12 Days of KKOOM: #10 Flashback to 2004

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Dec 232015
The first pre-KKOOM Samsungwon gift drive with Samsungwon staff members and KKOOM co-founder, Aimee Jachym (third from right)

The first pre-KKOOM Samsungwon gift drive with Samsungwon staff members and KKOOM co-founder, Aimee Jachym (third from right),

For the first Samsungwon donation project in December 2004 we purchased socks, underwear, hats and gloves at Namdaemun Market in Seoul and delivered them to the home in Gumi. This project took place 3 years before KKOOM was officially founded in 2007.

 Posted by at 3:58 am

12 Days of KKOOM: #9 Preschool Program

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Dec 222015
JY arrived at Samsungwon when he was about 2 months old, and he is now 28 months old. He has been attending preschool with KKOOM's help since March 2015.

JY arrived at Samsungwon when he was about 2 months old, and he is now 28 months old. He has been attending preschool with KKOOM’s help since March 2015.

In the fall of 2011, we discovered that toddlers ages 2 and 3 (international age) living in Korean orphanages are unable to attend preschool because the government does not provide funding until the children turn 4. With the help of a local preschool in Gumi, we began sending 2 and 3 year olds to preschool at a discounted tuition rate. To date, we’ve been able to send 7 children to preschool two years earlier than they would otherwise be able to attend without KKOOM fund.

The most recent KKOOM preschool child is JY. He arrived at Samsungwon when he was about 2 months old. He was abandoned on the steps of a nearby hospital and is one of the few “true orphans” at Samsungwon. At first he was very malnourished, but once he began eating regularly and growing healthily, his house mom at Samsungwon discovered that he was quite an active little baby with a lot of curiosity.

Previously, we sent children to preschool beginning at 24 months, but given JY’s rapid development, we decided to send him to preschool at 20 months this March.

JY's many facces

JY, 28 months old, has a variety of curious and cute faces.

We were a little worried about how he would adjust, but he was very excited to ride in the preschool van with the other older children from the orphanage when it came to pick him on the first day. Ever since then, he has enjoyed riding in the van.

As a result of attending preschool, JY has learned the names of animals, types of cars, and other common items. He’s also good at putting together blocks, like Duplos. At preschool, JY also has the opportunity to meet other toddlers his age and learn how to play together.

If JY did not have the opportunity to go to preschool, he would spend the weekdays at home with the Samsungwon staff and would not get to interact with others his age. His house mother predicts that JY would not know nearly as many words and would be behind others his age when the time finally came for him to go to school. After seeing JY and others to go to preschool with KKOOM’s support, JY’s house mother says she can’t imagine how bored JY would be if he had to stay at home all day.

 Posted by at 7:07 am

12 Days of KKOOM: #8 Levi’s Donation

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Dec 212015
Levi's Donation

Levi’s donated 1,196 sweatshirts to KKOOM through the US NGO “Good360”.

This fall, the Levi’s clothing factory in Seoul, South Korea donated 1,196 hooded sweatshirts to KKOOM and asked us to distribute them to various children’s homes and other people in need. We received this request through a US nonprofit organization called “Good 360“. The sweatshirts were all brand new and retailed for 59,000 Korean won ($50 USD).

With the help of friends and volunteers in Gumi, South Korea, we distributed the sweatshirts to 12 different children’s homes, special needs facilities and other small nonprofit organizations throughout Korea that benefit the poor, including orphans and North Korean refugees.


Recipients of the Levi’s sweatshirts were very happy to get such a nice and unexpected present.

Everyone who received the new sweatshirts really enjoyed them. We heard, especially at the special needs facilities, the children there do not get many opportunities to wear new brand-name clothes. The organizations where we distributed the shirts were also looking forward to be able to use them for special Christmas and year-end events. We hope that there is another opportunity in the near future for KKOOM to be able to use its contacts to help like this in the future.

 Posted by at 4:49 am

12 Days of KKOOM: #7 Christmas Parties

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Dec 202015

KKOOM Christmas Parties KKOOM hosted Christmas events on December 19 and 20 in Gumi and Gimcheon, respectively. On the 19th, about 30 English-speaking volunteers visited Samsungwon and helped put on an afternoon of fun Christmas activities for the 64 children living there in Gumi. File_001Everyone had Korean barbecue for dinner together at a nearby restaurant, and then in the evening, some of the children showed off their singing and dancing talents. At the end of the night, each of the children received their Christmas presents, which they had been waiting a long time for.


The next day, KKOOM board members Aimee Jachym and Bill Downey went to neighboring Gimcheon to visit Emmanuel Children’s Home with about 5 other native English speakers. There, they passed out gifts after the children’s Christmas worship service at the church on the premises. The children also performed some dance routines and sang some carols in celebration of Christmas. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch of grilled duck at a restaurant across the street from Emmanuel.

 Posted by at 9:00 am

12 Days of KKOOM: #6 – Who is an orphan?

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Dec 192015

This post is adapted from an email I sent to our supporters on Thanksgiving Day this year. -Aimee


Who is an orphan? A dictionary will tell you that an orphan is a child whose parents are deceased or otherwise unknown. Yet, my experiences during these past 11.5 years in Korea’s orphanage homes have painted a much different picture. In Korea’s 200-some orphanages, there are relatively few “legal orphans” who fit the dictionary definition. Rather most children end up in orphanages because a permanent caretaker is unavailable, unable, or unwilling to take care of them for a variety of reasons, including incarceration, disability, or divorce. These children almost always have living biological parents, yet they rarely are able to form any kind of loving parent-child relationship, such as like I formed with my parents, despite being born some 6,750 miles away from them.

By all ordinary definitions, I was an orphan. My record says that I was found in a box in front of someone’s house in Daegu when I was just a few days old (doctor’s guess). Yet, I’ve never gone to look for that house or that someone, despite my 36 trips back and forth to Korea since 2004. Why? Because I’m no longer an orphan. I know my parents, and I know my belonging.

And it’s from this place of certainty that — thanks to KKOOM supporters — I’ve been able to co-found and lead KKOOM, an organization that has been supporting kids whose lives could use more belonging since 2007. You see, an orphan is someone who lacks a true sense of familial belonging, that bond of love that forever connects a child to an adult — regardless of blood or circumstance. And each of the children I’ve met, cared for, and mentored in these Korean orphanage homes has the same needs – to be permanently loved and to believe they belong.

November was National Adoption Month, and it drew a bit of attention on social media. Personally, I’m thankful to have been adopted, and I know many others like me share these sentiments. Yet because each child and circumstance is different, I cannot, however, with conviction state that adoption is always the best answer for Korea’s orphanage children. There are far too many failed adoptions and incidents of “rehoming”, or even returning children to orphanages, both within Korea and internationally. There is also a new, welcome push in Korea to support single-mothers so children don’t have to be put in orphanages. And even in some rare cases, I would testify under oath that kids have found “real parental love” in orphanages and through their tireless caretaker “parents”, and I would not, personally, remove them from that state of belonging, especially at older ages. There are still other stories I can write, having seen fierce jealousy and heartache when one child is adopted from an orphanage and others are left behind. And then there will always be a need for temporary foster care, even if “temporary” means an entire childhood.

So what is my response? Personally, KKOOM is my response. “Kkoom” (pronounced “koom”) means “dream” in Korean, and through KKOOM’s work, since 2007, we help Korean orphans dream bigger dreams and build brighter futures, starting from where they are today, in these orphanage homes. We may not be able to permanently place each child in a better environment, but we can certainly help them prepare to make their way toward one. We can build their confidence, broaden their horizons, and help them find their sense of belonging in and connection to the greater world, and since KKOOM’s founding, we’ve been doing just that. Hopefully this 12 Days of KKOOM blog series gives you an idea of what we’ve been up to and where we are headed in the new year.

Thank you for reading and for your support of KKOOM!

 Posted by at 8:50 am
Dec 172015

This year KKOOM was proud to provide financial support once again to Jerusalem Ministry‘s Winter Arts and Crafts Camp and Summer Soccer Camp. Jerusalem Ministry, a Seoul-based nonprofit organization, puts these camps on for at-risk children living in Seoul area children’s homes and is supported by local businesses and donors.JMsoccer

The Jerusalem Ministry 7th Annual Arts and Crafts Camp was held from January 20 – 22, 2015 at Youngnak Church in Seoul. The camp was attended by 38 girls from different children homes around Seoul and 45 volunteers. KKOOM funds helped pay for the transportation for the girls to travel to and from the camp each day.

The 8th Annual Soccer Camp was held from August 10-12 at Yongsan Army Base in Seoul. There were 57 boys in attendance from 8 different Seoul children’s homes and 45 volunteers. KKOOM funds helped pay for the entrance fees for the pool party on the last day of the camp.

Check out the videos from each of the camps below.


 Posted by at 11:56 pm
Dec 172015
JD spent the summer in the US and is now back in Korea preparing for his last year in college.

JD spent the summer in the US and is now back in Korea preparing for his last year in college.

After spending a memorable summer in the US, JD is preparing for his last year as a senior at Pusan National University. Read more about what he’s up to below.

After returning to Korea, I spent a few days getting adapted to Korea, even though I’m Korean.

Now I’m doing several things in Busan. I work at a bakery café and also work as a private tutor for living. Of course, because I’m a student and really hope to get a job next year or one and half years later, I’m studying English. I took the TOEIC test last month and finished to study for the test, since I achieved the score I hoped to get. So, I started to study for the OPIC test, which is a test of English speaking, with this test, I have an interview with computer. And I think speaking practice I did in America will be helpful for me to get the score I hope.

When I first started working in the bakery, I was confused. I had to memorize all of the names of the bread there. So, when customers pay for the bread they buy, it took quite long time. Now, I’m pretty proficient with the work and doing pretty well.

As a private tutor, I teach a student English. If American people hear that, they can be skeptical and can ask me, ‘how can you teach someone English? , your English is not perfect and you have lots of error in English.’ Yes, that’s true, but I can teach reading, vocabulary and how to study English for the Korean SAT test. I’m not sure I’m doing well and the student I’m teaching now doesn’t like to study. Every time I teach him, I try to teach him hard, but he doesn’t look like want to study hard.

In middle of December, I will take a winter class. I have to prepare lots of things to get a good job in Korea. First, I’d better get good grades in college. Second, I should be good at English, I have to prove it with a few kinds of English tests such as TOEIC, TOEIC speaking and OPIC. And also, I must analyze how the industry in which the company is goes now, how the company I want to enter goes these days and I should know well about what I will do in the company and the task and job I apply for. I will also take tenacity and aptitude test. After that step, I will have various kinds of interviews such as interview with CEO, English interview, presentation, debate, training camp and normal interview.

They are really difficult procedures for lots of job seekers, but I should prepare and do well to achieve my dream. My ultimate dream is, showing that someone from a poor background can also can accomplish their dream. In my opinion, economic state and the background of a family is really commensurate with how their children do in school and their grade. But we can break that barrier by supporting and helping students who try to study hard or do well for their dream.

Actually, the children in my house don’t know why they need to study. I think there are some reasons, and one of the reasons why they don’t know is they don’t have any role models to be motivated. I want to be that kind of role model although I still have a long way to go.

I always appreciate all of KKOOM’s donors. Thank you.

 Posted by at 7:54 am

12 Days of KKOOM: #3 – An Exciting Year with KKOOM

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Dec 162015

Today’s post is Photo Collagewritten 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!

 Posted by at 4:50 am

12 Days of KKOOM: #2 Our Trip to America, part 2

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Dec 152015

This is the second of a two-part essay about three young adult Korean orphans’ travels in the U.S. This part is written by Jaeho and translated by Jin Dong. Jaeho is a KKOOM college scholarship recipient and is currently pursuing a career in ministry.

The next morning, we went to the bus terminal in Washington D.C. to go to New York. It was rainy at the moment to say goodbye to us.

It takes 4 hours from Washington D.C. to New York. I admire the bus driver that drove the bus without any break time. We can go anywhere from somewhere with 4 hours in Korea. America is really huge.

File_004We arrived New York where we’ve just seen only in movies. We unpacked our baggage at ‘Hi NY hostel’, and met Aimee and her friends. We had pork meat in Korea town. The problem is that it was really expensive. And we took a rest to have good tour in New York.

I had not expected to see a baseball game in America, even in Yankees Stadium!! After the game, we went to Hillsong Church. What I was impressed by is there were two lines of people there, one was a line of people waiting to get into a bar, and another was a row waiting for church worship. It was interesting scene I can’t find in Korea.

Led by Christine, one of Aimee’s friends, we had some pizza which was two times larger than my hand. It also tasted good. I felt everything is huge in America at that moment. And we visited ‘Strand Bookstore’, which was opened in 1927. I really regretted not to study English very hard at the moment, Because I couldn’t buy any books to read.

We walked again and again, stopped by Bryant park, New York city library and went to Times Square. It was really wonderful and beautiful. Even though it was night, I was impressed by many signs shinning. I’m not that good at taking a picture to take all of the beautiful scenes.
File_003 File_002
We walked again next day to see ‘statue of liberty’, the symbol of New York. (of course, we took subway, lol). Going to purchase the ticket to take the ship, a trickster tried to make us buy their fake tickets and we were about to get deceived, but fortunately, we didn’t. Getting close to statue of liberty was also great, and the skyline of Manhattan was very nice. I envied the natural beauty I can’t find in Korea.

We started to walk again, the next destination was the 9.11 Memorial. The area was still sorrowful and we couldn’t enjoy it. The atmosphere was quite solemn. I wish everywhere in the world be free from terror.

We just wandered without any destination. We walked so long time that I didn’t want to walk more. At the moment, two people appeared those who could encourage us, Christina and Christine, Aimee’s friends and friends of KKOOM. We walked again with two New Yorkers. I felt like we were also New Yorkers. Our goal was to eat many kinds of great food in New York. ‘Little Italy’ was held at that time. I forgot what I ate there, but they were good. The food we ate at China town were really nice; I can’t describe how great they are.
‘Grand central terminal’ was so beautiful not like other stations. I remember that it appeared on lots of movies. There were various stores and restaurants, but we just passed them. We stopped by Times Square again when we returned to the hostel. After looking around there several times, I thought it is just like advertisement exhibition.
Next morning, we visited ‘central park’, I borrowed a bicycle and rode it around there. It was really huge. I wished to eat ‘Samgyeopsal’ on the grass in the park. I wanted to look around the park slowly, but we had just little time to do that. I was satisfied in being there and said goodbye.

Christina recommended us to visit ‘Chelsea market’, and we went there. The atmosphere was kind of special. I felt a harmony of traditional market and modern market.

After that, We moved to Brooklyn bridge. The sunset and Manhattan next to the bridge were really nice and beautiful. I didn’t want to be interrupted by my camera, so I just saw the great view long time.

We recognized that there is a kitchen in the hostel the last afternoon we stayed there. We had ‘Shin Ramyeon’, and moved to Yankees stadium to see a soccer game of ‘New York City’. I was interested that we would see a few famous players such as Pirlo, Lampard and Villa. I was also curious of how the stadium can change to soccer stadium.

We went to bed early to take the airplane the next day. I hoped to be back New York, I was not sure I will be back someday.

I was accustomed to boarding an airplane even though I just have experienced it a few times. I didn’t feel joyful or interesting of getting an airplane anymore.

Our next city was Detroit, the ‘Motor city’. We visited Henry Ford museum with Aimee. We looked around Ford factory and Greenfield village. And we took ‘Model T’, which is almost 100 years old. I was surprised that the car worked well although it is too old. We also took a train with steam engine. I don’t know of Henry Ford well, but I could feel his passion at Greenfield village. After visiting there, we moved to Aimee’s parents’ house. It is a kind of typical American house I’ve seen in lots of movies.

Her parents served us very nice food and handmade beer, they were great!

We went to an outlet to buy some presents. Actually, I forgot the name of the outlet. It was really huge. The discount rate was also nice. After we bought some presents, we visited a casino. It was worth to experience, I lost 10 dollars, but I didn’t think it is waste. And we visited Aimee’s house and the law firm she works. In the evening, we watched a football game of West Michigan university. I knew a little bit about the rule of the game, so I could enjoy it. We spent the last night in America at a pub called “Bell’s”. We enjoyed various kinds of craft beer.

We returned to Korea by airplane from Chicago to Incheon. Two weeks went too fast. I was kind of sad and also happy to go back to Korea.

Someone said, ‘World is wide and there is a lot to do.’ That’s really true. We have a lot to do. And I hope to visit lots of places in the world. I feel like I can go anywhere I want to go if I just decide. But it is difficult to achieve my dream because life seems so busy now. And now, it’s been two months since I returned from America. I think, “Can I really do all of the things I want to do in this life?”

I appreciate God and all of the supporters who helped me to see and experience the wold. I believe the 2 weeks will be great seed in my life. I expect to have beautiful life. I believe God will lead my life and I will follow him.

 Posted by at 7:59 am