For disabled ch ildren, this club is real joyLast Oct. 26 at the 100-Year Anniversary Building at Yonsei University, approximately 1,000 spectators watched a performance of traditional Korean music and dance. The performance ended in an emotional clamor of cheers and cries of "Encore, encore."
Not remarkable in and of itself, except for who the performers were ?disabled children who had not long before been incapable of even holding a Korean drumstick. But after years of practice and help from the volunteers associated with the Joy Club, the musicians and dancers succeeded in putting on a memorable performance.
The Joy Club was formed in Ilsan, a northern suburb of Seoul, in 1998 by parents of disabled children and other volunteers. Altogether there are around 70 members in the club that is designed for mildly mentally disabled children.
The club's first home was a small apartment, which was converted into a school for disabled children. The club president Kim Mi-gyeong says that her aim is to develop the qualities of the disabled children as well as their parents, and to do so, the club has three main objectives.
The first is to bring out any hidden talents in the children and to increase their capacity for concentration. Some activities that they do include finger painting, rhythmic movement programs, exchanging stories and training to be more integrated into society by going to and participating in social events.
A second objective is to teach the children specific tasks. This is especially comforting to worried mothers who fear their children will be completely dependent on their families for life. These activities include dressmaking, making quilts, singing, printmaking and the aforementioned Korean traditional dancing. Ms. Kim says that mothers of disabled children have the tendency to fall into depression and lose hope. Korean society is often unaccepting of disabled children, and some people even blame the parents (the mothers in particular), insisting that there must be something wrong with them. By helping the children become more fully functioning, the Joy Club hopes to help the children and their families regain pride and hope.
The final objective of the club is to teach computer skills. By exploring the Internet and life online, the children get to learn about themselves and meet people from all over the peninsula and the world.
Last year the club created a homepage, www.joyplace.org, which now has more than 20,000 subscribers and regular readers who keep in touch and share information.
The organizers of the Joy Club want to make the club a place where disabled children can go to even when they are adults somewhere they can feel welcome and comfortable just being themselves.
To contact the Joy Club, call 031-907-9996.
by Ko Jung-kwan