The Young Adult Volunteer Program of the PC(USA) sends U.S. young adults to sites all over the world to volunteer and be immersed in different communities for an entire year. Korea has already been a YAV site for two years before, with three YAVs each of those years, and a hiatus for this year. When Hyeyoung and I start it up again this coming August, we will be welcoming four YAVs for that year. Thankfully there are still connections to the agencies where YAVs had worked before. Here’s a picture of what YAV work in Daejeon, Korea will look like:
- Children’s Centers – Each YAV will be split up between children’s centers throughout the City of Daejeon. These children’s centers focus on serving children from under-privileged neighborhoods who cannot afford the usual institutes that Korean children attend once their normal school day is over. Korean public schools offer very general classes in music and the arts, but nothing into specifics. For example, if children want to learn a specific instrument, they must be able to afford registration at a further institute. In addition to teaching some of music and the arts, YAVs will lead games, community building and also teach some English. They will work with children in the age ranges of 6 years old to 12 years old approximately. The challenge for YAVs will be to exert some effort here to move beyond the power dynamic of US young adult as teacher and poor Koreans as learners, finding ways for the children and fellow staff to also teach them and put the US young adults into roles of learning.
- “Soup Kitchen” – One of the agencies with a children’s center also has an operation similar to what the U.S. would call a “soup kitchen” (as well as a church on one floor). This will be an entire group activity where all the YAVs will work together for part of each week. This kitchen serves the hungry and homeless population in its neighborhood. At first the YAVs will be mostly helping with dishes and behind the scenes tasks. Eventually, as the Korean language of each YAV increases, they will be able to move to more serving roles in order to work on building something like relationships with the guests.
- University Ministry – Hannam University, founded by missionaries from the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1956, is hosting our YAV site, and therefore we will be helping their chaplains office with programming throughout the year, including, but not limited to, English worship and Bible Studies. The Bible Studies will be based on the willingness of YAVs and their own sense of ability and time as and when they connect with groups on campus interested in joining a Bible study.
In addition to these volunteering opportunities, Hyeyoung and I will be facilitating reflection sessions and discussions throughout the year. Once a week our entire group of YAVs will meet with us to alternately reflect on work/faith/discernment thus far, and on the other week to have some more guided discussions of culture and context. We will also plan out individual reflection sessions. We are hoping that one day a week could also be a “community day” where YAVs can see more of the community around Daejeon or even day trips around Korea. Then, we will take retreats around Korea periodically throughout the year, with a weekend-long retreat occurring every three months or so. In these discussions and retreats, we will particularly focus on the three Critical Global Issues of Presbyterian World Mission: 1. Addressing the root causes of poverty. 2. Sharing the Gospel of Jesus the Christ. 3. Reconciliation in regions of conflict. We will seek to make sure the YAV experience goes beyond the usual “teaching English in Korea” experience so that we will be much more than tour guides for them.