Around midterm week in the fall semester at Chinju National University of Education an inspiration turned into reality.
Over a bowl of bibimbap with my colleague, Kerri Strothard, I brought up the idea of having a fundraiser for the holiday season.
Both of us were the newest members to the CUE English Department and knew very little about Jinju or the locals. I had built my roots in Korea from Gwangju. Kerri had come from Canada, but had worked near Seoul previously.
As foreigners, we leave behind our family, friends and comforts. So, we need to start over by making Korea our new home, developing new friendships and finding a supportive community.
Being a member of the Gwangju International Center (www.gic.or.kr) introduced me to a network of Koreans and foreigners ― an innovative environment for us to meet and learn from each other.
Expats ran regular fundraisers to support local orphanages, and more recently one to help a friend fighting cancer.
It was my turn to step up and Kerri was more than keen to be my co-facilitator.
After doing some research, with the support of my student Ja Young-hong, we found the ideal organization, the Jinju YWCA (http://jinjuywca.or.kr).
The Jinju YWCA told us how they helped children without parents in the community by preparing and delivering free lunches door-to-door once a week. YWCA volunteers use their own funds for this lunchbox program.
Our coworkers Ben Hessenthaler, Dana Van De Walker and Johnnie Jackson jumped aboard, keen to make the event something to remember.
With the combination of our love for this culture, appreciating Korea for giving us a safe and comfortable lifestyle, and an opportunity to share our individuality outside of work, the results were beyond expectations.
On Dec. 12 from 7-11 p.m., at the Soundgarden Bar (http://soundgarden.cyworld.com), Koreans and expats came together to talk, sing and laugh.
The talented Cyclones of CUE rocked Soundgarden by playing Guns ‘n’ Roses, The Beatles and Korean chart-topping hits. Kerri belted out a few too.
Our most profitable idea was reselling donated English and Korean books. Both communities love to read but it is not easy to access a wide selection in Jinju.
Dana, a cooking enthusiast, made some sweet treats with Kerri and Johnnie. In addition, she assisted me and Ben in creating three tasty raffle prizes, tempting all attendees with Doritos, imported coffee, cheese and salami.
Johnnie Jackson, with his undeniable charm and strong connections in Jinju, worked hard to pass out flyers, networking through Facebook to ensure a big crowd.
The most creative, yet arduous project was making a ladies “bombshell” calendar. It was an opportunity for me to use my photography skills, Kerri to be the master photo editor and Dana coordinating to make every detail count. All this generated more than 700,000 won ($620).
Why help the community? There are many reasons, but here are three of my favorite: It’s the secret recipe to feeling great; it’s an outlet for people to express their best qualities; and ultimately, it helps create a better world to live in.
It all starts with one person: you!
By Debra M. Josephson
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