Today’s post is written by KKOOM Board Member, Bill Downey. He reflects on his involvement with KKOOM this year.
This year, 2015 was the first year I can say I was fully engaged with KKOOM and it has been an exciting year! We had several projects I was able to help with this year and things kicked-off in February with our first project. There was a lot of planning and preparation to help get our study abroad recipient Jindong Kim ready for his trip to Boston and his studies at Boston University. This gave me the opportunity to get to know Jindong better as his unofficial host while he was in the Boston area and learned a bunch about student visas and helping on move-in day at the BU dorms. Jindong had a chance to visit and do lots of other interesting things as well as travel while in America and I think he enjoyed his time here. By all measures I think the program was a success.
Following along soon after would be our board retreat in Chicago. This was my first time meeting the other board members and get to know them better. It was good to be able to sit together and discuss the goals of KKOOM for the coming year in an environment that allowed us all time to think about the kids in a focused way. We also enjoyed some memorable meals, relax and do a bit of bonding. I came away inspired and I think I have some new friends too!
My long-awaited first trip of the year to Korea took place in August and we had several projects on the agenda that I could help with during my 16-day visit. First up was a leadership camp funded by a grant from Christine Arlene. This was an opportunity to bring first and second year high school students to Seoul for four days. The leadership camp gave the students a chance to sharpen their language skills and learn how to negotiate the streets and day to day life in Seoul. Add to that the fact it was extremely hot and you can be sure that it provided some real challenges and was a good growing experience for them. It will make great stories for them to share for years to come!
Right now I am in Korea to help with preparations for the holiday parties in Gumi and Gimcheon. I am looking forward to sharing some holiday cheer with the kids in person this year! I have discovered that I have a lot of work to do to be a good Christmas shopper!
It has been a busy year for me with KKOOM and I have learned a great deal. Of course, there is much more to learn but I am still enjoying the challenge and as I enter my last few days of this visit, once again I have the feeling that I am not ready to go. Being in Korea and learning something of the lives of the kids will not only help me tell their story better but I think will bring me closer to them. Language is still a significant barrier but each visit results in some improvement. I know that for me to really contribute significantly will require me to reach a reasonable level of language proficiency. My goal is for the kids to say that they liked me much better before I could bore them with my stories!
But right now, it is all about having some fun for the holidays and giving during this festive time of year! Imagine, a season dedicated to giving!