“Sentiment without action is irrelevant.” ~ Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate
I was born in South Korea as an infant and adopted to an American family in Michigan. I arrived in Detroit just before Christmas in 1982, barely 4 months old. I didn’t really think much about Korea until my young adult years in college, when a few professors encouraged me to think about traveling internationally.
I ended up making my first trip back to South Korea in July 2004. I had been awarded a Fulbright teaching grant to teach English as a foreign language at a secondary school in Korea for a year, and I was excited to discover the land of my birth. Aside from teaching high school boys, I made it a point to spend a few hours a week volunteering at the local orphanage.
January 2005, First toy donations to Samsungwon (Aimee Jachym, left, with kids and house mom)
So it was in 2004 that I first started asking family and friends for money to support Korean orphans. That first year, I had a simple goal of providing the kids with some hats, gloves, and toys. I had noticed, in my short visits to Samsungwon, the orphanage where I was volunteering, that the kids were lacking all three of these things.
At the time, I barely spoke survival Korean and even taking a taxi was a challenge, but I wrote in my diary that “feeling bad for the kids isn’t going to make them feel warmer.” Gradually, with inspiration from the mentor whom I’ve quoted at the beginning of this post (and who also happens to be a KKOOM donor) and encouragement from a friend (who later became KKOOM’s co-founder), I just started doing things and buying things that could help make life at that particular orphanage a little better. I had no idea that a few small actions would give birth to KKOOM a few years later and that KKOOM would eventually lead the way and provide first-hand aid to orphanages throughout Korea.
That first year, I remember going to Namdaemun Market in Seoul — the largest traditional market in South Korea — with a friend, and we bought gloves, hats, and underwear for 80 kids. A few weeks later, when I was home in the U.S., I went after-Christmas toy shopping and sent over 8 large boxes of new toys.
We’ve come a long way since then, but the philosophy remains the same. KKOOM is proof that a few committed individuals can make a difference. These days, I no longer “feel bad” for the kids. Instead, I feel hopeful and inspired. Those feelings spur an internal sense of duty and commitment to continue to invest in their lives, in the same way that a few committed individuals — my parents and family — invested in me.
Six years of KKOOM (founded in 2007), and nearly a decade of supporting Korean orphans, have been made possible solely because of the generosity of a committed group of individuals, and you are an important part of the group. KKOOM is not funded by the government or by large corporations; it’s funded by ordinary people like you. And when you give, you can know that nearly 80% of your total donation goes directly to programs and projects that benefit kids in Korea– things like sending orphans to preschool or college, providing clothing, and funding once-in-a-lifetime field trips. We keep our administrative overhead as low as possible in order to spend as much as we can on the kids.
To make things more exciting, this year, a generous KKOOM supporter will match, dollar for dollar, all donations of $100 or more from now through the end of the year. Donations can be made online or by check made payable to “KKOOM” and sent to PO Box 973, Portage, MI 49081. This is a great opportunity to double the impact of your giving by making a tax-deductible gift of $100 or more if you are able. Gifts of all sizes are greatly appreciated. ~ Thank you for your support, Aimee — KKOOM Co-founder & President