Korean children motivate Gwangju’s Adopt-A-Child for Christmas – Gwangju (ACC) volunteers to give generously, as they have this month and every year since 2010.
Sarah Hale, current ACC President, shared what and how ACC accomplishes its gift-giving this month and since the program’s creation. “Every year we work to gift children from multiple orphanages [with] Christmas presents. We then deliver them to the orphanages and through small Christmas parties with Santa for the kids.”
As the organization’s creator, Al Barnum recognized the importance of helping the next generation of Koreans receive gifts during the Christmas season. According to their website at: www.adoptachildgwangju.org, Barnum was inspired to create ACC by the late Mike Simning, a long-time beloved Gwangju resident who endlessly supported the Sungbin Orphanage. Simning’s legacy will always be honored and cherished, through what ACC provides today for these precious children.
Alongside Barnum was James Green, the current ACC Vice President and a foundational contributor from ACC’s beginnings. Green enjoys the Christmas parties the most. “It makes all the effort seem worth it to see the children opening the presents.”
Hale stated that the Christmas parties “are the culmination of all our efforts throughout the year. It is just the best payoff to finally deliver the gifts.” Hale likewise delights with Green in watching children receive gifts from the community. “I really look forward to interacting with them at the Christmas parties we throw. It is so fun to see the little ones’ faces when they see Santa.”
Kayla Edwards, Adopt-A-Child Volunteer, loves helping with fundraising events and acted as a Santa Claus during the most-recent Gwangju International Community Day on October 16 at the Asia Culture Complex. “We are lucky to live in a city where Koreans and foreigners can work together in a pleasant environment.”
Lessons learned from ACC have transformed these and many other volunteers over the years. Hale has learned so much while managing ACC’s efforts during this Christmas season. “I have learned to just take everything one day at a time,” Hale shared. “It is a big project but totally worth it.”
Green looks to past ACC presidents and organizers for his greatest lessons. “After seeing the difference made by first Al Barnum, Daniel Lister, Jordan VanHartingsveldt, then Calen Cygan and Sunjin Choi and now Sarah Hale, I really feel that one person can make a big difference to peoples’ lives. I’m really in awe of the amount of work they have put into making ACC a success,” Green said.
Edwards shared a lesson emphasizing how the international community can be involved in ACC, no matter what they see as possible limitations. “I have learned that even if you do not speak the same language as someone, it does not mean you cannot help them. I barely can speak the Korean language but I have always found a way to express myself with the children and they do not all speak English but they find their own ways to say thank you or show their gratitude.”
For the Gwangju community who has always supported ACC, going on seven years now and counting, Edwards, Green and Hale have all expressed their deep appreciation.
“To everyone in the Gwangju community who has ever attended an event, donated money, volunteered or even just gave a kind word of encouragement, thank you. This is an incredible community and I am so thankful to be part of it,” Edwards stated.
“Without the community donating and attending the events, we would not be able to help anyone. Second, I want to say continue, do not stop. Together we have put many smiles on children’s faces,” Green shared.
“You are the best! We are so grateful,” Hale proclaimed.
All three 2016 ACC leaders shared that there is always room for more people to help with this and future ACCs. To assist with this year’s efforts, visit the ACC’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/adoptachildchristmasgwangju/. Fundraising event information and program updates will be posted to show ACC’s 2016 impact.
The due date for gift-giving will be on Wednesday, December 14. Be the reason that our Gwangju children smile during this Christmas and New Year season!!