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Korea launches new volunteer corps

Members of “Korea Hands” and guests cheer at the launch ceremony of the state-led volunteer group at Yonsei University in Seoul on Tuesday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Members of “Korea Hands” and guests cheer at the launch ceremony of the state-led volunteer group at Yonsei University in Seoul on Tuesday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

Korea Hands youth, elderly members committed to varied charity work


A total of 500 “young people” and 200 elderly citizens in Gyeonggi and South Jeolla provinces devoted themselves to charity work for their local communities on Tuesday.

At the launching ceremony of “Korea Hands,” hosted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare at Yonsei University in Seoul, the participants vowed to donate up to 40 hours a week for people in need for the next six months.

“As a music major student, I have always wanted to share my ability with students in need of professional help. I will be looking after students from low-income brackets. I want to set a role model for singer-entertainer aspirants,” Cho Sang-hyun, a 25-year-old college student, said at the event.

Alongside Cho, 499 younger people, aged between 18 and 30 years old, will be linked to local welfare centers to provide children from poor families with mentoring, tutoring and other support. They will also take care of low-income elderly citizens living alone.

Another 200 people aged over 55 years old who have retired will also dedicate part of their time to providing a clean and safe environment for children. They will become school sheriffs patrolling near schools or help prepare school meals.

The initial period of participation will be six months, with full-time members putting 40 hours a week into the program while part-timers will spend 6 to 10 hours. This year will be conducted as a test run in the two provinces but the authorities are planning to expand it to other parts of the nation.

The launch of Korea Hands is based on a acknowledgement that there are some blind spots in state welfare system. The fact that more people are willing to participate in charity activities also contributed to its establishment.

Inspired by the U.S. Corporation for Nation and Community Service’s AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn & Service programs’ nationwide charity promotion, the ministry said Korea Hands could illuminate the dark side of the underprivileged demographic.

In order to draw passionate and consistent participation, the ministry will grant full-time youth members with college tuition for one semester, a chance to go overseas for 20 days of volunteering activities and leadership training opportunities. After their planned term ends, Health and Welfare Minister Chin Soo-hee will issue certificates for their activities.

“In a time when people are expected to live up to 100 years, everyone needs to be respected and honored with individual specialty even after retirement. The Korea Hands program will enable members to donate their talents to society,” Chin said in marking the launch on Tuesday.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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