Samsungwon was founded in 1960 in Daegu South Korea but 20 years later moved to its present location in Gumi. The orphanage is home to about 80 children, aged 14 months to twenty years. The children are cared for by 24/7 live-in caretakers, who they call "mom" or "aunt", each responsible for eight to fourteen children, who live in single-sex 'houses". Samsungwon prides itself on its familial house-structure, which differs from many orphanages in Korea that raise children in age-segregated rooms and/or buildings.
None of the children are eligible for adoption which has been a long standing policy of the orphanage as they prefer to raise the children in their permanent 'houses; at Samsungwon as opposed to sending them to other houses via domestic or international adoption routes. Also, most of the children still have parents who maintain legal parental rights, but could not care for the children and looked to the orphanage for that assistance.
The orphanage receives most of it's funding from the provincial government which goes towards providing children with necessities, operational expenses and basic medical costs. They also receive some funding from Korean nationals which helps pay for supplemental education such as piano or Taekwondo lessons. The children must leave the orphanage after they turn 18, unless they care college students, in which case they can stay until they graduate. Many of the children however remain close with their families and will visit frequently, including major holidays such as Chuesok (Korean Thanksgiving) and the Lunar new year.
Upon meeting the children and staff at Samsungwon I could tell that there really was a special bond within the organization. It was arranged that I would be volunteering once a week to help tutor four 3rd grade boys in English. This would be much more relaxed and casual than any type of Hagwon (private English academy) or classroom setting - basically it's a time for the kids to spend some time with a Native speaker and hopefully gain interest in the Language.
My aunt from Samsungwon, Hyunbin's mom (Ms. Noh), was telling me yesterday how much the third graders love meeting you for class every week. She said it's the first time in 30 years of working and living at Samsungwon that she's seen kids so genuinely excited to meet their volunteer teacher to play and study. She really meant it! She also said that your dad's visit was a hit, and the kids finally understand that "Tom" is your dad (right? hopefully?) and he went home. Apparently, they kept asking for "Tom," and she was like "who the heck is Tom?" Lol.
Anyway, I know sometimes the language barrier is hard and the staff rarely gets a chance to express their gratitude as clearly as they would like, so I wanted to pass along her compliments to you. Whatever you're doing, keep up the great work! We really appreciate everything you're doing for the kids here at Samsungwon.Nothing like feeling appreciated to put a smile on your face and make your day! Like I said before, getting involved with Samsungwon may have been the best decision I've made during my time in Korea.