“Just Go With The Flow:” Board Retreat Reflections

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Aug 282017

Boston. Four Board Members and Me. One weekend. I started working for Korean Kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission (KKOOM) on May 24th. Two months later, I was asked by Aimee, KKOOM’s President, to plan and facilitate the Annual Board Retreat for KKOOM. No pressure at all. I have planned an inaugural retreat for leadership groups and have experience creating events in college, but this was a new first in my list of experiences.

If there’s one takeaway I have from our Boston weekend together from July 21st to July 23rd, it’d be this: Just go with the flow. I arrived at Logan International Airport in Boston one day prior to the start of the retreat, as I knew I wanted some time to explore the beautiful city I once visited in my childhood days. So I hopped off the plane into a shuttle bus that took me directly to the MBTA subway station. Determined to find a museum I searched for, I was in transit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. While taking photos and enjoying the pieces of art Isabella collected as a French connoisseur, my phone died. It was strange because it wasn’t low on battery and the phone also felt overheated.

A kind lady at the museum helped me with directions to a local Apple store – “It’s just about one mile away…..” More like three miles, walking aimlessly in a city I didn’t know, with a luggage getting stares from strangers because of the rolling sounds against the concrete sidewalks. While I was a bit frazzled to take care of this before meeting with a college friend for dinner, I was at peace. My intent to travel to Boston one day before the retreat gave me exactly what I was looking for – adventures. During my extended trek across Boston by foot, I passed by several colleges – Berklee College of Music, Boston University, Boston College, to name a few. Not only did I pass by colleges, I was walking through metropolitan Boston, a major thoroughfare known as Massachusetts Avenue, or Mass Ave. I saw vibrant millennials and working adults in suburban neighborhoods, people being chatty cathy’s at restaurants catching up with friends, or family tourists exploring like me. I made it to the Apple store, safe and sound, my phone was working properly and in due time, met up with my friend. Sometimes, it’s not the destination, but the journey getting there that makes it memorable.

The Board Retreat started the next day after my unplanned adventures through the Boston streets. While being the youngest amongst the Board Members and meeting some people for the first time, I knew our time together would be fruitful. A casual dinner at a Cambodian French Fusion Restaurant near our AirBnB unofficially kicked off our retreat Friday evening.

The Board Members and I come from all across the United States, living in Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Georgia, California, and Massachusetts. What brings us together is our common ties to South Korea and our passion to help improve the lives of South Korean orphans. We spent our formal meeting time discussing program highlights and strategy, including how we can continue to grow KKOOM to have a bigger long-term impact.

To create a personal connection to the children in South Korea and our donors, we wrote handwritten notes – such a lost art of communication in today’s society. Using colorful sharpie markers, we thanked donors for their generosity and put stickers on candy bags saying “Have a great summer” for kids at Samsungwon Orphanage. Luckily, one of our Board Members went to South Korea recently to explore Ever Land with the children and hand deliver the candy bags to them (blog post coming soon about this fun trip).

Our Saturday evening was spent exploring Harvard Square before having dinner with former KKOOM volunteer and friends. We ate at Kaju Tofu House to enjoy some Korean food together; the Korean stone pot dishes with engaging conversations was the perfect blend for an enjoyable evening. We got to catch up with former volunteer Jaehwan, who is now a PhD student at MIT. While living in South Korea, he interned with Samsung to execute an ongoing photography project with the children from Samsungwon Orphanage. He said he missed the kids but loves keeping up with them through a Korean group texting app; after dinner, he immediately sent them a group photo of us in Boston. The Board finally got to meet Liat, a recent donor and rising sophomore at Brandeis University. As a Korean adoptee, she is enthusiastic about continuing to support KKOOM’s mission as she recently raised $150 to support our Welcome Boost Program, which provides new clothing and basic necessities to newly arrived orphans in South Korea.

A highlight of the weekend was to Skype with Sujin, one of the staff members at Emmanuel’s Children Home in Gimcheon, South Korea. She teaches piano to some of the 100 children currently living at the orphanage, while also helping with after school studies. The age range of the children are from 16 months old to 19 years old. They recently built a new girl’s home and many of the students want to have English classes. There used to be a lot of foreigners in Gimcheon, but many of them have left so many teachers are not available. Sujin loves these children, spending time with them on a daily basis, even though she isn’t receiving a salary for her service.

Throughout the retreat weekend in Boston, I learned flexibility is a key ingredient to our personal and professional lives, never knowing what adventures one will embark on next. With holding so many different hats and being tasked with various responsibilities, I am looking forward to continue making positive strides to help impact the lives of the South Korean orphans KKOOM serves on a daily basis.

NOTE: As part of our commitment to KKOOM and our donors, the board members and I personally funded our travel and expenses  to attend the board retreat weekend.

Written by Grace Lee, KKOOM Chief Administrator

 Posted by at 2:06 pm

Giving New Hope – Welcome Boost Summer 2017

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Aug 172017

Imagine a newly arrived toddler has entered through the doors of an orphanage for the first time. All the child has is the clothes on his or her back. That’s where KKOOM provides approximately $125 to orphanage caretakers to purchase basic necessities, such as clothes and other essential items. Since 2016, KKOOM has supported 11 children to receive a Welcome Boost fund. In late July, two male toddlers who arrived at Samsungwon Orphanage and Emmanuel’s Children Home benefitted from our Welcome Boost Funds.

Read below to learn more about each toddler KKOOM helped to welcome in a positive environment. We also had a KKOOM supporter recently raise money for these funds and you can read why she had the heart to raise money for this particular program.

Update: Child’s name is HyungJun. We apologize for the confusion. Young is the name of his caretaker at the orphanage.

HyungJun (12 months old)

HyungJun arrived at the orphanage around July 18th weighing 16 pounds at 11 months old; the average weight of a one-year-old is 21.5 pounds. His house mother purchased new clothes and underwear because he only had the clothes he was wearing when he arrived. He loves to laugh and listens well to his house mother. She promised him “I will help your body and mind grow into a healthy child.” We can see the difference in his physical demeanor between the photo on the left, which taken when HyungJun first arrived and the photo on the right where he’s beaming with a smile which was taken just two weeks after his arrival. KKOOM is thankful his house mother is already starting to improve his health and wellness.

Hee (16 months old)

Hee is very good at eating well while adapting to his new environment. Arriving around July 25th, he is the first child we have supported at Emmanuel’s Children Home with the Welcome Boost. With shortage of school supplies to start preschool, his house mother plans on buying basic school items he needs, while also purchasing toys and nutritional snacks. She sent us photos of newly bought blankets and kitchen items with a Pororo cup; Pororo is a cartoon character widely loved by Korean children. His house mother gladly shared, “…very cute child who knows how to express the pleasure and gratitude of dancing with delicious food and exciting music.”

Liat Shapiro raising money for Welcome Boost Funds

With Liat’s enthusiasm to give back to our Welcome Boost funds, she raised a total of $150 in late July. She rallied friends and family to give to an important cause she is personally invested in. KKOOM asked Liat to share her reason why she raised money for our Welcome Boost Fund. She said,

“As a Korean adoptee, I was welcomed by so many people–the adoption agency, my foster parents, my American family. Since 2015, helping Korean orphans became one of my goals, and now, by fundraising with KKOOM, I am able to catch that dream. And, with it, I hope, I’ll be able to empower and help my little brothers and sisters fulfill their dreams.”

Thank you to Liat and our KKOOM donors for helping us impact these orphans. The Welcome Boost Funds help the children start their new beginnings in a positive way.


 Posted by at 4:08 pm

Educating The Next Generation – Summer 2017 Update

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Aug 112017

J.S. enjoying summer activities

With the support of generous donors, KKOOM has sent 10 toddlers to preschool in Korea on scholarships. Since the Korean government does not provide funding for toddlers who live in orphanages to attend preschool until they are 4 years old, that is where KKOOM provides funds to narrow the educational gap. We believe in the power of an education, so we provide financial assistance for 2 and 3 year-old Korean orphans to attend preschool for the first time.

By going to preschool, the three toddlers currently supported by KKOOM are learning fundamental life skills. They are following a routine, understanding how to interact and get along with others, while building their motor, cognitive, social, and academic skills.

In our last report via Global Giving, we said we would have updates about J.S.’s first semester in preschool. J.S. is now 25 months old, and his house mother had wonderful updates to share about him. J.S. enjoys playing with car toys, particularly police cars. Eating healthy is not a problem for him as he enjoys eating fruits.

During summer vacation, J.S. and his classmates went to an overnight water park, for the first time. Swimming and going to the water park is a favorite activity for many Korean children to participate during the hot, summer days. J.S. looks like he had a fun time splashing in the water from the attached photo.

While he has become quite independent for a 2-year-old, he can be stubborn at times (don’t we all have a little stubbornness in us?). The way his house mother described this personality trait of his is “cute.”

From the photos shared, J.S. seems to enjoy music too; we cannot get over how adorable the mini violin looks as he is playing it in the photo pictured in this report. Through the candid photos his teacher sent, there is a pure curiosity about the world around him, whether that is touching the nose of a local animal statue, or grabbing snacks with his friends.

In our next blog post about our Early Education scholarships, we hope to share the cool things the 3 toddlers, J.S., S.H., and J.H. are learning in preschool. I invite you to contact me if you have any questions or concerns about our Early Education Scholarships for Korean toddlers. From the bottom of our hearts, we say thank you to our donors!

 Posted by at 4:32 pm

KKOOM Launches “Christmas in July” Campaign

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Jul 192017

Christmas. What words immediately come to your mind? Santa. Gifts. Rudolph. Family. Christmas tree. As children, we may have grown up highly anticipating the day of Christmas, putting out the milk and cookies for Santa, while hoping we stayed on his “good” list and not his “naughty” one.

Each day is a gift – that is why we call it the present. We can open gifts. Celebrate. Enjoy it.

Thanks to the generous support of donors every Christmas season, KKOOM gifts a season of celebration to orphans in Gumi and Gimcheon, South Korea. In the past we’ve provided gifts to 150 children, from toddlers to college-aged young adults. It costs approximately $35 per child or $5,600 to provide gifts to all 150 orphans we directly support.  This July, we are asking our KKOOM friends and supporters to help us raise $3,500 to provide gifts to 100 orphans for our Christmas party in December 2017.

To donate and to learn more, please go to http://kkoom.org/christmas-in-july/.


 Posted by at 6:12 pm

Traveling Abroad to Japan: Volunteer-led Project by Jee Lee

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Jun 222017

Jee Lee (pictured far left on top photo) helps two girls from Myeong Jin Children’s Home explore Japan through a cultural immersion trip.

KKOOM prides itself on being able to give children who live in Korean orphanages access to new experiences and opportunities they might not otherwise have. One way we do this is by providing financial support to volunteers who have projects, programs, and ideas that will directly benefit Korean orphans and at-risk youth.

Jee Lee is a full-time volunteer and missionary at Myeong Jin Children’s Home in Seoul, South Korea. Before living in Korea since 2008, she was a third grade teacher in Northern Virginia. For the past nine years, she has served at the home full time.

KKOOM provided Jee with approximately $170 USD to take two girls from the orphanage home to Okinawa, Japan for a cultural immersion trip. The girls were able to pay for their own flight tickets and housing and transportation were covered by one of Jee’s friends who is stationed at the US military base in Okinawa.

The funds from KKOOM helped cover their food and activity costs. Their travels from May 24th to June 1st were filled with a variety of activities, from snorkeling, water hiking, ice cream- making, sightseeing, and visiting an aquarium.

When Jee shared her experiences with KKOOM, she said “The girls loved every moment of our trips. They realized that although we might be in Japan, we were able to get by by speaking in English. They came back with more enthusiasm in learning English.”

This overseas cultural trip allowed the girls to see a different world than what they currently experience living at an orphanage home in Seoul. Jee and KKOOM hope this opportunity gives them the desire to study harder and they strive for a better quality of life. Jee comments, “This experience will give them to see the world is so much greater than their daily lives at the children’s home. Thank you KKOOM for always supporting and cheering for the orphans in Korea!

 Posted by at 4:55 pm

Making Dreams Happen – Spring 2017 Scholarship Recipients

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Jun 142017

Spring 2017 College Scholarship Recipients

During the spring 2017 semester, KKOOM was proud to provide college scholarships to four students in South Korea, all of whom grew up at Samsungwon, an orphanage in Gumi. We accepted 2 new college recipients and awarded scholarships to 2 continuing recipients. Every semester, we ask our recipients to provide a brief update on how they’re doing and what they hope to accomplish this semester and in the near future. Read below to see what they had to say.

Yeonhwa, 2nd year, at Yeungjin College, Major: Business Management. KKOOM is happy to continue supporting Yeonhwa’s academic studies as she hopes to start her own business in the future. During her vacation, she enjoyed company events at her full-time job such as New Year’s Party, employee workshops, and a picnic. In five years, Yeonhwa sees herself as a 27 year old with a stable life in a steady job, striving for a successful life. With KKOOM’s financial support, she has more opportunities to give back to those who are less fortunate and she is thankful for the support. She wants to live with a positive mind and more dignified life. Yeonhwa says “I love KKOOM supporters and stay healthy.”

Mingyu, 2nd year, at Gumi College, Major: Hospitality and Cooking. Mingyu hopes to become a chef or baker. KKOOM supported Mingyu during his 1st year in college. In his spare time and during his vacation, he practiced his baking skills. He is very optimistic about the future; even if there are setbacks, he wants to continue building up his career to pursue his dream. He really appreciates the help from KKOOM.

Minyeal, 1st year, at World Cyber University, Major: Pastoral Studies. Min-yul is a non-traditional student, who spent several years working in factories and small businesses after he aged out of Samsungwon. In 2015, thanks to KKOOM supporters, like you, he had the opportunity to travel to the US with a couple of other grown-up Samsungwon young adults. This travel experience helped inspire Min-yul to pursue a college degree. In his own words, Min-yul’s dream is to become a global praise minister who is following God’s will. His reason in choosing his major is to know the word of God more deeply. He is very happy when he sings praises to God. Through his studies, he wants to learn how to pray and learn more about the Bible. Min-yul’s hobbies are to sing worship songs and stay fit.

Yonghoon, 1st year, at World Cyber University, Major: Social Welfare. While living at Samsungwon Orphanage for 14 years, Yonghoon says his mother and brothers and sisters helped him a lot, even though his grades weren’t very good growing up. Since they took such good care of him, he wants to pursue a social worker license. His dream is to become a social worker, and he currently has three computer certifications. He is willing to learn new things, study hard, and listen to the professors’ lectures. He says with enthusiasm, “I would like to thank you for your support to me. I think it will help me a lot. I sincerely hope that my dreams will thrive.”


 Posted by at 9:17 am

Press Release: New Chief Administrator Announced for KKOOM

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Jun 042017


CONTACT: Aimee Jachym, President
Korean Kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission (KKOOM)
Phone: (269) 340-0430
Email: info@kkoom.org
URL: http://www.kkoom.org


Michigan, USA, June 4, 2017 – According to Forbes, 77% of nonprofits lack a leadership transition plan. This, however, is not the case for Korean Kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission (KKOOM), a Michigan-based 501(c)(3) organization.  KKOOM’s leadership transition has been years in the making, growing from an all-volunteer-led organization over the last 10 years to positioning itself to be able to hire a full-time chief administrator, Grace Lee, who started at the end of May. She is charged with implementing a strategic growth and fund development plan,  to ensure that KKOOM can continue to improve the lives of orphans in South Korea for years to come. In addition to leading fundraising efforts, Grace will also be managing the day-to-day operations and overseeing KKOOM’s programs and volunteer projects.         

“KKOOM started as a grassroots endeavor in 2004,” stated Leanne Stein, KKOOM Secretary and founding board member. “At that point, it wasn’t even ‘KKOOM;’ it was just co-founders Aimee Jachym and Erika Senneseth collecting and buying goods for kids at orphanages in South Korea. Eventually it got too big and that’s when KKOOM was born in 2007. We’re excited that KKOOM is ready for more growth once again and that we’ll be able to help improve the lives of Korean orphans long term.”

In accepting the position, Lee said, “I’m so grateful to the KKOOM board, and friends/volunteers of KKOOM. This is an amazing opportunity to serve a vulnerable population of children. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of a community that has loved and believed in me; I want to continue rallying behind these kids with the same confidence to create a longer, lasting impact to make a difference everyday.”  Lee will report to Jachym, who will continue to serve as KKOOM’s President, a volunteer role she has held since the organization’s establishment.

Lee is 2nd generation Korean-American and is from Stockbridge, Georgia. While living in Sejong, South Korea, as a 2015-2016 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, she volunteered at the 2015 KKOOM Christmas Party. Since then, she has actively advocated for KKOOM’s mission as a volunteer and board member. She graduated from Georgia State University with her Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy, Non-Profit Leadership concentration. She has a strong passion to serve children, as a former pre-school teacher and Elementary English Teaching Assistant to 600 students with the Fulbright program. She also has traveled to Jamaica, Nicaragua, and Tanzania on service trips visiting orphanages, planning Vacation Bible School activities, and sponsoring primary age children to attend school in Arusha, Tanzania.


About KKOOM – Korean Kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission (KKOOM) supports orphanages throughout South Korea with the mission of improving the lives and livelihoods of Korean orphans through outreach, enrichment, and education. The acronym “KKOOM” (pronounced “koom”) also means “dream” in Korean. KKOOM was founded in September 2007 by former Fulbright grant recipients as an extension of an ongoing volunteer project at Samsungwon, an orphanage in Gumi, South Korea that began in 2004 and continues today. KKOOM now provides volunteer resources and aid to orphanage homes throughout South Korea and operates U.S.-based educational initiatives that engage supporters firsthand with the work being done overseas.

 Posted by at 1:36 pm

12 Days of KKOOM – Day 12 – That’s a Wrap!

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Dec 262016
The kids at Samsungwon Orphanage in Gumi had a great time at the 2016 KKOOM Christmas Party

The kids at Samsungwon Orphanage in Gumi had a great time at the 2016 KKOOM Christmas Party

Well, it’s already Day 12 of our 12 Days of KKOOM blog series. We hope you’ve enjoyed all of the posts. Whether you’ve been a KKOOM supporter for years or just stumbled across this page today, we hope you can get a sense of how regular people, like you, help make life better for Korean orphans in a variety of ways throughout the year. We invite you to contact us to learn more about our work and encourage you to consider making a year-end donation so we can continue the things we wrote about for the past 12 days in 2017.

Before you go, please check out a video compilation of photos from our 2016 KKOOM Christmas Party at Samsungwon in Gumi, South Korea.

In case you missed any of the previous posts, here are direct links to go back and check them out.

Day 1 – Holiday Giving Kick-off
Day 2 – Summer Fun
Day 3 – Lucky to Be Where You Want to Be for The Holidays!
Day 4 – Samsungwon Christmas Party
Day 5 – Welcome Boost Program
Day 6 – Arts and Crafts Camp
Day 7 – Preschool Program
Day 8 – College Scholarship Program
Day 9 – Children’s Day in Korea
Day 10 – A Special Day with Special Children
Day 11 – Christmas Celebration with Emmanuel Children’s Home

Thank you! May you have a fabulous year-end and an even better 2017! See you in the New Year!

 Posted by at 5:46 am

12 Days of KKOOM – Day 11 – Christmas Celebration with Emmanuel Children’s Home

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Dec 252016

Christmas Celebration at Emmanuel Children's HomeKKOOM celebrated Christmas with the 93 children at Emmanuel Children’s Home in Gimcheon, South Korea this month by providing the opportunity for each child to buy a Christmas gift of their choosing at a local superstore. KKOOM gave each child a gift certificate, and the children went to the store with their house parents to pick out their presents. As you can see from the pictures, the children had a great time.

Additionally, on December 18, KKOOM Board members, Aimee Jachym and Bill Downey, joined the children’s weekly church service and then treated all of the children to a delicious duck barbecue lunch across the street from the children’s home for the third year in a row. The kids all enjoyed the meal, as they got to grill meat (which is always fun for them) and eat to their hearts content.

Emmanuel kids go shopping for their own presents with gift certificates from KKOOM

For us, it was a fun day and good to see all of the kids’ smiling faces and hear about their shopping excursion. We were glad to be able to bring a little holiday cheer to these 93 special kids, thanks to the generous support of KKOOM donors.

If you’d like to help us continue this work in 2017, please consider making a year-end donation by clicking the “donate” button at the top right of this screen. Thank you!

 Posted by at 7:46 am

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

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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