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Update on Minho and Jinyoung

 Blog, In Korea  Comments Off on Update on Minho and Jinyoung
Sep 032015

Here’s a recent update on our 2 toddlers whom we support in preschool. This was originally published as a report to our GlobalGiving project, which helps KKOOM raise funds to send Korean orphan toddlers to preschool. – Aimee

Minho, US age 4

Minho, US age 4

Minho (left) is a Korean orphan who was born with special needs. He has very small kidneys, which doctors think is the reason he has developed very slowly. He started walking after he was 2 years old, and now 4, he is still not talking.

Minho attends preschool with other special needs kids 5 days a week, and he is now old enough to receive the government subsidy, which pays for his preschool.

Thanks to your support, however, KKOOM has been sending Minho to extra physical therapy sessions on a regular basis for the last 2 years. These extra sessions help Minho build strength, control and confidence in his body.

On a recent visit with Minho in Daegu, he showed a lot of curiosity toward a few small dogs in the park and was generally happy to be outside. He was even happier when we took him to eat one of his favorite foods, bulgogi (marinated Korean beef), at a nearby restaurant.

Jinyoung, US age 2

Jinyoung, US age 2

Jinyoung (right) is a 2-year-old Korean orphan who was abandoned on the steps of a small hospital when he was just a few months old. From the beginning, he was a very active and healthy baby, and he is doing very well in preschool. As we reported last time, Jinyoung started preschool in March 2015, and he adjusted to the new environment without issue. He now attends preschool for a full day with the older children at the orphanage.

KKOOM’s support makes it possible for Korean orphan toddlers like Jinyoung to start preschool before the government subsidy becomes available to them at age 4. Hence, your support of KKOOM is what makes it possible for Jinyoung to develop the basic social and academic skills he needs to succeed later in preschool and elementary school.

This summer, Jinyoung visited a water park with the other children in his orphanage, and he had a great time, as you can see in a few of the photo collage pictures. He was actually very upset when he was told it was time to get out of the water! He is definitely a strong (and strong willed) (not so) little guy. I predict that he will be quite athletic as he grows up!

 Posted by at 9:00 am

12 Days of KKOOM – Day 10 – A Special Day with Special Children

 12Days, Blog  Comments Off on 12 Days of KKOOM – Day 10 – A Special Day with Special Children
Dec 232016
Lunch with Children from Aemangwon, an orphanage for special needs children in Daegu, South Korea

Lunch with Children from Aemangwon, an orphanage for special needs children in Daegu, South Korea

Orphans with special needs are among the most wanting of attention and love this holiday season, and KKOOM was happy to be able to make today special for a few such children. Today we took six children from Aemangwon, an orphanage home for kids with special needs, in Daegu, South Korea to a nearby department store for an afternoon of lunch and shopping. We became connected with Aemangwon because of Minho, a child with special needs who lives there. You can read more about Minho in our previous blog posts here.

Except for Minho, who we also spent time with today, the children we took on this field trip today are wheelchair-bound and are rarely able to leave the orphanage home due to the challenge of transporting them in groups.  As such, they are home-schooled at the orphanage by teachers who come to teach classes, and they do not get to participate in field trips or other outings like “normal” children. For these children, an outing happens only two or three times a year and requires the assistance of one adult per child because the children do not have full control of their upper bodies to maneuver their own wheelchairs.

At the department store, we ate at a buffet restaurant, where the kids could eat as much of a variety of foods as they desired. For some, just getting to look at the variety of foods was a joy. You could tell that simply being in a restaurant and getting to do a “regular” activity like eat in public was novel and fun for these kids.

In addition to physical challenges, all of the children have varying degrees of speech difficulties, so communication was a little bit of a challenge at first. “Yes no” questions and body language, though, eventually worked just fine, and the kids quickly became eager to ask for refills of this and that and to try certain foods.

After a long leisurely lunch, we took the kids shopping for Christmas presents. One child wanted comic books, another wanted athletic shoes, another a jacket. One child couldn’t decide what he wanted — and is still thinking about it — so we promised to follow back up soon and get what he wants after he lets us know.

Today wasn’t an expensive day for us at KKOOM — we spent around $500 on this event — but for these children, we made memories that will last the whole year over. With your support, we will be able to make even more special memories for these wheelchair-bound kids at Aemangwon in 2017. We’ve already promised to return. If you’d like to make a year-end contribution to help fund our next visit, you can do so by clicking the “donate” button at the top right of this page. As always, thank you for your support!

 Posted by at 6:54 am
Dec 242014
NJS (3 years old) has been in preschool for 2 years thanks to KKOOM's support

Jisu (3 years old) has been in preschool for 2 years thanks to KKOOM’s support.

11. Wednesday, December 24, 2014 – Access to Preschool

Those of you with little ones in your lives know how much joy they bring, especially this holiday season. KKOOM’s tiniest angels are no exception, so we wanted to give you an update of how they’re doing in preschool.

Many of you know that we’ve been able to send Korean orphan toddlers to preschool starting in the year they turn 24 months old, which is when most Korean children begin. The Korean government, however, only pays for toddlers living in orphanage homes to go when they turn 4, which is 2 years later than all of the other kids. Common sense tells us (and our intuition has been verified by our child development expert friends and volumes of unrelated studies) that the earlier children get access to education, the better off they are in the future.

Suzy (age 2) has been in preschool this year and will receive another year of KKOOM support to go next year. The government will pay for her preschool the following year.

Suzy (age 2) has been in preschool this year and will receive another year of KKOOM support to go next year. The government will pay for her preschool the following year.

We started this program about 3 years ago, and so far, we’ve been able to send 6 (18-month-old to 3-year-old) toddlers to preschool. Through a partnership with a local Gumi preschool, we’re able to get a 50% discounted tuition rate, and it costs us about $200 per month per child for all-day preschool (8:30 am – 3:30 pm). The children attend year-round.

One of first 6 children is starting 1st grade next year in March, when the Korean school year begins. He’s already shown early signs of learning disabilities, so he’s also been able to receive extra help learning to read and write his alphabet. We’d like to think that, by helping go to preschool earlier than he would’ve otherwise been able to, some of his learning challenges may have been detected early as well.

KKOOM has helped Minho (3 years old)  attend preschool and receive extra therapy.

KKOOM has helped Minho (3 years old) attend preschool and receive extra therapy.

Right now, there are two children in Gumi, South Korea attending preschool with KKOOM’s support. Jisu and Suzy are both doing very well in their respective classes. Jisu, however, doesn’t really like strangers. Recently, he asked his house mom to call the preschool and ask Santa not to come the next day! Santa was due to make an appearance to pass out presents. When asked if he didn’t want to receive a present then, he said, “Yes, I don’t want a present. Just don’t let Santa come!” Suzy, on the other hand, is outgoing and likes interacting with others. She even let an international volunteer paint her face at the Christmas party last Saturday!

KKOOM also supports one toddler living in a special needs orphanage home in Daegu, South Korea and helps him receive special therapy. Minho was born with renal dysplasia (small kidneys) and has experienced stunted development. For 2.5 years, Minho lived at Samsungwon in Gumi and then was transferred to the home in Daegu earlier this year, because the Daegu facility is better equipped to support his special needs. KKOOM’s financial aid helps Minho receive one-on-one sessions with occupational and educational therapists to help him on his way.

Next year, Jinyoung, now 16 months old, will start preschool in Gumi in March. He’s an active little guy, and when the preschool van comes to pick up his older brothers and sisters every day, he goes out to watch. Sometimes he tries to climb in with everyone else. Soon it will be his turn too.

JY (16 months old) will go to preschool in March

JY (16 months old) will go to preschool in March

 Posted by at 12:15 pm
Dec 152014
Bill hangs out with some of the youngest children at Emmanuel Children's Home, an orphanage in Gimcheon, South Korea

Bill hangs out with some of the youngest children at Emmanuel Children’s Home, an orphanage in Gimcheon, South Korea

2. December 15, 2014 ~ First Impressions, continued…

Bill Downey is a retired U.S. Army veteran and KKOOM supporter. Originally from Detroit, he currently lives near Boston. This year, he spent a few days in in the late spring and also in the fall visiting some of the children’s homes KKOOM supports in Korea. This is the second and final part of his reflections. His first post appeared yesterday, here. We hope you enjoy them!

On Monday, and a very rainy Monday at that, we visited Emmanuel orphanage located nearby in Gimcheon. We visited several areas of their campus, but I think the most memorable was visiting with toddlers. You really haven’t lived until you have had the opportunity to spend quality time with 19 toddlers! If it were possible to channel all of that energy, we would not have any energy problems! The visit was more formal in comparison to Samsungwon’s relaxed atmosphere, as the staff had certain things they wanted us to see and do. This was fine and one of several opportunities during my visits to learn or be reminded of aspects of Korean culture I need to learn.

We also did a bit of Christmas shopping for the Samsungwon kids on our way to Emmanuel. Again, logistics! Each of them gets to make a list of some things they want, up to around $30.00. This may sound like a very mundane task to do, but this is exactly what I am interested in doing. I want to be involved with the kids at lots of different levels to better understand their lives and get glimpses of how the world is from their purview. For me, sharing their story with others means I know about them on a personal level.

Minho at an orphanage in Daegu, South Korea

Minho at an orphanage in Daegu, South Korea

Aimee had a planned dinner with one of the teaching staff from Emmanuel. This staff member is someone Aimee has had a chance to get to know well over the years and is considered an important friend. We left for dinner from the orphanage and met her husband and baby at the restaurant. It was a lovely dinner with good company and both Aimee’s friend and her husband are pianists! I heard some soft jazz by her husband from a file on his phone and it was very good. Aimee could have easily said we were done for the day and had a nice dinner with her friends without me in tow and avoided having to deal with English interpretation during the meal and instead could have spent precious time while in Korea focused on her friends. It reflects well on Aimee’s generosity and the fact that she was a patient and terrific host during my visit.

Our last day was a trip to Daegu to visit with Minho who is resident at Aemangwon. Minho is a very special 4-year-old whose story is worth reading about or reading again. Two of the house moms that had helped care for Minho when he was at Samsungwon joined us for the visit. He seems to be doing well and the additional money provided by KKOOM ensures he gets additional, needed therapy. Visiting institutionalized children is a very emotional experience, and many of the young people there have serious handicaps and are challenged beyond imagining on a daily basis — a poignant reminder of how much most of us have to be thankful for during a week of thanksgiving.

Minho gets ready for a visit

Minho gets ready for our visit. We took him outside for a walk around the premises.

I learned so much during my visit and was left with many impressions to consider. I can say that I have been really impressed with the dedicated staff I have met at all the places we visited. This is difficult work that requires a single-mindedness of purpose and tremendous dedication. I am in awe of their good work and deeds. They are truly quiet heroes and from their actions; I have learned much and hope to be supportive of their work.

If youth is nothing else, it is optimism and a belief that there are better tomorrows. KKOOM’s goal to bring together the resources to ensure kids are provided with the necessary educational foundation to realize their dreams is of immense importance. This is particularly true in a country like Korea, where the importance of education is the foundation for so many entry points into mainstream Korean society. To level the playing field for these kids is a mission we all can embrace and one I hope to continue to find ways to be of help.

 Posted by at 10:28 am