Volunteerism is singing a new tune

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Volunteerism is singing a new tune


Members of the civic group Volunteer Singers for Love sing on Dongseong Street in central Daegu on Dec. 12. The group performs regularly to raise money for the needy. The man in the wheelchair is Lee Young-gi, the group’s founder. By Gong Jeong-sik

DAEGU - Joyful Christmas carols float above Dongseong Street in central Daegu from an outdoor stage in front of Daegu Department Store. On the stage, 10 people sing along to a melody played on an acoustic guitar. Passersby stop to sing and clap along. As the performance ends, people give the performers a round of applause and put money in a collection box.

“The performance was almost at professional level. I contributed money since the group is raising funds for the needy,” said Gi Sae-young, 32. “I felt my heart warming up.”

The singers are members of the civic group Volunteer Singers for Love. The group performs every second and fourth Sunday on Dongseong Street and at Jungangno Subway Station to raise money for the needy. For the past three years, the group has sponsored four children with 100,000 won every month.

The group was founded by Lee Young-gi, a former textile company manager, in January 2008. Lee had a= motorcycle accident in 1996 that left both of his legs disabled and now he uses a wheelchair.

But it wasn’t the accident that inspired him to start the group.

“After seeing close acquaintances die of liver cancer and other diseases, I realized there were many people out there who are less fortunate than myself,” he said.

Lee, who dreamed of becoming a singer since he was in high school, started the group with 10 members but it has since quadrupled to 40.

Group members range in age from 20 to 50 and are all in different careers - there are farmers, security guards, college students and businesspeople.

“I’ve dreamed about being on stage since high school,” said Han Mu-kyu, an Oriental medicine doctor. “It is nice to be able to sing and help people at the same time.”

The group had a hard time getting started. Their biggest problem was finding a place to rehearse - until Yoon Jae-sup, the head of the Korea Leisure Research Center, offered them a small theater. The group meets there every Thursday to rehearse.

The group’s next performance will be at a small year-end party they will throw for the children they support.

“We are planning to support all of the kids until they go to college,” said Park Jong-chun, the group’s president, said. “We will do our best in singing for them.”

By Hong Gweon-sam [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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