Today I had the first meeting with the members of Voice for the Voiceless Jeju. As VFV is a big joint-school organization, I am in charge of the Jeju branch of VFV.
As we live in Jeju, which is quite a special place to live among Koreans, we decided to make best of our geographic speciality. As there had been a huge influx of refugees into Jeju island, I thought it would be very good to focus on the refugees as well as the homeless. In fact, homelessness isn't such a big problem in jeju thanks to low housing prices; rather, being a refugee in such a district with high racial homogeneity and low social infrastructure could pose unique hardships. Thus, we decided to focus on dealing with the refugee crisis.
Now, if you've seen some of the projects that I am doing, I am not a big fan of handout-style community services. I am a firm believer of the notion that if we are to do good, rather than to give fish, we should teach them how to fish. Also, student-led organizations that go and provide temporary support (i.e.. donating, teaching) are definitely good and meaningful activities. But they end when the student graduates from high school and leave Jeju. I think that true community service should be more long-lasting and genuine.
So, I decided that our first activity would be creating a guidebook for refugees living in Korea. There are, in fact, some guidebooks written by great organizations like NANCEN or the Korean government. But I also noticed that these guidelines are tilted towards the legal aspect of living in Korea, rather than the more subtle aspects such as culture. It isn't that the legal aspects are unimportant, but culture and interactions are also as important as the legal aspects! Especially in a country like Korea that values politeness, some refugees might misunderstand the refugees as impolite or hostile, when the refugees did not know what were widely considered as being so. For instance, Korea values hierarchical structures between older and younger people much more than do non-asian nations. Failing to recognize this context and showing lots of respect in traditionally Korean ways could cause quite large misunderstandings.
Thus, our first project is to create almost like a guidebook for refugees in both Korean and English. The final objective is to make it into a pdf, send it to the local municipalities, and get it published after some editing. After it is published, I hope that it is well distributed to refugees so that they could interact better, form a more concrete network of people around them, and eventually develop our community more inclusive.
At the meeting, we did some brainstorming to decide the content going into the guidelines, divided roles, and developed a general plan. I was overall very satisfied at the level of passion and support the new members showed!