Preparing for a year in Korea, I wanted to tackle social justice and human rights issues through volunteering: KKOOM was the perfect platform for translating my passion into action. Writing is the tool I use to create social change for populations too often made invisible, and joining KKOOM as a grant writer felt like the perfect way to uplift the kids at the children’s homes.
In our first semester in spring 2023, volunteers researched grant opportunities aligned with KKOOM’s mission, values, goals, and priorities. When we completed our research phase, we presented our grant recommendations to Executive Director Grace Lee, Board Member Leah Garlock, and our fellow volunteers. This was our first step in creating support for youth in the social welfare system in multi-year programs.
I was selected as a Grant Team Leader, organizing a team of five volunteers to prepare a $500,000 grant application for the Girl’s Empowerment and Mentorship (GEM) Program, a critical and innovative program to increase educational and career attainment for girls living in KKOOM-supported children’s homes. We developed a four-year plan that involved comprehensive career training, mentorship from experienced women who had navigated the welfare system, and entrepreneurial workshops addressing the gender wage gap, disparities in high school graduation, and barriers to economic mobility.
Additionally, I was a co-lead for a grant that supported KKOOM’s art therapy programs, and as a grant analyst, I created a report to inform KKOOM’s grant-making practices. Looking back, serving in different roles allowed me to become more flexible and adaptable, moving my energy to where it was needed for each project so that we could do everything possible to reach more children, set up our next volunteers for success, and increase the organization’s sustainability.
As I reflect on my multifaceted role within the grant team, it became clear that this experience heightened my flexibility and adaptability and served as a stepping stone to overcoming personal challenges and becoming a more confident and effective leader.
While I brought years of grant writing and organizational development experience, assuming a leadership role was uncharted territory. Public speaking, especially leading team meetings, had been a source of fear and anxiety. However, the journey with KKOOM transformed that anxiety into confidence. Through leading our team, I honed my public speaking skills, fortified my grant-making expertise, and discovered pride in confidently voicing my recommendations.
KKOOM created a safe environment to share grand ideas with people who had faith in our team’s capabilities. It was a space where I was allowed to ask questions about the challenges and barriers these kids face in making and achieving their goals and collaborate to workshop solutions with the larger social issues in mind. I hope to carry these qualities to any workplace I enter, and I have KKOOM to thank for that.
So I urge you, if you are passionate about supporting the kids in children’s homes through writing, volunteer with KKOOM’s grant team and write dreams into reality.
Brittany Duran just completed her 2023 grant year as a Fulbright English Teacher in Hwacheon, South Korea. She implemented a Reading Challenge after-school program to develop better reading comprehension, pronunciation, and fluency skills for her students ranging from 1st to 9th grade. Graduating from Arizona State University with dual degrees in Social Justice and Human Rights and Family/Human Development, she was a Flinn Scholar through the Flinn Foundation which provided her a $130,000 scholarship to cover her cost of tuition, housing, two study abroad experiences, and membership of the Honors College. Brittany is passionate about addressing critical issues, such as advocating for mental health, education equity, and BIPOC leadership.