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.
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.
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