Alignment Light

The second day of the alignment meeting even less people showed up. I suppose the meeting needed to be renamed ‘Alignment Light.’ We were at half capacity. The representatives from other ministries must have decided there were other more important things to do and so we lost some critical perspectives. But all the wheelchair users were there – this is important to them, they have the most to gain from this initiative and I suspect it will be their perseverance that will get and keep things moving.

Energy levels went up and down throughout the morning and after lunch the downhill trend set in, not unusual, to continue deep into the basement. With only 15 people left and only 2 in position of any authority, we ended at 3 PM, two hours before the scheduled time. We had enough good stuff to crawl into the next phase – one learns to adjust one’s expectations.

What resulted was some action on transportation access, some action on creating a multidisciplinary and multi stakeholder committee to focus exclusively on wheelchairs, complete a proposal to Korea about setting up workshops and keeping momentum going. A third group is working on constructing a model building, not a new project but something that can be used to show what a wheelchair accessible (inside and outside) building looks like. The owner of this project, a private prosthetics business woman, invited everyone to the opening. A fourth group focused on developing a plan that will eventually produce a pool of local trainers. This will require some extensive negotiations between various interested parties, among them Deseret, an organization of the Latter Day Saints, that donates wheelchairs plus training, a package deal.

All in all I am optimistic. Mongolia is at the very beginning of a long process of developing its capacity and infrastructure to meet the needs of wheelchair users. Since my only other example is The Philippines I might have overestimated what is possible here.

We had a nice debriefing with the USAID mission director and his Georgian program manager over lattes and espresso. We all paid for our own beverage, as we are supposed to, something we learn every year in our procurement integrity course. I was glad there was no awkward moment. The USAID mission is small here, only 2 expats, and, we were told, shrinking, if such is possible with that few people.

Back at the hotel Maggie and I had our last meal together and then it was time to pack. Maggie is lugging an empty suitcase back, except for the cashmere stuff she is buying. So I was able to drop some things off at her room and continue my journey just a tad lighter.

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