Post 5: Final Reflection

What have you learned about social justice work?

With one of the younger Samsungwon children

It’s sometimes hard to completely explain what one’s gotten out of an experience; however, with this internship, it’s different. The students call me 선생님 (sungsaengnim, teacher), but I’m the one who’s learning. My time with the children at Samsungwon will end after breakfast, but I’ll always remember their faces, their kindness, their humility, and their love for one another. Explaining all I learned about social justice work would take me well over the five hundred word limit, so for now, I’ll say that social justice work is HARD, but one hundred percent worth any troubles. Our work helps others – what more could we ever ask for?

With YeJin

Impact on internship organization?

My direct supervisor has repeatedly emphasized that without my presence, running Dream Camp would be impossible. The three board members (our president, chief administrator, and a general member) visiting Korea had other business matters to attend to besides the Dream Camp. That left me to create the foundation for the budget, camp schedule and details. Of course, everything went through my supervisors, but I was tasked with all the research. It was a lot of work, but so rewarding. As I write this, the camp starts tomorrow (August 6 in Korea) and I’m so excited to see everything we’ve planned for the past two months come to fruition.

With a partner organisation’s college scholars & KKOOM college scholars
With college scholars from Samsungwon Orphanage, one of the two orphanages KKOOM most closely work with

What do you wish you’d have known?

Thanks to having experience running other events, there weren’t too many things that shocked me. Planning multiple-day events takes a lot of kindness, patience, and flexibility. To anyone who is planning a camp for the first time, the suggestion I’d stress the most is to go into it with an open mind and an open heart. You’ll meet people who have very different ways of thinking and planning and sometimes, their way is better than yours; other times, the reverse is true.

Advice to others?

Little things make big connections. I’ve learned a lot from interacting with our different board members. Our president, Aimee, has most of our connections in Korea, and she made them by choosing to explore the world beyond the one created by her Fulbright program. Our chief ambassador, Grace, has the gift of being able to strike up conversation with anyone around her. In America, every taxi ride we took, she handed out a business card. in Korea, she always managed to bring up the work and why she does it while riding from place to place.

Aimee (president), me (intern), Grace (chief administrator), Bill (board member)

I’ve had the opportunity of meeting several representatives from our partner organizations. I’ve also met a few former KKOOM volunteers. Listening to their stories and learning from what they share provides invaluable new perspectives.

With any organization or field, especially if one enters without prior experience (or even with experience), it’s crucial to listen more than talk.

Post 4: Building Those Skills

Event planning and fundraising are the two activities I have most often engaged in during my internship. I’ve had several opportunities to test both; however, my time with KKOOM has expanded these skill sets in surprising ways.

At the start of my internship, I began with a list of possible activities and skill sets my supervisors wanted participating students to build during our Dream Camp in Seoul. Over the past several weeks, I have developed three missions. Each mission required hours of research, creating a points system, and compiling instructions–a lot of administrative and logistical details to wade through.

Mission 2, for example, is comprised of three separate activities: (a) an on-campus scavenger hunt at Hongik University, (b) an interview with a foreigner, and (c) a cafe/restaurant review. The scavenger hunt requires students to navigate Hongik’s campus by finding and taking pictures in front of various buildings. Our hope with the interview is to encourage students to use their English, no matter how limited they perceive their English speaking ability to be. Lastly, the cafe/restaurant review will help students learn the importance of budgeting (they receive a set lunch stipend) and observing one’s surroundings.

Before I needed to upgrade to electronics …

I’m an old soul and appreciate planning things with pen and paper. However, with all the necessary research and cross-referencing needed to plan Dream Camp, almost all my work was done electronically. Call me old-fashioned, but this experience helped me learn to plan events in a different way. I started off with pen and paper, and had to switch to my computer for efficiency’s sake.

I have held several fundraisers for various NGOs and 501 (c)(3)s in the past, but KKOOM fundraiser gave me an extra challenge. Asking for money wasn’t the problem; the concern was being as non-political as possible. A challenge our organization has faced is that of people associating us with adoption. Our focus is opening up educational opportunities for orphans and it’s important to us to keep things focused on the students. The language used when creating a donation pitch was incredibly important.

So grateful for the family, friends, and strangers whose loving generosity helped me achieve beyond my goal!

I successfully meet my goal. In fact, I raised 400% of the original $500 goal. (To save you the math, family, friends, and strangers together raised $2000.) Before launching my campaign, I needed to carefully contemplate my wording. It is important to not only understand an organization’s mission, but also know how to clearly explain it.

Although I’m hoping to pursue a career in speech pathology or forensics linguistics, I know that having experience with event planning and fundraising will always serve me well.

13 Days ’till Korea!

As the youngest member in KKOOM, I am grateful for the confidence and trust the other Board members have in me. From our time spent together at our LA Board Retreat to our emailing/messages to the upcoming weeks in Korea, I have benefited and will continue to benefit from their experience and knowledge.

In terms of lessons I’ve learned about myself in the workplace, there are several, but to me, the most important is learning to have more confidence in myself. Planning the Dream Camp seemed rather impossible at times; reaching my fundraising goal, unlikely. But, they both happened.

Post 3: Encouraging Others to Help Find Dreams

KKOOM supports approximately 130 children at Samsungwon Orphanage and Emmanuel Children’s Home. Beyond holiday and summer activities and events, we provide scholarships for preschool and college students. By providing financial aid to Korean orphans both beginning and ending their educational journey, we open doors to academic opportunities otherwise unavailable.

In South Korea, toddlers begin attending preschool at the age of two. However, due to lack of funding, the South Korean government does not subsidize preschool for orphans until they are four years of age. Since 2011, KKOOM has provided access to early education, helping eliminate the education gap and thus leveling the playing field for orphans as they proceed through their education.

HyungJun when he first came to Samsungwon v. Hyungjun 2 months later

HyunJun is one of our preschool scholarship recipients. When he was eleven months old, HyungJun arrived at Samsungwon Orphanage in Gumi, South Korea. Now almost two years old, he is the youngest child in his home and — thanks to KKOOM supporters — thriving in preschool. Only sixteen pounds when carried into Samsungwon, HyungJun is now a normal weight for his age and, as evidenced by the pictures below, enjoying life. Read this interview with HyungJun!

KKOOM also provides college scholarships. Yonghoon (a rising third year) is at World Cyber University, majoring in social welfare. According to an interview with KKOOM, Yonghoon desires to work at Emmanuel Children’s Home in Gimcheon, South Korea. Another student, Minyeal, recently graduated from World Cyber University with a degree in pastoral studies. Lastly, Se-Hee (a rising second year) is majoring in hotel tourism. Her dream is to work abroad. Se-Hee shared that “with the KKOOM scholarship funds, I will apply for a special course to improve my English proficiency.” These are just a few snapshots of students KKOOM has supported over the years.

It is only through the support of family, friends, and strangers who believe in our mission that KKOOM is able to support these beautiful students. Our long-term goal is to provide educational support for as many orphans as we can, for as long as we can. To that end, our small steps as an organization come in the form of widening our donor base and securing recurring donations.

During KKOOM’s annual board retreat in Los Angeles this past weekend (June 29 – July 1), I had the opportunity to share my perspective as the youngest board member. A specific small step I have put forth is for KKOOM to reach out to college students and young professionals to try to gain their support. As the youngest member, one of my tasks in July is to draft suggestions on how to build rapport and find faithful supporters among my peers.

I’m hopeful that as our organization continues to help Korean orphans find their dreams, we’ll encourage others to join us and to do the same.

Post 2: Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere

Why should we help kids in Korea instead of orphans in third-world countries?

The woman asking me this seemed to assume that the poorer the country, the more dire and urgent its children’s lot.  However, there is no shortage of deprivation in the world and thus no reason to ignore any of it. This spring, in her address on re-imagining social justice leadership, Brandeis professor Anita Hill invoked Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”  Her talk outlined the struggle for women’s rights in recent decades without any thought that the struggle should have been delayed because women in other countries or other groups in this country were also suffering.

Korean orphans grow up in one of the world’s most industrialized countries, but their culture’s deeply rooted discrimination against children born to unmarried women limits their opportunities from birth through adulthood. KKOOM’s work affords such children–institutionalized due to their legal orphan status–access to educational opportunities that would be otherwise unattainable.

Education allows these orphans to pursue their dream careers as they come of age. Whether or not these careers are in helping professions or humanitarian establishments, they will be more perceptive of social injustice in their own communities or abroad and better equipped to address it.

Nelson Mandela once said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Giving these orphan students the opportunity to be as educated as their non-orphan peers is incredibly important.

J.S., one of KKOOM’s preschool scholars

I also have the honor and privilege of sharing our work with my peers. Earlier this summer, I was tasked with creating a blueprint for KKOOM’s College Ambassador Pilot Program. As I began reaching out to college students and groups (such as Korean Student Associations), I had the chance to share my passion for this very real problem facing Korean orphans thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean.

I originally hesitated sharing this, but, to speak candidly, a few weeks ago, I attended the funeral of a sixteen-year-old girl who took her own life. This gave my trip to Korea and the work I do with KKOOM more meaning.

Suicide is the number one cause of death among Korean youth, with statistics most often citing academic pressure. Add the cultural stigma Korea pins to those they consider “illegitimate children” to the stresses an average teenager faces and the result is the horribly unequal playing field on which Korean orphans find themselves fighting.

Working with KKOOM allows me to directly help these students. By providing them educational opportunities and events like Dream Camp — by arming them with education — these kids can run faster and farther after their dreams.

Post 1: Finding Dreams

Hello! My name is Liat Shapiro and I received a Summer 2018 Social Justice WOW Scholarship. A little about me: I am a rising junior at Brandeis University majoring in linguistics and minoring in journalism. This summer, I have the opportunity to serve as the summer intern for Korean Kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission.

In a way similar to how the Korean War is the Forgotten War, Korean orphans are also often forgotten. Generally speaking, the word “orphan” is associated with a mental image of a starving child from a third-world country. Although these children should also be given love and support, the voiceless children in industrialized countries whose families are absent, missing, or otherwise unable to care for them ought not be ignored.

Although the number of children staying in South Korean welfare institutions dropped 26.8% from 17,517 orphans in 2006 to 12,821 in 2017, the vast majority of Korean orphans will grow up without a traditional family.

Emotional and financial insecurity are just a few of the hurdles faced by children who grow up in and age out of Korea’s welfare system. Ill-equipped to compete in the hyper-competitive job market, orphanage boys often end up accepting low-paying “3D” jobs — dangerous, demeaning, and dirty– while girls may find themselves sucked into South Korea’s $13 billion sex trade industry. Yet, I’m also told that there are bright spots: examples of KKOOM students who have gone to college, have excellent jobs, and are raising families.

KKOOM’s acronym spells the English transliteration of the Korean word for “dream.” By providing scholarships and implementing events, KKOOM gives orphans a chance at survival in a society that systematically tears them down. We help bring balance to the unequal playing field Korean orphans find themselves fighting on.

This summer, I will help fight the inequality by planning and implementing KKOOM’s Dream Camp, creating a college ambassador program, and building fundraising strategies. The month of June I am finalizing administrative and logistical details for the two-week trip to Korea, while July and August will be focused on the college ambassador and fundraising programs.

Each week, I have a 1 to 2 hour phone call with the Chief Administrator, to whom I directly report. The past two weeks have been spent researching things from AirBNB options for 13 people to gently annoying friends currently in Korea about food and transportation prices.

My fundraiser for KKOOM’s 2018 Dream Camp.

I’m also grateful to report that my personal fundraiser for Dream Camp has reached $1,972. Thanks to the love and generosity of family and friends, within one short weekend, my $500 goal was reached, unlocking a personal donation of $500.

The last days of June will include connecting with the ten participating students, putting together activities such as scavenger hunts, museum visits, and tourist activities. I will also be in charge of reaching out to donors, thanking them for their generosity and analyzing the effectiveness of KKOOM’s fundraising efforts.

I also look forward to KKOOM’s annual Board of Directors retreat which will be held the last weekend of June in Los Angeles. While attending the retreat, I have the opportunity to learn more about the internal workings of the organization which, in turn, will help me more effectively contribute to fulfilling our mission.

The KKOOM Board of Directors and I during the 2017 Boston Annual Board of Directors Retreat.

In addition to running the Dream Camp, I will also go on a camping trip with the 52 children from Samsungwon Orphanage, attend a day of a soccer camp held at Yongsan Army Base with a KKOOM partner organization, and hopefully visit three other KKOOM partner orphanages and programs. 

At the end of August, I want to look back on my experience at KKOOM knowing I gleaned as much knowledge as I could from conversations and interactions with the Board of Directors. I anticipate fostering relationships with the Korean orphans and teaching them about my world while learning about theirs. I cannot wait to help these precious children find their dreams.

I’m grateful for this summer and cannot wait to share more with you! Thank you for reading.

– Liat Shapiro