The Seoul Global Center is running a program for expatriates to help out children and senior citizens.
Participants make visits twice a week, once to a senior center on Friday and another to an after-school center on Saturday.
The program has been running since October 2011 to increase opportunities for foreign residents to contribute to the community.
The Seoul Global Center is a one-stop service center that offers support for daily living, business activities, administrative services, educational courses and international exchange events. It also provides specialized counseling for expatriates about legal, labor, tax and real estate issues.
|Volunteers participating in the Seoul Global Center’s program talk with a senior suffering from dementia. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)|
About 400 people are enrolled in the program.
Those who are fluent in Korean help translate at events held by the city government.
On one visit to a children’s center in Seongbuk-gu last November, around 40 foreign residents cooked and ate their respective traditional foods with 35 children.
“Children especially like the program since they have little opportunity to meet in person with foreigners except for some foreign teachers at school. The kids find the volunteer workers, who are more like friends than teachers, approachable,” said Kim Tae-gyu, an official in charge of the volunteer program at the Seoul Global Center.
Participants come from China, Russia, Mongolia, the United States, Australia and other countries.
During a language class, children learned about how to greet people in multiple languages.
The volunteer program, in which children can learn about different cultures and languages, runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The program also provides an antidote to the loneliness sometimes felt by those living far from home.
“When I volunteered at a flea market (for an SGC program) last year, I was teamed up with a Pakistani, who could speak neither Korean nor English. So we communicated through a dictionary installed in my mobile phone. It was a fun experience,” said Wu Xiuxiang, 23, a Korean-Chinese from Jilin province, who participated in the volunteer program for seven months from last September.
Wu, who is a senior majoring in economics at Hansung University, said she hoped to contribute to the community more through volunteer work and to work in the official development assistance sector in the future.
Experiencing various cultures, making friends, and learning more about the community are the benefits that she gains through the volunteer work, Wu said.
Other participants also praise the program since it could make them feel like part of the community.
“Those seniors staying at the facilities were like grandmothers and grandfathers. I was happy that I could give a little help for them,” Shan Baitong, 25, from China. “I also learned about old-time stories, which was interesting.”
Those who want to join the program can call (02) 2075-4133 or visit the Seoul Blobal Center website (http://global.seoul.go.kr).
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org