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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jeju Teachers Raise Funds for Indian School

Slap guitarist Alex Zimmerman holding the audience's attention at the Little Big Help concert. (Photo by Bethany Carlson)

Concert-girls: From left, Lindsey Lynch and fellow teachers Carolyn Husley, Jenna Collie and Bethany Carlson at the Little Big Help fund-raising concert. Lynch, Carlson and at least one more teacher will travel to Kerala in February, 2011, to deliver donated supplies and volunteer. (Photo by Lee Donghee)

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea, Oct. 13 (Yonhap) -- When Lindsey Lynch arrived on Jeju Island in March to teach as part of the English Program in Korea, she found well-equipped classrooms with high-tech aids and a focus on long study hours.
Having previously spent a month teaching at a school for underprivileged children in Thailand and several months traveling in India, she was struck by the contrast.
Lynch decided to help less privileged children while educating her students about lives far different from their own on Jeju, a semi-tropical island off the south of Korea that is a favorite with South Korean and Japanese honeymooners.
"I love children and I wanted to do something for children that were underprivileged," said the 30-year-old native of Rochester, New York. "I knew that if I had enough people who also knew about this, I could also get them to help as well."
While in Thailand, Lynch met Lindsay Stoffers, a former teacher on Jeju Island who told her about the Our Home Charity in Kerala, India. Stoffers volunteered at Our Home Orphanage and Good Shepherd School last year and told Lynch about the shortage of the school's supplies.
"In India, the kids were just happy to have a pencil," Lynch said, "and even paper was hard to come by. But here in Korea, we have touch screens and computers and use a lot of media. In India, the teachers have no supplies to teach the kids," Lynch said.
"I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've seen half-used supplies on my classroom floor or in the garbage can," she continued. "I see lunches thrown away."
Lynch started an initiative she called Little Big Help, with "the overall mission to help underprivileged children have a better education and a better quality of life."
She sings with a nine-piece band called Lobster that is made up of foreign teachers and Koreans, and initially planned a small fundraising event.
That concept quickly grew to a concert in early September that also included a traditional Korean percussion group, a Korean ska band, a group of musicians from Senegal, three slam poets and a slap guitarist from Canada.
Local businesses donated raffle prizes, and concert-goers gave more than 1 million won (US$900), which will help the Kerala charity buy school shoes and medication for the 40 orphans it cares for and school supplies.
The second part of the Little Big Help initiative is to teach Jeju students about the school in India and encourage them to donate a pencil.
Lynch prepared educational materials for any teachers wanting to take part, and she and at least two other teachers will travel to Kerala in February to deliver the donated supplies. Students on Jeju are also encouraged to write cards to send to the students in India.
Lynch held a series of lessons for her students after Chuseok, the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving. The holiday, which fell in late September, is a time when Koreans hold traditional rites for their deceased ancestors.
At Shinrye Elementary School, where Lynch teaches a total of 72 students, the response was greater than expected, she said.
"One student wanted to give more than one pencil. Another asked, 'Teacher, how will they sharpen their pencils?' and wanted to donate a pencil sharpener."
Lynch knows she is limited by how much she and her colleagues can carry to India themselves, but some of those involved in the project have solved that problem themselves.
Sachin Mahajan, an Indian-born American from Chicago, volunteered with Stoffers at the orphanage in late 2009.
"That was my 10th trip to India," he said. "I've been going since I was young. You see so much poverty, you see so many problems there, and I've always wanted to do something to contribute in some way."
"As a teacher, I thought that this is my chance. Teaching kids in Korea is great, but they're privileged. Any number of people can come here and give them what I can give them, but the kids that we worked with don't have those same opportunities. When we volunteered there, I could tell it was special to them and personally, it was definitely special to me."
Mahajan works for the Wee English Zone hagwon on Jeju, one of the many private teaching institutes that flourish in South Korea.
"We have so much that goes to waste," he said. "I have a box of half-used pencils that nobody wants to touch. The kids in India were using pencils that were down to just a piece of lead."
The hagwon director, Ok Jin-guem, plans to collect supplies for the Indian school around Christmas and pay to ship them there at her own cost.
"Seeing the kids at that school (in India), I know they didn't have pencils, and most of them didn't have something to write in," Mahajan said. "So small things like that will go a long way."
It is for that concept that the initiative was named.
"It's called Little Big Help because even such a little thing as a pencil can be a big help to an orphan who doesn't have anything," Lynch said. "It was the same thing with the donations at the concert. You donate just 1,000 won because that's all you can afford, but it's going to be a big help to someone who really needs it."
Lynch plans to expand the initiative to include Jeju orphanages.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Building With Faith and Family

Oct. 1 (Jeju Weekly) When the first students arrived at the Word of Life Bible Institute, Jeju, on Sept. 16-17, their orientation was likely to include instructions on worksite safety. That is because the 35 students will help in ongoing construction of the island’s first bible school, working for their faith in action as much as word.

The inaugural class of 35 is made up of 11 female and 23 male students, with 15 from North America, 15 from Korea and five from Japan. Dean of the institute, missionary Steve Nicholes, said that six or seven of the students had arrived on Jeju early to become part of the volunteer work team building the facility, trading days of work for later days of tuition in the one-year college-level program. “They’re here to work, to travel and to study,” he said.

Work began on the site after work permits were received in late March and has progressed rapidly as the students, faculty and family members have been joined by volunteers from Korea and the United States, including a group of young U.S. Forces Korea military personnel from Osan Air Base on Korea’s mainland. For Nicholes, fellow missionary John Hawkins and site manager Eugene Webster, the construction has been a family affair with their wives and children working alongside them to build what will be a permanent home for the Nicholes and Hawkins families.

WOLBI, Jeju, is the first teaching site of the international ministry outside of North America, joining campuses in New York, Florida and Canada. An additional school in the Philippines is not college-accredited.

“At our schools, even in New York,” Nicholes said, “the students work eight hours a week and that keeps the costs down.” Each area of work, such as the kitchen or maintenance department has a full-time employee assisted by student workers. “Usually, that would be more maintenance than building,” Nicholes said, but with only three and a half of the planned 11 buildings completed at the Jeju campus, students can expect to work on construction for some time yet. “Over the next two months, visible construction will be going on,” he said. “They’ll study in the morning for four hours and in the afternoon they’ll work for two hours, four days a week.”

The official opening of the teaching site will be postponed until the designated dining facility cum auditorium is completed and until then, teaching will take place in a room in one of the completed dormitory log houses and a building intended to eventually be the maintenance and storage facility will be used as a kitchen.

Construction of the permanent facility has been delayed temporarily as the institute awaits further funding. Financing does not come from a central foundation, Nicholes said, but is given specifically for the project.

“We’re a faith mission, so every month for the last 20 years, we have family, friends and churches in America who send money each month. If it’s individuals, it’ll be twenty, thirty, fifty dollars a month, and it goes to our headquarters in New York and we operate and get our salaries out of that.”

Nicholes first came to Korea in 1988 and was joined by his wife, Rhonda, in 1991, shortly after they married.

Through the mission, they have founded three Schools of Youth Ministries in English, in Gyeonggi province, Japan and Taiwan. “The same people have given every month for over 20 years.”

A church in Seoul that Nicholes helped start, the Cornerstone Community Church, has also supported each project the Nicholes have initiated and its members have supported the institute financially.

Tuition costs for students, excluding those who have labored in return for part payment, are $9,876 a year, which includes food and board, education and guided tours to Thailand and Israel during the 11-month study year. The Thailand trip is intended to expose students, many of whom plan to take up missionary work, to what is involved in the field. “We let them know that this kind of work is not a burden or an obligation or a feeling of, ‘This is what I have to do.’ If you’re gifted and you’re called to do that, it should be enjoyable,” Nicholes said. Although many WOLBI students in the United States are not potential missionaries but have other reasons to want to spend a year studying the bible, a high percentage of those in the Jeju inaugural class do intend to do mission work.

The Israel trip will introduce students to the land of the bible, Nicholes said, with an expert guide who knows the culture as well as the bible sites. “We’re studying all these sites as we go from Genesis to Revelation so we go to those sites and we are able to talk about that.” Nicholes will himself teach bible survey, which he described as a “birds’ eye view” of the entire bible.

During his interview, Nicholes was interrupted constantly by phone calls, of which he later wrote on his Facebook page he had received 66 by 9:05 that evening. Sounds of hammers, drills and saws were a constant on the worksite but, despite the activity, a sense of peace pervaded the land in Aewol. Pines surround and grow throughout the property, including one that grows in the middle of a grassy lawn that will hold a futsal field and other sport areas. The concrete foundation has been laid for the next priority – the dining facility cum auditorium – but Nicholes said $200,000 is needed to purchase all the materials to build that.

Hearing him tell how funding and opportunities have fallen into place for the project thus far, even the most doubting Thomas would have to believe in a divine guiding hand and the existence of miracles. From an unexpected donor who provided almost the precise amount needed to purchase the land to a Jeju-born pastor who helped overcome legal and logistical obstacles on the island through family and alumni contacts, Nicholes believes God is the undisputed driver of the project and will provide what is still needed.

“We don’t want anyone to give out of obligation,” he said. “We just want them to know the need, to be praying for it.” For himself and his team it is considered an investment, Nicholes said. “We’re investing in these students and the people who are donating are giving for that to be accomplished.”

Expanding Jeju's Marine Tourism

Oct. 1 (Jeju Weekly) Jeju needs to formulate a provincial agenda for the cruise industry to take advantage of the rapidly growing Asian market says an expert in the field. Kim Wook Kyun is president of Aju Incentive Tours, which provides tours throughout Korea to cruise line passengers, serving more than 60 percent of all incoming cruise passengers. Aju Incentive Tours has been in business for about 15 years and its other main focus is as a destination management company.

Kim said that for the past 15 years, there has been continuous growth in the cruise industry globally of about 7 percent per year. “Even though there were some difficult periods like the Gulf War or the oil crisis, they were temporary problems and in the long term there was always growth.”

The industry currently caters to about 20 million passengers each year worldwide, Kim said. Of these, more than 60 percent come from North America, while Europeans are the next largest sector, at around 5 million passengers. South America and Asia each provide about 1 million passengers. However, Kim said, that figure accounts for 3.5 to 3.9 percent penetration of Europe’s residents whereas in Asia it is less than 0.05 percent.

Kim attended the Seatrade All Asia Cruise Convention in Suzhou, near Shanghai, in June, where the huge potential market was discussed. “The consensus was that the market [in Asia] will reach 5 million in 2020,” he said. “The market will in 10 years be bigger than in Europe.”

The future of Jeju tourism should be based on marine tourism, Kim said, and the cruise industry is an important part of that as an extremely fast-growing segment of the tourism business. The key drivers for future growth of the industry would be government support and the required infrastructure to accommodate ships. He said the Chinese government had recently eased cabotage restrictions, which previously allowed foreign-flagged ships to call at only one Chinese port each trip, in order to encourage more passengers to visit there. In Korea, the government has begun dispatching immigration officials to the port prior to a ship’s arrival here so that passengers can be processed while still at sea.

“Most Asian ports are now expanding and constructing new cruise terminals,” he said.

Asian countries need to cooperate to grow the cruise business in the region, Kim said, and individual ports need to collaborate also. “Jeju should promote Busan and other ports also. Our first aim is to bring ships to the region, not to Jeju only. We have to promote the region.”

Currently, the turnaround ports for cruise ships in Northeast Asia, where passengers join and leave cruises, are Hong Kong, Shanghai and Kobe, Kim said. Moving a turnaround port to Busan would have huge value for Korea. “Right now, we just have eight hours [while passengers are in port] but if we have a turnaround port, there will be huge business opportunities created,” he said.

“Busan is better positioned as a turnaround than Jeju because of the population and better transportation access, but if Busan became a turnaround port then Jeju and all other ports would benefit also.”