What comes to your mind when you hear the word volunteer work? Some might think of volunteer work as something divine, difficult, and over their abilities. Such stereotype is especially reinforced when volunteer work is combined with the word housing or building homes. Yet there is a group of Korea University (KU) students who believe that volunteer work is not something that should be done by only special, committed people. They are the members of KUZIP, who mainly focus on the volunteer work of building houses for those in need of them.
Habitat for Humanity may sound unfamiliar to some. It is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides housing for the underprivileged. The motto of Habitat for Humanity is “A world where everyone has a decent place to live” and they are persevering to achieve that goal. The word “construction” and “building” may sound distant from many KU students, but there is a volunteer club in KU that is helping to achieve the goal. It is KUZIP, a combination of the word “KU” for Korea University and “ZIP,” which means house in Korean.
▲ The president of KUZIP. Photographed by Lee Ji Hoon.
Lee Taeyong (‘12, Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering), the president of KUZIP, claimed that one of the most intriguing features of KUZIP is that it is the only place in KU where students can participate in the Habitat volunteer work. KUZIP is a recently made club; in fact, it was created in September 2013, by five architecture major students. It gained approval from the Habitat for Humanity Korea branch in the fall semester of 2014.
The fact that the club is newly made does not mean that their volunteer work lacks depth. KUZIP participates in the house building work twice a semester, and also repairs wornout houses in Seoul on a monthly basis. “One of the most important club activities is the house building project,” said Lee. All club members go to the area the Habitat for Humanity Korea branch have bought, and participate in volunteer work such as making window frames and moving the construction materials. Also, club members visit the underdeveloped areas in Seoul and repair the outdated houses for seniors that live alone.
▲ The vice president of KUZIP. Photographed by Lee Ji Hoon.
Choi Hyerim (‘12, History), the vice president, chose her experience of repairing the houses for the elderly as the most memorable experience she had with KUZIP. “Unlike the house building volunteer work, the accomplishments of house repairing work are visible, and we can clearly see the difference after it,” said Choi. “I was deeply moved when the elderly thanked us for the help, holding our hands. It was touching and at that moment I thought that this experience is meaningful and worthwhile,” she continued.
“Here lies the identity and the ultimate aim of KUZIP. Just like the motto of Habitat for Humanity, KUZIP also aims to fulfill the goal of making a world without homeless,” said Choi. The main goal of KUZIP lays in home building, and all of the club’s activities are connected in some senses to it. KUZIP does not limit itself to having acknowledgment about the seriousness of homelessness, but takes actual actions to remedy the problem by themselves.
What makes the club even more interesting is that it does not resort to the current status of passively following orders from Habitat for Humanity. “We want to do more activities that we can design and carry out independently; we want to plan and set our future works by ourselves.” stated Lee. Before, KUZIP mostly focused on helping the activities by Habitat for Humanity Korea branch in order to get approval from it; it enables the club to broaden their range of volunteer work.
Now, KUZIP aims to unilaterally plan and carry out the volunteer work on their own. “We are planning to go on wall painting volunteer work, which contains affordance design,” said Lee. Affordance design is a design which facilitates the participation of the recipient, such as painting how many calories are burnt on stairways to encourage people to use the stairs instead of escalators. They are currently planning on doing such work on only some districts in Seoul, but are hoping to expand their activities to other areas. “It is our first semester after we gained approval from Habitat for Humanity, and we are all looking forward to it. We want to achieve a lot of things,” commented Lee in an ambitious voice.
KUZIP welcomes all members from any major; all they want from a new club member is the passion towards volunteerism. “Our works are involved with places where people are actually going to live in and it is for this reason that extreme level of responsibility and credibility are required from newcomers,” said Lee. In addition to experiencing the extraordinary volunteer works, members can also feel rewarded and can foster responsibilities. KUZIP is young, but this does not mean that they are not professional nor passionate; it is a fast growing club, full of potential and passionate people.
▲ 3,4,5,6 KUZIP regularly goes on house building volunteer work twice a semester. Provided by KUZIP.
Official Period: At the beginning of new semesters