A Chance to Give Something Back

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A Chance to Give Something Back

Volunteers Are Needed by Many Organizations in a Variety of Fields

If the truth be told, most of working society looks forward to the winter holidays as "vacation days." The end of the year is rife with vacation plans and gatherings – family dinners, meeting good friends and staff parties. Then there are those who are spending their end-of-the-year vacation volunteering.

"I wanted to do something that would make God look at me as a beautiful person," said Jennifer Kang after volunteering at Shundukwon Orphanage on Christmas morning.

Ms. Kang, a public relations officer at the hotel Grand Hyatt Seoul, spent Monday preparing jun,a vegetable pattie, for a Christmas day feast for children later that day.

Ever the public relations person, she mentioned that the Hyatt has arranged to give out tteogkuk,rice cakes in soup, on Friday to "disadvantaged families." In Korea, it is traditional to eat tteogkuk on New Year's Day. Eating tteogkuk is symbolic of "eating age," according to the lunar calendar-based age system, one becomes a year older on the New Year, not on one's birth date.

Elsewhere in the world, a New Year's tradition is to draw up a list of resolutions for the coming year. These resolutions include weighty issues such as spending more time with the family and personal goals such as losing weight.

How about giving something back to the community?

South Korea has many organizations looking for help throughout the year. The charter of the organizations listed range from alleviating poverty and poor housing, to helping children, to making the move to Korea a comfortable transition for expatriates. While some places are looking for specialists, many accept people comfortable with English or volunteers simply eager to help.

The founder of Habitat for Humanity International, Millard Fuller, was in Korea this month to prepare for and publicize the Jimmy Carter Work Project 2001. Korea is the target country for 2001. The objective is to build 120 houses in different parts of the country, including Asan, Osan, Taebaek, Daegu and Jinju.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit Christian organ-ization that "seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world," according to its website ( www.habitat.org ).

Mr. Fuller met President Kim Dae-jung and first lady Lee Hee-ho and enlisted their help, according to the project director, Rick Hathaway. More than 7,000 other volunteers aged 16 and up, including 1,500 from out-side Korea, are expected to don work clothes and join the Aug. 5 - Aug. 10 project. There is no age gap to volunteer.

Topping the foreign volunteers is former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn. The couple will be pitching in at Asan, according to a volunteer at the Habitat Seoul office, Jeanie Chung.

Mr. Carter, reputed to be an excellent carpenter, has said he was happy to give his name to the weeklong event because "Habitat has opened up unprecedented opportunities for me to cross the chasm that separates those of us who are free, safe, financially secure, well fed and housed and influential enough to shape our own destiny from our neighbors who enjoy few, if any, of these advantages of life."

Last year, the Jimmy Carter Work Project focused on New York, Florida and Georgia.

Habitat aims to alleviate poverty housing with "partnership housing." People in need of housing work side-by- side with volunteers to build homes. The money comes from fund-raising. Homeowners repay the loans with no interest. The Jimmy Carter Work Project is just one of the volunteer opportunities the organization offers.

Last August, Habitat for Humanity, Korea built a village of 34 houses along the Seomjin River during
"Miracle Across the River." Apart from weeklong projects, Habitat also builds houses throughout most of the year. The site closest to Seoul is Uijongbu, but construction has ceased due to the cold weather.

Instead, the organization is looking for support staff at the national office in Seoul.

Habitat is seeking fund-raisers and promoters for the August event. Clerical assistants are also needed. Call 02-2267-3702/4.

Now that United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, has ended sales of Christmas cards, the group
is looking for English-Korean translators for a February seminar on child safety. Speakers are from Britain.

UNICEF is the only branch of the United Nations that focuses exclusively on children in developing countries. Since 1950, when the Korean War broke out, UNICEF has helped Korean governments with immunization, health education and safe toys. In January 1994, when Korea was no longer considered a "developing" country in need of UNICEF assistance, the Korean Committee for UNICEF, or KCU, was set up.

Asiana Airline also helps UNICEF raise funds. The airline collects coins from passengers, and volunteers sort and count the donations.

UNICEF is also always looking for English-language copy editors. Call 02-722-6581.

Another volunteer organization, FOCUS, was set up in 1976 to help foreigners living in Seoul.

"We're offer a broad range," said the group's marketing vice president, Irene Calder, rattling off a long list of services. These range from a 24-hour emergency medical hotline to a resource manual listing expatriate-friendly hair salons.

Ms. Calder said people volunteered for FOCUS because it was a quick way to get to know what was happening in Seoul.

The four main areas for volunteers are maintaining an information database, gathering up-to-date information on health services, manning medical and counseling hotlines and counseling people referred to the organization.

Because the range of services is extensive, volunteers come from all walks of life.

FOCUS takes people with backgrounds in medicine, counseling and those simply looking to connect to Korea.

The only stipulation is that volunteers must be FOCUS members. Membership is limited to those with
foreign passports.

The U.S.O. also targets foreigners living in Korea, more specifically, military personnel. "We're trying to create a home away from home," said Elaine Losey, executive director of the U.S.O. She said many volunteers are people who want to help members of the U.S. military.

The U.S.O. also promotes Korean-American friendship activities.

There are volunteer opportunities for receptionists, tour guides and people to teach Koreans about American culture and Americans about Korean culture. For those who cannot commit scheduled times, the U.S.O. also needs volunteers for special events. For example, in March, the U.S.O. will host "Sixth Star Salute," a gala event at the Seoul Hilton Hotel.

For Arbor Day in April, the U.S.O. is arranging for U.S. and South Korean soldiers to plant trees on sites throughout Korea. For more information, call the volunteer coordinator, Judy Hoyer, at 02-795-3063 or 02-7913-6377.

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