▲ The logo of Haetbitchon. Provided by www.koreapas.co.kr.
Sometimes it is observed that the smallest reach of one’s hand may turn out to be substantial assistance to another. Volunteer work lies along the same line. Little efforts by voluntary workers come together and bring about significant support that cannot be denied. On the same page, here is a club composed of students who are willing to steadily provide aid without any physical reward in return—an educational service volunteer club in the name of Haetbitchon.
Haetbitchon, a Korean term that signifies a village of sunshine, is a Korea University (KU) Aegineung club that provides volunteer service to underprivileged students, assisting them with their studies in English and mathematics. It was initially founded in 1998, when several KU students who used to individually provide volunteer work at a local children’s community center decided to volunteer in a more formal, systematic way, hence creating a club of their own. Currently, Haetbitchon is located in room 304 of the Aegineung Student Union Building, composed of six executives and 25 members. Although the club is affiliated with the Aegineung club union, its members major in various fields.
As briefly mentioned above, the main activities of Haetbitchon have to do with tutoring middle school and high school students in their studies. The volunteer work takes place in a children’s community center called Bamgol Children’s Study Room, which is located near Weolgog station, just two stations away from KU. “Our club members choose one day of the week to teach these children,” said Choi Jin Ho (’13, Computer Science and Engineering), the village chief of this unpretentious club. “So about four to eight of us visit the community center every day from Monday to Thursday,” he added.
▲ Choi Jin Ho, the former village chief. Photographed by Lee Yunmi.
At first sight, the local community center where Haetbitchon members volunteer resembles any ordinary household, with its red brick walls and wooden windows. A typical day for volunteers starts at 6:00 P.M., when they have a hearty dinner with the students there. Then from 7:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. initiates the tutoring of children in earnest. Normally, the students are provided with guidance on subjects of their own choice, but most choose to learn mathematics or English.
In addition, various cultural experiences also proceed during the volunteer service. Examples include going to the theater, visiting cheese factories, amusement parks, and other attractions. Not only that, in the past, the club members and their students also organized campus tours around KU, celebrated track and field events, and prepared for Christmas tide ceremonies within the community center. “Sharing all these activities made us feel as if these kids have actually become our younger siblings,” said Kim
▲ Kim Ga Hyeong, the newly elected vice village chief. Photographed by Lee Yunmi.
Ga Hyeong (’12, Mechanical Engineering), the newly elected vice village chief. Although the essential purpose of Haetbitchon is to provide volunteer work with regards to educational services, there also exist numerous get-acquainted activities that its members are able to participate in. To be specific, the club goes off on Membership Trainings (MT) every beginning of the semester, and opens up a one-day pub during the KU May Festival Week. “Given that Haetbitchon is a volunteer club, we came up with the concept of offering all the liquors and snacks at extremely cheap, moderate prices, thus volunteering for the KU students,” said the village chief of the next term, Kim Hyeon Ji (’15, Health and Environmental Science). “It was almost a miracle that we gained a budget surplus,” she joyfully added.
Just as the folksy, warm name suggests, Haetbitchon aims to bring about a family-like atmosphere among our club members as well as with the students that we assist,” said Choi. Through his words, it seemed that the strongest merit of becoming a part of the club has to do with the fact that its members and the children of the community center share intimate memories and relationships, literally becoming a family of their own. “I felt most rewarding when the students I teach gradually seemed to open their minds. At first, the children were indifferent and careless toward us; later on, however, one kid came up to me, asking for consultation on her family businesses and future goals. It was as if I had truly turned into her actual older sister,” said Kim Hyeon Ji.
The volunteer work itself, however, is not always ideal and easygoing for the members, as it may have seemed in the first place. It is also a work that requires effort and responsibility. Consequently, in order to provide a more systematic, high-quality education to the children they assist, newly selected members of Haetbitchon are obligated to participate in orientations and three to four weeks of classroom observations before they actually embark upon the provision of educational services on their own.
▲ Kim Hyeon Ji, the newly elected village chief of Haetbitchon. Photographed by Lee Yunmi.
The members especially found it challenging when they figured out that not all the children were as enthusiastic toward their studies as the volunteers were. “Though it varies from child to child, I learned that when the kids find it difficult to concentrate, it is better off to just let the children do as they wish, at least for a short period of time,” said Kim Ga Hyeong. “What the students long for is an affectionate older being who listens to their concerns, not a mere private tutor solely assisting them in academic aspects.”
Here, every word from these three board members of Haetbitchon displayed their deep passion and keen interest toward volunteering, as well as all the club activities as a whole. When asked about which type of KU students they wish to select for the next semester, they emphasized that they would like to embrace people with extroverted personalities, those willing to actively participate in what the club aims to carry out. Responsibility toward the volunteer work was also another point that they accentuated, since abstaining from the arranged day of the week would lead to a burden on other members of the club.
Oftentimes, those people who have been providing volunteer services for a prolonged period of time affirm that they, in turn, had attained valuable life lessons from the activities they fulfill. This experience seemed to apply to the Haetbitchon members as well, whose provision of educational volunteer work benefits not only the children they assist, but also their own internal maturity. To those who wish to participate in a momentous volunteer service in a heimish, family-like environment, Haetbitchon is the perfect door to knock on.
Period of Recruitment: Every year, beginning of March.
Requirements to Join Haetbitchon: Any KU student, regardless of age and major, willing to commit themselves with responsibility during club activities are welcomed to sign up for the club.