Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Volunteering in Seoul

I've really enjoyed the volunteer opportunities available in Seoul for foreigners.  I've volunteered a few times with different groups, but I've really had a lot of fun and fulfillment from the latest group I've joined, Help Your Seoul.

We arrive at Seoul Station by 7 p.m. and donate 10,000 KRW (a little less than $10 USD).  Then we run to the supermarket and buy enough food to fill around 150 bags.  The amount of money we have depends on how many volunteers show up.  We usually buy fruit, bread, soy milk, and a treat.  Walking around with 150 bananas in your cart may account for a few stares...

 The city of Seoul has a volunteer office outside of Seoul Station where we dump everything out and start putting everything into individual bags.  Once we are finished, we are handed these lovely vests and head out to the underground passages in the subway to hand out food.

There is a man who volunteers with the city (I think) who takes us around to the different underground passages in the subway.  Here, many homeless men have set up their sleeping spaces for the night.  Some, just a cardboard box, flat on the floor - others have taped-up cardboard fortresses.  The men are very grateful and a nice, sometimes toothless smile, makes my night!

The man who walks around with us shows incredible compassion for these men.  If they have any problems, he helps them sort it out.  Some of these men are in terrible condition (meaning vomitting blood, bleeding, etc), but he treats them with the utmost respect and care.  Also, in this office, many homeless men come and get a coffee.  Here, I think, they can also seek help from the volunteers.  At times, I feel that Korea can really shut out the less fortunate, so I was so happy to see this happening in the city.  We leave about fifty bags in the office for men who come by hungry throughout the week.

I'm not sure how the "original foreigner" got this set up with the city.  The leader of the group is a foreigner but both Koreans and foreigners volunteer.  It's great to have such a diverse group.  It is only done on Sundays; it's too bad it hasn't been able to spread to more days of the week.  They've really got a great thing going!

After handing out the bags, we hand in our vests and sing a few songs with some Korean volunteers who sing and hand out coffee.  They're so much fun!  It's great to see a few homeless men dancing to the music and singing in solidarity.  What a great end to the night! 
If you are living in or around Seoul, I recommend checking out the facebook page, Volunteer for PLUR. They really have some great volunteer opportunities. I've taught "underprivilaged" kids English and worked in a soup kitchen. There are other groups on facebook for going to animal shelters, etc... Opportunities are there; you just have to look for them.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I am interested in these kind of activities give that they are happening on Saturday afternoon!