Volunteering in Korea: Part 1



Recently, I contacted one of this blog readers; Miera who had volunteered at Molly's Home Holt Ilsan Orphanage in Ilsan, South Korea. I was totally inspired and awed by her patience and willingness to present her love and time for the needy there. The kind hearted Miera has agreed to answer my relentless curiosity about her experience and my gratitude goes to her. Thank you Miera!


Don't forget to check out her blog at http://seoulbliss.blissfuldeen.net/




1.Where did you volunteer in South Korea? (location and the institution name)

I’ve volunteered at  HOLT Ilsan, Goyang, Gyeonggi- do in Korea. It is called HOLT,  named after the founder, late Harry & Bertha Holt. It is an orphanage founded by an American couple and it has developed into an orphanage for those with special needs. One of their daughters, dear Ms Molly Holt lives at the orphanage and is actively involve in the development of Holt orphanage. Do read on at http://www.holt.or.kr/holt/.

2.How did you find the information about volunteering in South Korea?

Couple of months before my trip, I’ve tried to write in to few orphanages and organizations by goggling this information. But unfortunately, to no avail as most of them may need to liaise in Korean or they may require at long- term commitment. 

Fortunately, I chance upon a blog by a Korean adoptee, dear Melinda who had blogged on her 4 months experience at Holt, Korea. I’ve contacted Melinda and she kindly helped to channel me to the main contact.Do check out her inspiring blog at http://holtkorea.blogspot.com/.

3.How long is the volunteer program?

The recommended volunteering programme is for more than 2 months. It is essential for such long period of commitment so as to develop good rapport with the residents in the orphanages.

4.Did you have to pay for any membership fee to join the volunteer program?

No payment is required.

5.Is the accommodation and food included in the program? If not how you manage for it?

Both accommodation and food are included in this program. However, for muslims like myself who have halal restrictions, we are allowed to cook our own meals at the dorm kitchen. But those who may consider permissible food, such as seafood and vegetables, these food are always served during the main meals.

6.Any preparation that need to be done before you join the volunteer program?

It is best to try to learn basic Korean or to prepare some crafts or fun activities that may be of interest to the varied age group in the orphanage.

7.Is it compulsory to speak Korean while doing the volunteer activities? If not, how do you manage to interact?

The main host for this volunteer programme, Ms Molly Holt is an American. Hence, she speaks English and some of the staff does understand English. However, the housemothers taking care of the residents and the residents themselves, only speaks in Korea. It is not compulsory to be able to speak in Korean but to know basic greetings and conversational language would be a great advantage.

During my volunteering stint, I was lucky to be paired with an American Korean volunteer, lovely Youmi. Youmi speaks fluent English and Korean and she was my main interpreter with the staff and the residents. However, I’ve wrote a reflection below on my blog (http://seoulbliss.blissfuldeen.net/)
Although, I am not able to converse with them but the simple pleasure of “play & massages” were the language we used to communicate. The magic of touch and play were the simple pleasures to communicate the expression of joy and laughter.
The young ladies love to be pampered with hand massages and manicure. The “manicure” moments were indeed a therapeutic moment when physical bond is developed when we “touch”.
Where else, The young lads love to be engaged in silly playful games. As humour is the language to utilize when one is lost in translation. A silly game of who “push out the barrel” brings lots of joy and laughter.”  
8.What made you want to do volunteer program in South Korea?

Since 2006, I have been intrigued by anything and everything about Korea, which I’ve grown to love while watching their entertainment, variety and culture shows. It has been my ideal traveling destination since then. However, it has also been my personal mission to be able to render my volunteering service while traveling. Hence, to be able to travel and volunteer in South Korea is indeed a dream come true for me in seek of happiness, in whatever form it may come. As,

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.
You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it,
and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it.
You have to participate relentlessly in
the manifestations of your own blessings…”
by Elizabeth Gilbert

9.What have you gained after doing the volunteer program?
On 19 December 2010, which was actually on my birthday, I was welcomed warmly to a humble abode. A home filled with abundant love and humility for the special ones. I would call this home as the paradise hub of HOLT Ilsan, Korea. I was honored to be able to meet and stay with Molly Holt, one of the founder’s daughter. Dear Ms Molly, has contributed most of her lifetime to the orphanage, always lending a helping hand to those that visit her humble abode. It was humbling to be able to see how Ms Molly embraces humility as her LIFE, daily and regardlessly. Whenever someone is in need, she is always in action…”LOVE in action” at their calls”.
Before travelling to Korea, I was in search of “a humble town”. A town that embraces humility as their daily nutrition to keep them humanely alive. To be able to find this humble town on my birthday is  surreal. I thanked HIM, the Almighty for “connecting the dots” for me to be able to LIVE breathing in daily supply of air of humility.
The volunteering experience at HOLT is a soulful retreat that bestowed me with my life mantra to live life humbly, embracing humility with His blessings.
10.Any unforgettable moments (funny, sad, dissappointment) during the program? 
Every moment is unforgettable, for every new day I was there, the children never fails to teach me. Every face tells a story and each of these faces tell a special story, they are orphans with special needs/ disability. There was never a sad or disappointment moment as they never fail to surprise me and when being with them, one can only feel joy and blessed.

11. A few words of advice for future volunteers ?

For those who are interested to volunteer in Korea, it is best if you do have a Korean friend that can help you to liaise with the organization. If you do not have any, don’t be disheartened, as if you do google on volunteering in Korea, you may chance upon some kind souls who blogs about their experience and try to contact them. Most volunteering experience may require a commitment of at least 1 month or more, but there are some that would accept you on a short- term basis.

For those who are interested to volunteer at Ilsan Holt, Korea, do check out their website - http://www.holtinternational.org/korea/ilsan/