After a 30 minute drive in the lovely Seoul traffic we came to the orphanage. On the way the head of the hotel charity group explained to us that this orphanage consisted of around 80 children aged between 1 month old to 10 years old. All are normal children with no disabilities or problems, but were abandoned by their parents. Most he explained is un-wed mothers who dump the new born babies on the street, or in front of a police station.
So we entered, met the manager of the house, changed into something that look like a chefs jacket, but yellow (this helps the children identify visitors) and we had to empty all of our pockets.
The first hallway we entered consisted of two rooms, on the left side that house babies aged between 1 month to 18 months old. There was about 13 babies. They were taken care of by two ladies on a shift that work for 24 hours, 9am to 9am. On the opposite side of the two rooms were two bathrooms, and a small kitchen to prep the food. We hung out with the babies for about an hour holding them, trying to make them smile, and just giving them some extra human touch. It was so weird to be there looking at these babies, and holding them knowing that they have no parents taking care of them, just the helpers, and the volunteers that came to the orphanage like us. After an hour I treid to go into the room of the 18month old to 3 years old. When we entered the room, the 10 kids or so just started to freak out and once one cried almost all of them cried. I was not sure what to do, so I left and went back to the babies. I thought better to take on that room later.
We then went upstairs where there was about 5 rooms and 5 helpers with children aged between 3 to 7. Most of these rooms were conducting classes with their helpers, so apart from one room where we played with one or two kids for 30 minutes, we really didnt hang out with the others. On this second floor there was about 40 kids.
We then went over to another house behind the 1st building which housed the older children. It was a nice house with communal sleeping area and kitchen on the second floor, and 1st floor was where there was like a games room and study area with computers. The head of the charity club explained that last year the hotel donated 20,000,000 won ($20,000) to redo the entire interior of the house. It looked very nice. Anyway here we were attacked by about 10 kids aged between 7 to 10. We went to the play room and the girls kind of kept to themselves, but the boys stuck to me like glue. They wanted to sit on my lap. hold my hand, throw them around the room and more. I could so feel how these kids just wanted to have some affection and attention which I am sure they could not get much of.
So after an hour of exhausted work with the boys we went back to the babies and the 3 year olds whom I freaked out before. This time I played with a baby outside of their room door, and they just watched me through the glass. I figured if they saw this they would realize I was not a threat. So after 15 minutes I put the baby down and entered the room. They were very hesitent, but I just moved to one corner of the room and sat on the floor. I pulled faces at the kids, and clapped, and made funny noises. Finally after a few minutes one of the older boys ran over and jumped on me. From then on the tension eased, and over the next 45 minutes some of the others warmed up to me. During the time we fed some of them dinner with the helpers, and at 6.00pm all volunteers had to leave, and we bid our farewells.
Clariza and I have discussed this experience a few times since then, and we plan to go again next month, the third Thursday of every month. It was a powerful experience and I will never forget it. I think it could be very hard for some people, but I think it is a humbling experience to take yourself into such a differant world and try to make a small differance to these children. Sorry for the long message, but I thought it would be nice to share the experience.