Guest blog post by Shaun Wiese. I’m originally from the suburbs of Chicago and I now live just outside of Gumi. I teach English at Buksam Middle School and have been living in Buksam for just about one year. I started volunteering at Samsungwon in early 2013 and visit every other Sunday. For information on how to get involved with the Sunday visits at Samsungwon, visit our volunteer group on Facebook.
When I first arrived in Korea and found out I was living in Buksam, I was a little nervous due to the fact that every single person (Korean or Foreign) I asked had no idea where the town was. So when I moved here and met the few other foreigners in this town I was kind of dependent on them to help me get around at first. I think I may have been a bit of leach at the beginning. Anyway, throughout all this my friend mentioned that she volunteered at an orphanage in Gumi. So after I became self dependent and knew how to get around I finally asked her where it was and told her I’d like to go sometime and visit with her. My first visit was to discuss setting up a bi-weekly visit for foreigners to come and play with the kids. I’m really happy I went.
I have visited every other week since that first visit and every time it’s a lot of fun. I typically just play piano or games with the kids (like Jenga, throwing an American Football around, playing basketball, or literally just picking up the little kids and throwing them [gently] above my head). Once I let the girls paint my nails and I’m still seeing little specks of it on me.
Earlier this year, KKOOM held an all day scavenger hunt with the kids and that would go down as one of the most fun days I’ve had in Korea. We ran around town trying to find certain items and it was an interesting time for me trying to speak Korean and them trying to speak English to me (a side benefit for volunteering is your Korean will improve). The best part was going to the Norae Baang with the kids that night. I can’t explain how hilarious it is to watch a bunch of elementary school kids jump around and sing / scream kid songs. Although I’m not going to lie, it did get slightly annoying at times. 😀
Overall, I’m amazed at how much fun I have with the kids whenever I go. The kids are amazing. They are very sweet and will play with you even if they can’t understand a single word you’re saying. Don’t give them your phone though. One of the children raked a 40,000 won bill on me because I wasn’t paying attention. Stephanie mentioned in her post about how people always tells her how impressed they are with her volunteering and I understand cause I said the same thing to her. But really, I look forward to going there each and every time I visit. I’m actually a bit sad because my vacation time fell on a scheduled trip to the orphanage so I’m going to miss my bi weekly visit for the first time since I started going. I don’t mean to get all sappy, but it’s just an overall wonderful experience to spend time with the kids.