Global Families of Gwangju founders win Simning award

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jun 8, 2016 - 19:03
  • Updated : Jun 8, 2016 - 19:03
Gwangju expats Jeff Hamilton and Kelly Palmer Kim were conferred the Michael Simning Community Builders Award for their work in setting up and running the Global Families of Gwangju community organization.

The pair created GFG five years ago to facilitate cross-cultural activities and exchanges in Gwangju as well as to run events to allow kids and international families to get together and enjoy typical family experiences that many expats have back home and miss in Korea, according to award organizer Nancy Harcar.

These include sports events, kids’ parties and spring festivals, often involving other Gwangju organizations, such as the Gwangju International Center and the Gwangju Performance Project.

“Kelly and Jeff have worked really hard to create this unique experience for their children, and the children of friends, other expats, international and Korean families in Gwangju. In so doing they have been able to bridge the distance between expats and Koreans in Gwangju,” said Harcar. 

Jeff Hamilton and Kelly Palmer Kim pose with their shirts and a cake celebrating Michael Simning’s birthday at the award ceremony for the Michael Simning Community Builder Award at the Gwangju International Center on Saturday. (Nancy Harcar)

The award, open to people working with expat-related community organizations, was set up last year to commemorate the community and charity efforts of Michael Simning, a Gwangju resident who organized orphanage volunteering and other community events and opened expat community hub the Alleyway.

Simning died of leukemia in 2014. The date of the announcement, June 4, was his birthday.

Winners and finalists of the award, chosen by a four-member panel of Koreans and expats, are honored with specially designed Hawaiian shirts, in a nod to Simning’s favored wardrobe choice.

“Kelly and Jeff were chosen as this year’s recipients because they have made a dramatic impact on the community through their work to bring expats and Koreans together to build a stronger and closer community, and that is the biggest goal of the Michael Simning Community Builder Award,” Harcar said. “Everyone on the committee this year agreed that Kelly and Jeff have built something with a positive impact for the entire community with the possibility for long-lasting legacy.”

The other finalists for the award were Lisa Crone for her work for the Gwangju Animal Shelter; Sarah Elizabeth Hale for charity work including fund-raising and organizing for the Adopt-a-Child Christmas gift-giving drive; Park Tae-sang for founding the Open Space Dreamers art space and charity fundraising; and Courtney Anne Snyder for organizing English instruction at the Mdream Garden children’s home.

By Paul Kerry (