Learning to Swim at Everland Amusement Park

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Sep 042017

In early August 2017, KKOOM Board Member, Bill Downey, traveled to South Korea. He visited the students at Samsungwon Orphanage and even joined them at a local amusement park. We asked Bill if he could share a few of his experiences below:


Each year in August during the school break, the children, staff and volunteers from Samsungwon visit a water park, go camping or a combination of things and this year they went to Everland Amusement Park, just south of Seoul for 3 days and 2 nights.

Everland is your typical amusement park with various rides, theme presentations as well as a water park and zoo-type exhibit called Zootopia.  This is a good destination as it has something for all ages and interests.   I had a chance to spend some time with the kids on their first full day and visit a couple of the theme areas and have lunch with everyone.  The food was quite good and the park was very well organized, clean and for a day that was near 100 degrees and high humidity, people were handling the crowds and heat in a patient, good-natured way.

This was also my first time without Aimee Jachym’s assistance with language interpretation so I had to sink or swim!  I regret my progress over the past four years in learning Korean has been less than I had hoped. I did manage to cobble together a few sentences here and there and when in a pinch, pull out my trusty Samsung Satellite 8+ and use Google translate.  Maybe not the best way to communicate but it would have to do for now.  I think I needed to be put in a situation that would motivate me to try learning Korean quicker!

Kids are amazing!  As hot as it was, they seemed to be having a terrific time.  It is great for them to have an opportunity to get away from the city and their normal routines, doing things that all kids do.  Time to relax and play are integral in helping them to develop into well-rounded people and your donations help to provide them the opportunity to have these types of activities.  Your support is critical in helping us continue to provide these kinds of activities and support and the kids appreciate it as do we here at KKOOM!

Regarding communicating during my visit, I didn’t sink but I didn’t swim, either.  Let’s say I was able to float and hope to be able to tread water, in Korean by my next trip to South Korea!

NOTE: As part of our commitment to KKOOM and our donors, Board Member Bill personally funded his travel and expenses to attend the Everland trip in South Korea. 

Written by Bill Downey, KKOOM Board of Directors

12 Days of KKOOM: #12 Dream Up

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Dec 262012

12 Days of KKOOM

12. December 26, 2012 ~ Dream Up

Written by Charlene  Araujo, an English teacher who lives in Sungnam, South Korea. Charlene coordinates Program Reach, a group of expat volunteers that visits Dream Up Orphanage in Suwon on a biweekly basis.

“Grandfather is here! Grandfather, snack please!” Seongmin begs the Canadian tutor, Chris, to give him a cookie as soon as Chris walks into the Dream Up orphanage every Wednesday. Seongmin is an impish eight year old with adorable black brimmed glasses and a gap toothed smile. Seongmin was scared of non-Asian people before joining our tutoring program, Program Reach, but now he excitedly approaches several tutors when they walk into the orphanage every week. Seongmin calls Chris “grandfather” because Chris is 55 years old with white hair, crinkled blue eyes, and a soft spoken voice.

A Program Reach Volunteer with a child at Dream Up Orphanage in Suwon, South Korea

A Program Reach Volunteer with a child at Dream Up Orphanage in Suwon, South Korea

Chris’s gentle demeanor endeared him to the three middle school aged students he tutors as well as other students who crowd around him to beg for snacks. Another student, Seohyun, was on the verge of quitting our tutoring program because she tried to bully other students and refused to participate in the lesson. Whether it be Chris’s soft spoken voice that calms Seohyun down or his penchant for playing card games with English vocabulary words, Seohyun now happily waits for Chris to arrive every week.

I have been volunteering at Dream Up orphanage in Suwon, South Korea for two years now, and it has been an honor to be part of the lives of the children and watch them be enriched by a tutor’s care. Students join the program voluntarily and are paired up with an adult in groups that don’t exceed three members and meet with a tutor twice a week.

Recently, our tutors have carved grapefruits with the kids and have taken them out to the movies as special incentives to keep them interested in the program. We have done fundraisers and raised 400,000won (approx. $375 USD) to help one student with his educational expenses as soon as he turns 18 years old.

The most heartbreaking part of volunteering is when the tutor leaves Korea because the child feels depressed. However, several tutors keep in touch with the kids and send them gifts and letters. Over time, I have seen some students become stronger as a result of feeling that an adult cares about their well-being, their confidence speaking English and talking to people who are from a different background grows.

Our program is humble and small, but the changes I have been privileged to see are long lasting.

Through our Volunteer-led Project funding, KKOOM has committed to provide the Program Reach Volunteers at Dream Up Orphanage financial support in 2013 so they can further their important work with these children in Suwon. For more information about Program Reach, please visit their website: http://programreach.weebly.com/index.html.

Update from the Stay!

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Feb 212012

It’s the start of Wednesday at the Emmanuel Stay Program, and everyone is having a great time so far. Every morning, the kids meet in teams with the volunteer teachers. The teams are preparing for a talent show on Friday evening.

If the afternoon, we have been spending time with the babies in the baby room, having English, and playing soccer outside. In the evenings, we eat dinner and have another English class. At night, the older kids have been watching movies with the volunteer teachers. We haven’t had any problems sleeping, because we have been so busy during the day.

The Emmanuel Stay Program has Started!

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Feb 192012

I am Sujin at Emmanuel. I have been the piano teacher here for 10 years. I am also the liaison at Emmanuel for KKOOM. I am looking forward to the Emmanuel Stay Program. I met all of the volunteers for the first time yesterday.

There is a couple from Chicago, some American English teachers, and an American consultant who lives in Seoul. We also have two Korean university students who speak English well helping us this week. Everyone seems great!

The children at Emmanuel welcomed all of the volunteers yesterday. The kids said hello to the volunteers and chatted with them briefly. The children also seemed excited for the upcoming week.

위의 내용과 다릅니다.

저는 임마누엘에서 10년 이상 피아노 교사로 일하고 있는 김수진이라고 합니다. 오랫동안 우리 아이들과 함께 지내면서 많은 일을 겪었지만 임마누엘 스테이 프로그램은 저에게도 우리 아이들에게도 아주 특별한 경험이라고 생각합니다. 지난 여름 스테이 프로그램을 시작으로 우리 아이들은 항상 외국인 선생님들과 함께 하는 이 시간을 너무 즐거워하며 아이들의 행복한 모습을 볼 수 있어서 저 또한 아주 기쁩니다. 이번 스테이 프로그램 또한 성공적으로 이루어 질 수 있기를 바라며 우리 아이들의 꿈을 위해 최선을 다하겠습니다!

임마누엘에서의 하루

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Aug 092011

원래 처음 이곳에 오기 전까지는 내가 할 수 있는 일이라고는 그냥 힘쓰는 일 밖에 없다고 생각했습니다.
하지만 이곳에 와보니 정말 착한 아이들이 많이 있고 평소에 경험하지 못했던 일들을 하게 되면서 제 스스로도 정말 많이 배울 수 있는 기회가 된 것 같습니다. 처음에는 걱정이 많이 됐었는데 이곳에서 좋은 아이들과 좋은 선생님들과의 시간을 가지면서 정말 제 스스로의 삶에 대해서 다시 생각해 볼 수 있는 시간이 되었습니다. 특히 저의 경우는 영어를 잘 못하는 한국인으로 외국인들과의 봉사활동에 참여하였는데 그들의 봉사활동에 대한 태도를 보면서 제 자신만을 보고 주변의 힘든 사람들을 돌아보지 못했던 이기적인 생활을 반성 할 수 있는 시간이었습니다. 또한 이곳의 아이들의 아픔을 조금이나마 이해하고 그들을 위해 조금이 이나마 도움을 줄 수 있었다는 것만으로도 큰 보람을 느낄 수 있었습니다.