Do you ever feel your days go by while sitting at your desk, and you are not really doing much to make this world a better place? I started to feel like that a little bit, since most jobs are quite routine and don’t make a big impact in people’s life. Fortunately, I am part of the Hippie Community, and I saw that Hippie Korea is offering Voluntainment experiences every 2nd Saturday of the Month!
First of all, what is Voluntainment? It seems like the mix of two words… are you sure you didn’t misspell it? Indeed, voluntainment = volunteering + entertainment! This means that, while you are offering your time or skills for a volunteering activity, you are also getting entertained. Hippie Korea has chosen the activity to be Minhwa painting at an Elderly’s house and I participated already twice. If you want to learn more and participate in future editions, keep on reading!
So the 2nd Saturday of each month, we gather at 9am at Samsung Digital City’s bus stop and take a bus to the Elder house. The place is located behind Suwon station, a bit passed the built area, so basically in the middle of nowhere. There is some construction going on around that area, so our bus could barely turn and get into the Elder house. However, after a couple of high level maneuvers, our driver succeeds in parking us in front of the center. My first impression as we arrived was: “wow, this place is big”. For some reason, I had in mind the typical small 2 floor house with a lot of flowers outside in a small garden. However, we were facing a bigger, hospital looking building. It hosts around 80 elders who don’t have a family to depend on. That means that, sadly, they cannot go out or go home, and that is their only home.
As we entered the building, our thoughts of that place started to improve. Inside, there are a lot of plants and recreation areas. In the main hall, there is a Piano, where elders can enjoy a small concert after lunch time. We were soon greeted by the person who runs the Nursing Home, Pastor Lee, who explained to us briefly about the Nursing Home, the age of the people living there, etc. Incredibly enough, their age average is 85 years old! Next, we wore our “volunteer vests” and entered the room where our activity would be held. We saw many grandmas and some grandpas sitting there already and greeting us. Our group was truly international: a family from Mexico, a family +1 from India, a guy from the UK, a guy from China, two students from Indonesia, Sonja as a German, and me as Spanish. We were also bringing 3 kids, including a very small 3 year old Indian boy. As we entered the room, some grandmas started approaching the youngest member of our crew and giving him so many candies. Old people have such a warm heart!
We distributed the materials for the painting session. Without much delay, they started to paint their Peony flower (모란, which represents prosperity because of its endless petals) with much more accuracy and detail than I had expected. After painting the base red, green, and brown, they had to paint some shadows to give the flower a more 3-D look. The Minhwa Painting teacher and our organizer Sonja Glaser helped a little bit with the shadowing, but honestly, they were doing pretty well by themselves anyway! My cute halmoni was really happy after Sonja helped her out retouching the shadows and including some details in the leaves. I didn’t understand what she said, but she was so happy her eyes were glowing and she was almost jumping like a little girl would do when she gets a puppy. It was very emotional and refreshing to see them so happy!
The session ended with a group picture and a round of hugs. Some cleaning up, sharing happiness and then a good lunch that, unfortunately, I had to miss. I would say that all of the volunteers had a good time, and although most of us were unable to communicate with the elders, we could still feel a connection. We offered to help them paint for about 2h, but what we got back was a feeling of satisfaction and reflection, something impossible to buy.
I highly recommend you to participate in any of the future sessions of this monthly voluntainment session. Not only you get to feel good helping others, you also get perks like snacks and lunch, and make friends with people from different countries. The first time I went, it felt a bit awkward at the beginning, but the second time it felt almost as if I was meeting family! Hippie Community is all about happiness and positivism! I have heard that next month (June), we are going to draw on a fan, so that the elders are ready for the summer! Don’t miss this chance!
¿Alguna vez sintieron que su vida pasaba rápidamente mientras se sentaban en su oficina, sin hacer nada que cambiara el mundo? Yo me sentía hace desde hace un tiempo, pero afortunadamente, una comunidad de extranjeros está organizando un voluntariado una vez al mes. Hippie Korea va a un hogar de ancianos en Suwon el segundo sábado de cada mes para pasar una mañana pintando pinturas de estilo coreano tradicional con ellos. Participé en las ediciones de abril y mayo, y de momento me ha gustado tanto que creo que seguiré yendo mientras dure.
Así pues el sábado nos reunimos a las 9 de la mañana en el parking del Campus de Samsung para montarnos en el bus que nos lleva al hogar de ancianos, que está cerca de Suwon station pero en la zona que está en construcción. Al llegar, nuestra primera impresión fue “wow, ¡qué grande! Pensé que iríamos a una casita con unos pocos ancianos, pero el edificio es bastante grande y moderno, con alrededor de 80 ancianos cuya edad media es 85 años.
A continuación, nos pusimos los chalecos de voluntarios y entramos en la sala, donde ya había varios abuelitos y abuelitas esperándonos. Nuestro grupo era realmente internacional: una familia mejicana, otra de India, un Inglés, uno de China, dos estudiantes de Indonesia, Sonja la organizadora es alemana, y yo representando a España. Como íbamos con niños, las ancianas se abalanzaron sobre ellos a darles abrazos, besos, y golosinas. Tras las introducciones, distribuimos los materiales para pintar y nos emparejamos con los mayores para pintar.
El estilo Minhwa painting usa unas pinturas bastante líquidas, y para crear profundidad y sombra, usa un segundo pincel con algo de agua para expandir el color. Para esta actividad, venimos con una profesora de Minhwa painting que también da clases en el club de Samsung. Al principio pensé que a los ancianos les costaría seguir bien las líneas del dibujo, pero me quedé muy sorprendida de lo bien que manejan sus manos. Donde único les ayudamos un poco fue al final, para conseguir un buen efecto de sombra. Mi abuelita se quedó contentísima cuando le ayudamos a mejorar el finalizado del cuadro.
Finalmente, para terminar la sesión, nos juntamos todos con los cuadros y nos hicimos fotos de grupo. Después, mientras salían de la sala, hicimos ronda de abrazos y repartimos pasteles de arroz (ddeok). Además, después de limpiar los materiales, los voluntarios nos reunimos de nuevo y vamos a comer juntos, pagados por la organización. Así que aunque hacemos voluntariado, en realidad estamos recibiendo mucho a cambio: ¡el amor y cariño de los abuelitos, los snacks, la comida, y hacer amistades con gente de otras partes del mundo!
* Halmoni means grandmother, but in Korea you can use this term even with women that are unrelated by blood to you. In the same way, Haraboji would be the male version.