Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Round 1

Last weekend was the perfect kickoff to the Christmas season as I celebrated the holiday with my first family of the year.  Saturday the 15th was the holiday party at Samsungwon, the orphanage i've been volunteering at for the last 8 months.  Volunteers from across Korea came to play with the kids and of course bring presents.  I was a bit surprised that I was one of two volunteers from the Gumi area, I really thought there were more people visiting the orphanage on a regular basis so i'm not sure why they didn't show up on Saturday, oh well, only makes me look that much more awesome.  Each volunteer was asked to raise 75,000 won which would be used for purchasing gifts for three of the children at the orphanage.  I was able to be matched with the three boys i've been working with and although they don't know the gifts came from me I had great pleasure in watching them open their gifts Saturday night.  

철수, I still might sneak him home ;)
The day was busy, filled with lots of activities, food and of course, presents.  The children at samsungwon are divided into 7 different houses, 4 boy and 3 girl, with each house having a range of ages.  The volunteers were divided with about 4 of us helping in each house.  Our task for the day was to bond with the kids while completing various activities: door decorations, gingerbread house decorating, and costume design, all of which were competitions.  I was part of the 오뉴 team, the same house I visit every Wednesday afternoon, so I felt right at home.  The boys were incredibly shy to start the day as we tried to introduce ourselves and learn a bit about each other, remember there was also the language barrier we had to deal with.  Thankfully after a few rounds of the ninja game, simon ryan says, and laughter the boys began to open up.  Before starting our work on the door decoration we had to make a visit to the auditorium for a special visitor - Santa.  Some of the older boys weren't all that excited as they were forced to take a picture with the poor guy, eh I think they secretly were loving it though.

휸빈 and Santa 
After returning to our house it was time to begin work on the door decoration, the idea was to get everyone involved so I came up with the idea of creating a Christmas wreath made from handprint cutouts....thankfully everyone else went along with it so that's where our design started. After that we just added whatever came to mind - some Christmas trees, snowflakes, colorings from the younger kids and other ornaments. Despite my lack of creativity I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome of our door - unfortunately I didn't take a proper picture of it.

Door decorations, in progress 

Up next was the gingerbread house and train set decoration, each house was given a set but no pictures or instructions on how to construct it. I guess it's a pretty intuitive project but I was surprised with how involved these boys got, not to mention their precision with where to place decorations.  I left the house to them while I finished working on the door and by the time they were done I was blown away with the finished product.

 After all of the hard work it was time to take a break for dinner and catch up with some of the other houses to see how their activities were going.  Dinner was spamghetti which was surprisingly good, maybe I was really hungry? salad, and of course, kimchi, all of which was followed with ice cream sundaes. Although many kids seemed to be getting tired there was still more work to be done, after dinner we had to return to our houses and prepare a costume using an entire roll of toilet paper and scotch tape, aluminum foil and whatever other materials we had left over from the day.  The costume was supposed to represent a Christmas character but our creative juices were running low so we just started wrapping Ryan in TP and hoped for the best. I crafted some giant scissors out of the aluminum foil which the kids decided should be a mask thus making our "present" a superhero or villain  or whatever you wanted to interpret it as....

 Once all the teams completed their costume designs for the day it was time to gather for the judging, and also find out who the ultimate winner of the day would be, door decorations and gingerbread houses also taken into consideration.  We had a miniature fashion show to show of the costume creations which was followed by a quick belly dancing performance by some of the girls that live at samsungwon.  After that it was time to find out the winners and a bit to my surprised 오뉴 took second place - woo hoo!! The kids were rewarded with lots of candy and snacks for their house, so proud of my boys.  Then it was finally time that i'm sure everyone was waiting for - presents! Now if you think your'e family get togethers are hectic try having one with about 80 kids ranging in age from 6 months to 18 years old - talk about crazy.  Although it was a bit of a mad house I got the feeling that all of the kids really loved and appreciated the presents they received.  It seemed as though my boys were happy with the presents they got, although they almost seemed more entertained by the bags I found to wrap them in (awesome draw string Christmas bags), so needless to say I was pleased.

If the next few days of celebrating go anything like this I'm guaranteed to have a great holiday season. Plus I just got off the phone with my extended family, on my mom's side, who were all gathering for our annual family Christmas.  You would think that such a thing might make a person miss home even more, maybe i'm different, but it actually did quite the opposite. Speaking to them, hearing their laughter, excitement and craziness, only reminded me of what an awesome family and group of supporters I have back home.  All of which are are happy for me living out my dreams  and supporting me along the way - Love you all.


It really is true that giving is so much better than receiving, for the past few years i've always been more excited for someone to open the gift I got them versus tearing into my own.  Don't get me wrong, I still like getting presents, but surprising others creates such a different feeling.  Now speaking of, i'm off to go bake some 'no-bake' cookies to take to school for my staff and students tomorrow.  Here's to hoping they actually turn out.


  1. Reading this makes me realize that I could've been a child at this orphanage and someone like you could've been my volunteer helper. It really makes me feel happy that you are doing this and even though I wasn't one of these children, i feel as though I appreicate what you are doing like i were one of them even though I'm not. You're a good person steph and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

    1. Thank you so much Peter! My staff and students tell me i'm so kind for going to the orphanage and volunteering but I don't really think much of it. Always nice to be appreciated and recognized though. Thankfully you had some awesome parents that decided to scoop you up and bring you to the US so we could become friends - definitely added some fun to my time at La Crosse. Looking forward to catching up whether it's here or back in WI.