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Improving the Lives of Korean Youth Through Outreach and Education

Be the Change – Reflections from Chaelin Hong

Reflections from KKOOM’s Executive Assistant

As Chae is wrapping up her role as Executive Assistant for KKOOM, we asked her to share her experiences serving Korean children and what this experience has meant to her. Below are some reflections from KKOOM’s Executive Assistant, Chaelin Hong.


During my first semester of college, I made a promise to myself. And as cliché as it sounds, I promised to make the absolute most of my college experience. I wanted to learn everything there was to learn, try every activity I had wanted to try, and meet every person there was to meet. Having lived most of my life on the West Coast, Atlanta was the furthest east I had ever been in my life. I had already lost one semester to COVID so by the time I got to campus, I was itching to explore this new city and be a part of something bigger than myself. I didn’t know what that would look like at the time, but as a recent graduate writing this from my childhood bedroom, I am proud to say I think I succeeded in keeping that promise. 

I did this by prioritizing finding ways to merge my academic pursuits with a strong commitment to things I care about. I didn’t want to focus on just the good grades and getting into my pre-professional program. I knew that by the time I graduated, I wanted to walk across that stage with both my brain and heart a little bigger. 

Some of the things I got involved in to work towards this personal goal included doing medical-dental integration research with pregnant individuals at one of Atlanta’s largest hospitals serving low-income populations as well as leading my school’s Liberty in North Korea chapter to bring awareness to the humanitarian crisis in North Korea. I also co-founded a public health advocacy organization called Partners in Health Engage as a first-year student to fight for healthcare as a human right. And despite never having taken a single dance lesson in my life, I also joined a dance team during my sophomore year just for fun. Yet, one of the very first and most rewarding things that I got involved with early on was Korean Kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission, aka KKOOM ☺

Due to a personal connection in my family, I have always had a heart for children in the social welfare system and when I stumbled across KKOOM’s Facebook page, I saw an avenue for me to tangibly get involved with this work as a college student. I reached out to our Executive Director Grace through persistent emails and LinkedIn messages until I finally got her attention. Freshman-year Chae would soon be calling Grace not only her boss but an amazing mentor and friend. I had my first virtual meeting with Grace in my shoebox of a dorm room and I eventually went on to become KKOOM’s first Executive Assistant in 2021. 

During my time with KKOOM, I have been involved with organizing donation data and keeping up with email communications to improve our donor base understanding. I also generate and manage social media content during various campaigns to maintain engagement with our community. These tasks have taught me both hard and soft skills such as presenting material to board members, organizing mass information into digestible forms, and learning the inner workings of nonprofit management.


Grace and Chae enjoying Gusto in Atlanta before Chae became the Executive Assistant in 2021

However, some of the most meaningful experiences have been planning community-based events such as the inaugural Dream Big Gala and the 2023 Soccer Camp in Seoul, Korea. The Gala was an incredible opportunity to not only share KKOOM’s mission with the greater Atlanta community but to also introduce a cause close to my heart to some of my closest college friends who offered to volunteer at the event. Additionally, the Soccer Camp was my first experience interacting directly with the vulnerable population I have served for so long. I got to meet so many incredible individuals including board members, housemothers, and other students all working toward a common goal of making the world a little brighter for kids in Korean children’s homes.


KKOOM Dream Big Gala

KKOOM Soccer Camp 2023

The culmination of every single one of these experiences throughout my time in college and with KKOOM has taught me that understanding the perspective of others is a lifelong commitment that demands active engagement, empathy, and a genuine investment of our time and emotions. That means, it’s not something that comes passively. It means we must prioritize surrounding ourselves with individuals whose life experiences and backgrounds may diverge from our own. Only then can we make spaces for meaningful conversations, mutual understanding, and even respectful disagreements – all of which are essential components to fostering relationships and broadening our limited perspectives. 

College should not be the best four years of our lives. College simply equips us with the tools we need for the life-long process of self-discovery, and I believe that the best years of our lives come when we successfully find a balance between achieving our personal goals and serving our communities in meaningful ways.  

As young people, we occupy such a unique position within society in which we have both the privilege and responsibility to stand up for the things we care about.

My Asian American History professor told me in my last semester of college, “There are plenty of people who already don’t give a sh**. So, be someone who does.” 

Some opportunities in life may fall into our laps but the reality is that most of the time they don’t. If there’s a cause you care about, go out and demand to be part of that change; be proactive. Actively seek out organizations to support, books to read, and people to talk to who know more than you do. Dream big. We hold so much power. Let’s use it.


Chaelin graduated from Emory University in Fall 2023 with a B.S. in Anthropology and Human Biology and a minor in East Asian Studies. She will be starting dental school at Tufts School of Dental Medicine in Summer 2024 but looks forward to spending time with family in Seattle, WA during her gap semester. 


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