June 20, 2011

Volunteering in Daegu

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For those of you who may be unaware, finding volunteer opportunities in Korea is not always an easy task. I've discovered a few big issues : there are few programs that have coordinators willing to work with those who don't speak Korean, some organizations push a political or religious agenda that would make volunteering less enjoyable, and other times there are so many teachers looking to volunteer, there isn't enough positions open.

Needless to say, I wasn't really thinking I would find an organization to volunteer for. Lucky for me, Corinne had a set weekend every month that she volunteered, and started including when I first arrived. As Corinne has left Korea, I've been able to invite more friends and introduce more people to a side of my life in Korea not often on display.

I volunteer with an "orphanage" in Daegu. I use quotation marks, because it isn't what a majority of Americans would imagine - most of the children still have parents and many still spend afternoons with those parents. From my understanding, this is not unusual in Korea.

I go once a month, and always bring my camera. However, I have not posted any of these pictures before. For the privacy of the children, I am not posting any pictures of their faces. Special permission has been granted for these selected pictures, because I feel like this blog post will show a side of my life here that I haven't shared before. Its a vital, special time in my month, and I hope everyone appreciates these pictures as much as I do.

They teach me a lot of things, such as traditional Korean games. Generally, I lose.

Volunteering here would be impossible without the Suseong-gu's Government Office Volunteers. They pick us up, drop us off, translate for us and the kids, and help us in so many ways.

Most of the times I have been, I went with Shelley and Corinne.

The girls like to draw pictures and color. This is a portrait of me done by one of the students.

The girls are much more shy around me, because I usually work with the boys. Because of this, I have a lot more pictures without the girls faces, hah.

Laura has come the last two months with us.

Shelley learning how to skate board - the students can be excellent teachers. Corinne playing catch.

Jenga is my favorite game, because it easily becomes dominos, blocks, and bowling pins.

The kids *love* to take pictures. I let them use my camera if the strap is around their neck, and some of them are pretty great. This is a shot one of the kids took of me. Generally, they take pictures of each other posing with funny faces, so those didn't make the privacy rules.

Some of the kids are tiny little babies. They're pretty adorable, and give a nice break from the soccer games.

The boys are all very into Legos. They can follow the diagrams and build the models - even with English directions.

We play outside on bikes and cars. Some days we play on the playground.

Of course, they are really into Pokemon.

Laura brought her frisbee. The younger kids mostly rolled it, but had fun anyway.

More Jenga creations, building towers to the sky.

One week my friend Jose donated a ton of toys to the kids. I felt like Santa Claus. They were thrilled!

On some special days, we get to play with the boys and girls together, which is a whole new dynamic and tons of fun.

Volunteering here is fantastic. I really can't describe how great it is to just play with the kids - no lesson plans or educational goals. I love teaching and filling that role, but when I miss my cousins and life back in the US, I miss the fun babysitter role. This is an entirely different experience than teaching, and its a great break from the responsible adult role. I won't be able to see the kids again before I leave for the States, but plan on returning monthly when I come back to Korea. They're one more reason that Daegu is truly my home, that I feel like my life is here.


  1. LOVE these pictures. I am so glad you found the special place to volunteer. You know I love being around kids, watching them discover the world through such innocent eyes. Congrats! can't wait for your return..love mom.

  2. I'm so glad we got to volunteer together! We are so lucky! :)

  3. Hello, I'm interested in volunteering in Daegu. How do I sign up with this program?

  4. Not sure if you are still checking your blog but I am also interested in doing some volunteering here in Daegu. You can email me at benjaminDOTchatfieldATyahooDOTcom. Thanks! I hope to hear from you.

  5. Unless you know someone who currently volunteers, the program I worked with isn't accepting new people. There is a long list of people who want to get involved, and since I am leaving Korea this week, I am not able to invite you.

    To find some, perhaps you could contact the local government office - I did some writing for their promotional blog. Some local churches have English speakers who may accept volunteers. There are plenty of people who need pet sitters to volunteer (look on facebook), or tourists who need a guide or host (look on couchsurfing.org). Local universities may need tutors or cultural exchange friends. Local English magazines, like the Daegu Compass, needs volunteer writers and photographers. Korean Animal Protection Society (KAPS on facebook) needs people to volunteer with animals. Daegu's Time to Give (on facebook) is another option.

    I suggest you look at this facebook page, which helps people find volunteer options in Daegu : https://www.facebook.com/groups/179573375451211/

    Volunteer opportunities exist, but you really need to make an effort to get involved yourself.