Prof. Sukyoung Ryu, who’s the Dean of School of Computing at KAIST (my alma mater) and a professor of computer science, posted on her facebook wall about a donation campaign by the “Green Grapes” Community Care Center for Children Graduating from Social Protection Program (“청포도” 보호종료아동을 위한 커뮤니티 케어 센터; i just made up this translation and am sure it doesn’t do the justice to the original Korean name.) this center’s main mission is to provide various educational programs as well as run support programs for those who are exiting social support systems for minors, such as foster homes, group homes, etc., as they become 18 years or so, in addition to some minimal support provided by the government. This particular campaign “대학 입학 ‘보호종료아동’에게 노트북을 선물해 주세요.” (https://together.kakao.com/fundraisings/93580) aimed at raising approximately $18,000 to buy laptops to a few of these kids who were planning to start their colleges, as laptops have become the most critical educational instrument especially during the past two years of pandemic.
in this campaign’s page, they cited one news piece from SBS where they surveyed 21 young people of their situations to illustrate how the starting points for young people in the Korean society dramatically vary across individuals, despite our illusion of fair and equal treatment. it’s nothing rigorous and quite anecdotal, but quite thought-provoking, as it starkly “shows” these differences: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaLZ3bmCb_k. the participants were asked 56 questions, and out of these, the campaign page listed a few (some of these are pretty specific to Korea, i must say, though):
- if you have had to move every 1-2 year, take a step back. 어쩔 수 없이 1,2년 단위로 집을 옮겨야 한다면 / 옮겨 다니고 있다면 한 발 뒤로
- if you don’t have insurance, take a step back. 4대 보험을 받지 못한다면 한 발 뒤로
- if you have to explain your family situations or lifestyle choices frequently to others, take a step back. 내가 취하고 있는 가족 구성원 형태 또는 삶의 형태에 대해 사람들에게 종종 설명을 해야 한다면 한발 뒤로
- if you’ve ever missed paying utility bills, take a step back. 돈이 부족해서 공과금을 연체해 본 적이 있다면 한 발 뒤로
- if you had to go on leave of absence from your schools due to tuition, take a step back. 등록금 때문에 휴학하고 돈을 벌어야 했다면 한 발 뒤로
- if you can always call mom or dad for financial support, take a step forward. 필요할 때 언제든 엄카, 아카를 쓸 수 있다면 한 발 앞으로
- if you had to prove your disability or financial hardship to receive financial aid, take a step back. 경제적 지원을 받기 위해 장애나 소득을 증명한 적이 있다면 한 발 뒤로
- if you had extracurricular education during your school years, take a step forward. 학창 시절 과외를 받아본 적이 있다면 한 발 앞으로
- if you could read as many books as you wanted when you’re younger, take a step forward. 어렸을 때 원하는 책을 마음껏 읽을 수 있었다면 한 발 앞으로
- if you can have whatever you want to eat delivered whenever you’re home alone, take a step forward. 혼자 있을 때 어느 시간 때고 마음 놓고 배달음식을 시켜 먹을 수 있다면 한 발 앞으로
and, you know what? when i asked myself these questions, i never took a step back and was always taking steps forward.
according to the campaign’s homepage, these children who are graduating from the group homes as they enter their 18-th birthday are provided with one-time support of \$4,000 or so (50M KRW) and monthly support of \$250 or so (30M KRW). for those who decide to continue their study in a college, this has never been enough. it has become even more of an issue during the pandemic, as our educational system began to ask students for even more, just for them to participate; they need to have good broadband to participate in remote lectures, they need to have some place quiet to participate in remote lectures without distraction, and they need to have a good laptop to participate in remote lectures, download necessary materials and submit their assignments.
so, i wanted to donate a bit to this campaign, but it turned out this was done via Kakao’s platform and required having a Kakao account which i don’t have. and, yes, i know the pain of creating an account for a Korean website, especially if i want to connect it with my credit card. so, i’ve given up on doing so via this specific campaign but emailed them directly to have a quick phone call.
they were super quick in giving me a call on the same day and gave a quick walk through of their programs. by the end of this short call, i already promised to donate approximately \$27,000 (30M KRW) for any operation. it’s not a lot of money but i hope this can buy a few more laptops for them to support these kids and also to raise awareness of this issue, that is largely hidden. hopefully this little gesture of mine helps students even a tiny bit to take a smaller step back than before.
because i’m generally a show-off, i had to write this blog post to show off this little donation, but there are those who are truly contributing to making the world better. in particular, the Center’s various programs are run by the staff members of the Center as well as many activists and volunteers (some of whom are from these group homes themselves). i’ve been reading and watching some of the materials on their homepage, and i could not have been more impressed and moved by them. also, there are a lot of regular donors to this Center (http://jaripcare.com/bbs/board.php?bo_table=support) who are really making differences, unlike a one-time donor like me who show up, boast and disappear. a huge thanks to all these people who are literally making sure a fewer people take a fewer steps back in the society.
would you be a part of supporting kids take a step forward instead of back with me?