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Finding the Real Meaning of Volunteering
Young-eun Choi  |
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[135호] 승인 2015.09.03  
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We are family - Finding the Real Meaning of Volunteering!

What does volunteering mean to you? Giving help? Fulfilling a duty? It is something we have to do for society, but you sometimes bother to actually put thought into action? Starting this year, freshmen at the University of Seoul (UOS) are required to perform 30 hours of volunteer work before they graduate. Concerning this policy an anonymous freshman said, “Like we had done in our high school, I thought it would be easy to fulfill 30 hour volunteer work.

In reality, however, it is hard to get an idea about what to do and where to visit for satisfying 30 hours. It is a burden in my school life a bit.” As the policy is being implemented, most students do not know how to start volunteering. What kind of plan do you have to accomplish the volunteer requirement? If you are worried about it like many students, here is a helpful piece of information for you: a club called Grindume?

All about Grindume

In 1988, Grindume started as a central club of the UOS. Grindume was a research club, working on solutions for poverty in the city. Over the years, Grindume has evolved into a volunteer group solving poverty more directly.

As the name of a club represents its characteristics, it would be of a great help if we know the meaning of Grindume. It is a compound term of two Korean words. “Grin” means drawing, while “Dume” refers to an idealized, remote mountain village which is considered to be a paradise in Asian culture. This unique name conveys the club’s goal of changing the neighborhood around the UOS to an deal town. With this purpose, Grindume regularly conducts a variety of volunteer programs through which students can work in the neighborhood. As a result of their efforts, Grindume has received many awards over the years, including an appreciation plaque from the UOS in 2003. They have also achieved recognition for their activities with a participation prize in the Youth Volunteer Contest. Grindume has 28 years of history and a proven reputation.

▲ Restoring old House ▲ Restoring old House
▲ Volunteering on children’s day
Volunteering with Grindume

Grindume let members choose the volunteer programs. There are many options according to interest or schedule. There are basically four programs: first, restoring old houses; second, holding a bazaar, and doing volunteer activities for rural communities; third, giving a hand at the Eunchon Senior Welfare Center; and finally, helping disabled students as mentors.

The president of Grindume, Kim Dong-pil (School of Architectural Engineering, ’14), said, “Restoring old houses is a main duty of Grindume. We repair elderly people’s houses and paint their walls. Sometimes we drink makgeolli [with the elderly] too!”

Besides these four programs, Grindume also volunteered at SeMA BUKSEOUL, an event held at Seoul Museum on children’s day. Myoung-eun Lee (School of Geo-Informatics, ’14), the vice president of Grindume, said, “We gave white T-shirts to children and let them draw on the T-shirts whatever they wanted to. Of course it was not an easy job to take care of children, but we were proud of ourselves when they thanked us.”

▲ Singing at the senior’s wedding
▲ After party with Grindume members
Do Not Hesitate!

Many students think that volunteer organizations are a quiet place, with members who do develop relationships since they only gather when working on a volunteer project. Lee said that when she first participated in Grindume, she also heard a rumor that the club has a strict hierarchy. Kim, however, came to learn that it was just a prejudice.

Through regular meetings, including fundraisers and club trips with senior members, Grindume promotes friendship between junior and senior members. Grindume also throws farewell parties for male members who leave for military service. Other than these events, they often go out for meals together. With such a strong bond and a homelike atmosphere, members often call themselves Grinju(酒)me, a joking reference to the alcohol they consume. But that does not mean they drink a lot. Grindume may best be described as a “family.” Kim added, “Since volunteering is a self-willing-activity, there are no particular rules in Grindume except keeping the club office clean.”

Some upper-classmen and foreign students might hesitate to join Grindume. However, unlike other clubs that only seek freshmen, Grindume is open to every student regardless of age or class status. For now, there are no foreign students in Grindume. Kim said that volunteer work pulls down barriers to communication, and Grindume is eager to accept foreign students.

▲ MT with Grindume members

During the interview, what surprised me was “the homelike atmosphere.” Even though I interviewed only two members, I could easily sense affection among the members. Grindume is not a boring club as many students might think, and they do not do volunteer work only for their resumes. As the vice president of Grindume said, volunteering is “an opportunity for me to share what I have.” Every member of Grindume knows the happiness of volunteering. There is no financial interest or practical advantage for those who volunteer, but as university students, we should think about the real meaning of volunteering.

Young-eun Choi
all photos by Grindume

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