When it is getting cold and winter is coming, what do you usually think of? You may come up with the image of pure and peaceful snow, Merry Christmas...or? It is not weird that most people look forward to it and are already preparing how to spend their time at Christmas.
Some people may plan to go on a date in an upscale restaurant with their lovers and enjoy an expensive dinner. Generally, families hope to spend time together during the day. Do you know what is the real meaning of Christmas is? It was originally the day to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth and share that joy with others. Over time, it has become more like a holiday festival around the world. Let’s discuss the original meaning of Christmas - that is, “Sharing the joy with others.”
You may have had an experience that you are in a snowfield and are shivering from the cold. However, people come to you then and snuggle to keep you warm. It is easier to endure the penetrating cold because the warmth of others can be a very big help. The more people come, the warmer it gets and finally, you do not feel the cold.
Likewise, the light from a candle is not diminished, but rather the brightness becomes lighter when you provide fire. Sharing the joy with others is the same as the light from a candle. Giving things may make you feel like you are losing something, but in reality, it creates a synergy effect and you get more back. In today’s competitive society, people think that they are too busy in their own lives to give attention to their neighbors. It reminds me of a fairy tale which you may already know, “the Little Match Girl.” Our goal is to show you how to share your possessions with others; volunteer and donate.
What comes to your mind when you hear this story? Does indifference make the girl die? If people had not ignored the little girl, the story would be different. Scrooge, who just passed by the dead girl, resembles some people in our society.
Compared to Korea
Have you ever heard of the Good Samaritan law? It is the law that punishes people who does not help someone in danger, despite any specific risks for them. In France, the offenders of this law could be sentenced to prison or pay a fine.
Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Russia and many other countries also have similar laws. It reflects the fact that these countries consider the importance of helping others in need and basic human rights. Sadly, the similar situation of the Little Match Girl exists in Korea. Unfortunately, Korea has no the law and it is permissible to ignore others in danger. In 2005, among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD) members, the total social expenditures adjusted gross domestic product(GDP) in Korea recorded 8.9% which is far below the average of 20.6%.
Relative poverty rate- Relative poverty rate: households with an accumulated income less than 50% of the median income and are living in poverty - is the rate of people who earn less than half of the median household income. It is increasing annually in Korea because of a financial crisis. However, not only the welfare budget is small, but also the Ministry of Health and Welfare has poorly executed the budget.
Although the welfare budget increasing is important, distributing it properly to people who are neglected and need to be subsidized is much more crucial. More importantly, because of lack of funding and problems with the distribution of the budget, volunteer work and donations are greatly appreciated and needed for those requiring social welfare.
Donations can help others and make us feel happy. When we see others needlessly suffering we might actually start to question the meaning of life. Individual and corporate donations are actually rising, from 1999 to 2008! Although it seems similar to other countries’ externally, personal donations are low. Corporate donations make up 86% of the 9 trillion KRW, but it can be of limited application. Oppositely, personal contributions can be used in more various ways to help others.
Therefore, an increase in personal donations is desirable. Not only money, but also your time and talent could be donated. Doing volunteer work is also a donation of your time and is needed in our communities.
The participation rate for volunteers in Korea is about 20% of population, which is comparatively lower than England which recorded 59% of population.
Although the number of registered volunteers was over three million at the end of 2009, the volunteers who contributed their time more than once a year was just one million and eighty-thousand. Most volunteers were students(48.8%) and homemakers(13.4%). Should you examine the graph below, fortunately, the number of volunteers is growing steadily.
How Can the UOS Students’ Volunteer?
Presently, many universities have a course called Volunteerism which contributes to society. The University of Seoul(UOS) also has introduced it since 2006. Even though students who want to take VolunteerismII have to take VolunteerismI first, the number of students who take VolunteerismII is steadily increasing. In 2006, 280 students took the course and 767 students took the course last year.
Did you know that UOS has volunteer groups? Some UOS students participate in clubs such as Jisil, Busrugi, Greendume, and YESUOS and a considerable number of UOS students have already got involved in volunteer work to help make our society better.
Greendume divides members into three groups of five or six people and offers services once a month. Members who go to the Gangnam-gu office distribute food to the elderly, another group helps to repair household problems and others teach children who cannot afford to go to a private educational institute. Jisil has offered educational services to middle school students since 1983.
There are around twelve active members who teach teenagers two hours per week. Once you become a member of Jisil, you do volunteer work periodically for about two years. The Busrugi volunteers have been playing with children since 2005 at a community welfare center.
Presently, there are around seven or eight members who participate every two weeks. During a semester, about thirteen YESUOS members teach Korean to multicultural children and help them adapt to Korean culture, in a library,modoo, located in Dongdaemun-gu three times a month. This volunteer club is part of 6 universities and they do voluntary activities for rural communities. Six members in each university do volunteer work overseas.
Besides, there is another volunteer group called Sinbaram-nanumi in the Department of Social Welfare and there are approximately ten members mainly consisting of freshmen and sophomores. They help teenagers study in the University of Seoul Community Welfare Center every week and spend time with mentally challenged children to help them to adjust to society every fourth Saturday.
Although the number of volunteers is increasing, there are still some problems. The money support fund for volunteers and the beneficiaries is small and many volunteers cannot maintain a constant schedule and end up discontinuing their volunteer activity.
Moreover, the participation rate of university students is lower during vacation because many of them take Volunteerism in the semester. It is very important to create relationships among the beneficiaries and volunteers. To make relationships, considerable time is needed and when doing volunteer work it is important to be sincere
The reporters met Moon Yong-feel, who graduated from the UOS, to discuss the advantages of volunteering. He was acknowledged for his sincere volunteer work from the Korea National Council on Social Welfare. He started to teach juveniles who could not afford private education since he was sophomore.
Initially, he started volunteer work because he had to submit a report about it for one of his classes. Many students have also started their first experience like him, but the difference between others and him is consistency. He still teaches juveniles once every week. He said that, “If you volunteer to teach young people for just one semester, it is not helpful to both you and them. Steadily meeting and forming relationships are important. You must build trust!” The reason he did not stop teaching youths was because he became close with his pupils.
He also had the opportunity to attend camps for disabled students during vacation and assisted in planning various programs for the disabled. He emphasized that we can learn and get many benefits by doing volunteer work. Needless to say, volunteer work can give us a different perspective toward society and be more thankful for our own life.
On a cold day, we visited The UOS Community Welfare Center in Jungnang-gu to meet a social worker named Oh Soon-hee. She is a graduate of UOS, and works in the welfare center. She told us about her experience with UOS students and the hardships she faces as a social worker.
“You may think volunteer work is just about helping others and donating your time. However, you can learn many things too. Through this work, you will realize how important you are. When you meet people who earnestly wait for your little help and attention, you will be surprised.
Moreover, you are able to find out your aptitude while experiencing various things that you cannot learn at a university. It is really good opportunity for you, since volunteering is free and you can meet diverse people who are distinct from you as well as learning how to communicate with others which is the true study of your life and society.
Of course, there are discrepancies in the volunteer work systems. For example, the government’s budget for social welfare to each borough office is the same.
However, the number of lower class living in that area is different from borough to borough. It sometimes causes difficulty to use limited budgets effectively. If you think your job is not suitable for you, ask your coordinator to change after doing it at least 30hours. You are still unhappy after 30hours, choose another volunteer job. Do not give up your trial too quickly just because you think the it is wearisome. Regret after experience is much better than regret without any trial.”
We really hope you, the readers, are touched and want to reach out and touch another life! Remember that volunteers themselves gain many things through volunteer work. Whatever the reasons is it is worth it to throw yourself into helping others!
Suggestions for Beginners
If you have decided to do volunteer work, and need more information, please visit the homepage for the Seoul Association of Social Welfare Center ( http://www.saswc.org), or Volunteer Management System (VMS-Volunteer Management System which records volunteer work time officially -) website ( http://www.vms.or.kr/).
The websites will give you information about the nearest welfare center in your home. If you have decided to do volunteer before the semester starts, you can kill two birds with one stone. First, enroll in the ‘Volunteerism’ class, then you can get a credit and feel rewarded at the same time. To pass the class, you have to volunteer more than 30 hours in the semester. If you did not decide before the course begins, you can choose among the selected volunteer organizations at the orientation of the class.
There are thousands types of jobs you can do. Choose a suitable one and then you can experience and learn many things. If you like hang around with kids, it would be perfect to teach them. Many of them cannot afford private education, so your effort is really helpful. The Junior Achievement Korea finds volunteer teachers (http://www.jakorea.org). Do not worry that you have not taught before, just spending time with them can be worthwhile.
Anything you are good at is enough to share with others, such as cooking food and delivering it to the elderly who live alone. You also can help senior citizens and foreigners to learn Korean. Repairing homes, painting walls, helping them take a bath, and becoming a companion are all good examples of volunteerism.
There are also many ways to donate; writing a comment, child sponsorship programs. Also, you can donate happy bean by using e-mail, blog and so on. (Please check http://happybean.naver.com) You may be surprised that there are really many things you can do and many people who eagerly need your help. So, knock on the door of nearest volunteer organization and ask them what you can do to help. If some organizations may not have the program you want, you can create one with the organization or find another association.
Last Suggestion for Today’s Scrooges
Now you know where you can do volunteer work and how you can use your time. Start from what you like and enjoy. As mentioned earlier, spending your time and dividing your talent could be very good donations. If you think you are too busy to help others, we hope you think again. You are going to be busier as you get older. This is the very moment to start your volunteer career, unless you want to spend your entire life like an awful miser, Scrooge! Act different from Scrooge and take the time to give to others like the little match girl.
It is good to stay with families or lovers enjoying the mood of Christmas. However, how about you make this winter warmer by taking a look around and holding out your hands to others? Your small sharing and random acts of kindness would be a big present for others, as well as a gift to yourself!