Activism, huh?

As I was leaving a Seoul subway station, I was approached by a group of students.

“We’re doing a project for Kenya. Would you like to write a note?” Asked the boy in the center of the group. He was wearing the requisite skinny jeans, polo and gelled hair of all the cool kids in Korea on the weekends these days.

“What?” My response time was pretty slow. I was also distracted by the board they held in front of me as it was covered in English. (Seriously, this was more English than I could handle.)

“Hope, hope, hope,” said a younger looking girl to the right of the boy. She looked so earnest I couldn’t help but smile.

I took the pen she was holding out to me and wrote on a sticky covering a plastic board.

“What’s this for?”

The boy explained they were working on a project for a university class. They would send all the messages of hope to Kenya as well as money from a fundraiser they were doing. They seemed to believe this would truly help people in Kenya.

But the cynic in me thinks, “So this is the first time I’ve seen any sort of activism or charity in Korea, and you’re sending post-its that say “Peace”?  I don’t doubt the sincerity of their efforts. These students truly believe they are making a difference, but I have to wonder how much it will help anyone to receive unsigned notes in various languages that they may or may not read.

Somehow I think for all their good intentions these students may not have made much difference to anyone. I didn’t feel like it was my place to tell them they were wasting their time and effort. Besides I know my Korean isn’t up to a discussion on the best ways to end poverty.

So I wrote a vague note about working for peace and ending poverty that hopefully no one ever has the misfortune of reading.

Then I went on my way. Only now I’m wishing I was more like these university students and more willing to give of my time, money and effort. I’m looking for an organization that is actually making a difference. It seems like now might be a good time to start volunteering.

So far I’ve come up with CARE.

Any other suggestions? Or Korea-based organizations?

 

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