June 17th, 2012 by Oh! Kpop
Foreign volunteers reach out
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Many foreign English speakers come to Korea for a year to teach English and then leave, but for many, that’s not enough. For those who feel like they should contribute more, there are many volunteer opportunities. Volunteer English instructors are always needed for a variety of groups dealing with the disadvantaged members of Korean society, from North Korean defectors to orphans and low-income families. “I was born into a loving family in a land that was not torn apart by war”, says Jordan Groh, an American. “I feel like I need to give back to people who have been less fortunate — I didn’t do anything to be born into this situation and they didn’t; we’re all equal in this regard”. Groh, who lives and teaches in Ansan, volunteers with the North Korean Defectors Freedom Association, an NGO run by a husband and wife who defected from the North. He manages the foreign English teachers for their English outreach program. The program has been ongoing for a year, providing one-on-one or two-on-one lessons in southern Seoul for two hours each Saturday. They average about 25 students each week, ranging from kindergarteners and grade-school students to university students and adults, all spanning a wide range of English ability.
Foreign instructors work with North Korean defector children (photos courtesy of Jordan Groh).
“I don’t see any difference between North Korean students and South Korean students”, Groh says. “Sure, a Korean could identify the accent, but I don’t notice any difference in desire. If they’re making an individual effort to learn English they’re very focused on it, their effort is very real”. Groh is collaborating with friends on a new group called NK Hub to provide a database of NGOs for North Korean defectors in Korea that require volunteer interns, teachers, translators, etc. “Through the database we contact them on a regular basis to find out about volunteer opportunities”, he explains. “With this information, we will be regularly sharing news of these opportunities through email, facebook, and an in-progress website. The initial stage is about foreigners but as it gets more developed we’re going to push it to get Koreans involved as well”. Meanwhile, the Canadian Embassy offers opportunities to tutor North Korean defectors attending university in South Korea with its Inside Canada Defectors Program (ICDP). The program seeks to provide North Korean students with language training as well as an introduction to global culture, focusing on Canadian values and perspectives. “The idea was suggested by embassy staff about a year ago at a meeting between staff and a consultative group consisting of Canadian English teachers”, says Matt VanVolkenburg, one of the volunteer instructors. “The embassy wondered if teachers here would be interested in teaching North Korean refugees, and we all affirmed that there would be no problem finding teachers who would be interested in volunteering”. With the cooperation of the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, the embassy launched a pilot program in February. They hired three instructors including VanVolkenburg to teach 13 students for the initial program. By its end in May, it was considered a success, receiving enthusiastic support from Cheong Wa Dae, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Unification, and Justice, and the defectors themselves. The embassy plans to continue the program with summer intensive courses and then resume with weekly classes in the fall. “We are always looking for ways to make a positive contribution”, the embassy said in the statement. “With this program, we are drawing on the large population of dedicated, talented, Canadian English teachers in South Korea to help young North Korean defectors achieve their goals through success in their university studies”. The ICDP is currently recruiting Canadian volunteers. Interested applicants should send their CVs, cover letters, and availability to The deadline for applications is Friday, June 15 at 4 p.m. Other groups like HOPE and PLUR offer volunteer opportunities to help underprivileged South Koreans, including orphans, the elderly, and the homeless. “I believe from my heart that without mentors and volunteers in this world, we would quickly perish as a people”, says Eddie Robinson, project director of HOPE. “Most volunteers can tell you stories of how others from their past were a motivating factor in their individual personal growth: be it a past teacher, social director, mentoring coach or group leader, we all have been given the gift of motivation through a volunteer. It’s a complete honor to give back to the ones who may be leaders in the future”. HOPE, which stands for Helping Others Prosper through English, was created in 2008 to address the problem of unequal access to English language and other educational opportunities to children in Seoul. It was created by three Canadian English teachers and one Korean, and has grown to become one of the largest foreigner-based volunteer groups in Korea, running over 20 centers across the country, as well as fundraising events such as clothing drives and food drives. They have also tutored North Korean defectors and paid visits to orphanages. The group received a citation in 2011 from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology for educating the underprivileged, and in 2010 they were named Best Education Volunteer Organization by the Korea Student Aid Foundation.
The first annual HOPE English Camp 2010 (photo courtesy of Eddie Robinson)
“Sometimes it is sad, but always rewarding”, says Robinson, who’s been in Korea for four years and currently lives in Guri. “It is expected that parents will guide their children to be their best, however when the parents themselves still struggle with life’s fundamental needs, then it is less than favorable that they will lead their children towards greatness. A child can be mentored and driven to succeed by any responsible adult who gains the child’s respect and trust. That’s the goal of HOPE volunteers”. To learn more about HOPE or apply to become a volunteer, visit their website: http://alwayshope.or.kr. “Volunteering has provided me a chance to look beyond my needs and worries and see the world in a bigger context”, says Ryan Berkebile, an American volunteer for PLUR. PLUR, which stands for Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect, is a volunteer organization that offers many different volunteering opportunities for foreigners and Koreans. “It’s a chance for people to give back during their time living here”, says Berkebile. “It’s also an opportunity to meet other community-minded people”. For the program Feed Your Seoul, they volunteer in soup kitchens to feed the homeless, where Berkebile claims they feed around 120 to 150 homeless per hour. Help Your Seoul takes place at Seoul Station where they hand out bread, soy milk, and bananas to the homeless there. They also teach underprivileged kids in the Teach Your Seoul program. They also pay monthly visits to Hyang-ae Orphanage to entertain the children.
Volunteers gather donated food for Help Your Seoul (photo courtesy of Ryan Berkebile).
“I usually participate in Help Your Seoul”, says Berkebile. “It’s a very positive environment. In the three years I have been doing it, the people we have been feeding have been extremely grateful and welcoming every Sunday when we come by their spots”. PLUR runs a Facebook group where prospective volunteers are encouraged to join, learn more about the program, and get involved: https://www.facebook.com/groups/volunteerforplur. By Jon DunbarKorea.net EditorTags : Canada, Dia, Eric, events, friend, GaIn, Jordan, Korean, North Korea, past, South Koreasnsd yoona touching jessica, watch two wives korean drama, what does gangnum style mean, jackal is coming dramawiki, reply 1997 ep 16 eng sub, tahiti jisoo, jung yong hwa abs, kwang hee without makeup, hello counselor eng, b2st midnight sun, jo jung suk and lee yoon ji, sinopsis city conquest eps 1, jessica jung parents, latest news on hyun bin, hangeng 2012, park ye jin boyfriend 2012, kim ha neul healing camp eng sub, oh in hye plastic surgery, exo cartoon, arthur s4 galaxy superstar