“I have had friendships pure and golden
But the ties of kinship I have not known them
I know no mother, no father
no sister, no brother
I am an orphan girl”
On the afternoon of Dec. 25th, a young Korean girl with a ponytail cruised through a town called Christmas. At the Balloon Animal station, which was set up below a sunny window at Busan’s Sung Ae Won Orphanage and manned by two foreign volunteers wearing Santa hats– she requested a ladybug; one was whipped up and tied to her right wrist. She piled on a heap of green icing with a generous spoon of chocolate sprinkles at the Sugar Cookie Decorating table, devouring her creation in three slow bites. And at the Handpainting corner–where a mob of kids under the age of seven were crowded in line–she sat on my lap and stuck out her hand; a female volunteer who said she’d never done this kind of painting before drew a red-shoed penguin, and on the girl’s other hand, a green and white butterfly, its wings shaped like a clover. Christmas Town was a hit.
Organized by a couple foreigners who volunteer regularily at Sung Ae Won, the Christmas event brought together around 40 Korean and foreign volunteers (some dressed as elves) and something close to 50 kids. Along with squeezing wet glitter onto Santa hats and pinning noses on reindeeers, the kids watched a comedy sketch featuring my pal Shane from Wisconsin as a very green grinch and a song-and-dance rendition of Jingle Bell Rock (hastily learned by a few of the volunteers during the Town set-up). Midway through, impromptu balloon battles erupted; close to the end, a mountain of sugary snacks appeared (a rare treat for these kids). And an orphanage toy drive leading up to the event produced enough brand-new toys for each child to be called up to the stage by name– it was their turn to sit on Santa’s lap and receive a wrapped gift.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a child waking up on Christmas morning–or any morning–without a mom or dad. Most of the kids at Sung Ae Won sat on the laps and held the hands of the volunteers immediately; it seemed that what they wanted most was attention and affection. Busan has several orphanages you can volunteer at, with kids ranging from babies to freshman in college. I plan to go back to Sung Ae Won soon. I want to find the little girl with the ponytail who kept me company all afternoon–she was gone before I learned her name.
How to Volunteer at Sung Ae Won Orphanage:
1. On the first and third Saturday of every month, a group of volunteers meet at 9:45 at Oncheonjang Station, Exit 1
From there, they take a taxi to the orphanage–you can join them. (One of the women is called Ife.)
2. Want to volunteer at a different time? Call Chris Lee, the English-speaking social worker for Sung Ae Won, for more info.
010 4858 2922
3. See taxi directions at the end of this post.
Sung Ae Won Orphanage (It’s in Korean, but you can see photos)
Live near Kyung Sung?
Sebit Orphanage has 50 kids ages 5-20.
They don’t get a lot of volunteers, and you’ll need someone who speaks Korean to help find out more, but they could really use the help.
Want to learn more about Volunteering in Busan?
Join the Atek Busan Volunteer Facebook page here:
Taxi Directions to Sung Ae Won:
Get off at Oncheonjang Station, exit 3 , find a taxi, and show the Korean directions to the taxi driver:
읽어보시고 건물 입구에 내려주시면 됩니다. 수고 많으십니다.
1. 온천장역에서 동래 식물원 방향으로 좌회전
2. 좌회전 후 식물원 방향으로 계속 직진
3. 식물원을 바라보고 길 끝에서 우회전
4. 우회전 후 산성방향으로 400미터 정도 올라오면
5. 진행방향 왼편으로 작은 흰색 담장 벽 건물
6. 입구에 “성애원” 이라는 푯말이 있음
1. Find Exit 3 at Oncheonjang Station.
2. From the main road in front of the exit 3, make a left turn at the 1st lane.
3. Go straight until the end of the road and you’ll see the botanical gardens in front of you.
4. Make a right turn there.
5. Go straight up the hill for about 400m and you’ll see a small white wall on your left hand side that reads “성애원” (Sung Ae Won in Korean).
*If there’s any problem finding the orphanage, call Chris Lee at 010-4858-2922 she can help you or speak to taxi drivers.