect them. While providing valuable development opportunities, such clubs also help to draw participants into the holistic development services offered within the YDC including Life Skills Education, Support Groups and Counseling.

Bayankhongor’s Hiking and Photography Club demonstrates the power of young people to create innovative opportunities to realize the Sustainable Development Goals and shape the future they want to see for Mongolia. Here, the YDC’s interest club has provided a way for young people to access exercise and social support promoting Good Health and Wellbeing, an appreciation and respect for Life on Land, and future prospects for Decent Work and Economic Growth by expanding career opportunities. UNFPA/ SDC-supported Youth Development Centers in Mongolia create a platform that enables young people to continue to reach their own personal potential and contribute positively to their communities by working toward achieving The Global Goals. “Youth are the heart of the development movement. Nobody can say ‘I can’t’." says D.Sodnomsamdan in a messaeg of encouragement to the youth with whom he works adn those he has yet to meet, "Everything is possible if we unite and take initiative.”


By: Lizzi Logan