Lee Joo-young (Social Science, 1) brought back more than lingering memories when she returned from the 12-day trip of trekking through the mountainous regions of Nepal on September 4. The fearless leader, along with three of the nine women who accompanied her through the Himalayas, brought back twelve children’s books for the multicultural families in Korea.
The all-woman trekking trip was organized by MAP (More Alegre People), a traveling agency and pre-social enterprise that works towards fair and sustainable traveling, and the Seoul Youth Factory for Alternative Culture. The Beautiful Foundation first coined the idea to encourage travelers to bring back native books from their travel destinations for multicultural families in Korea. Their project titled, “Asia! Solidarity of Hope made with books” reached the agents of MAP, and MAP decided to partake in the global movement.
As an active student contributor for the democratization of Burma since her high school years and co-editor of an environment magazine, “Earth Patrol,” Lee was able to connect with the sincere objective of the project to protect social minorities.
“It seemed like such a simple yet brilliant idea. I was giving someone exactly what they needed with only a small amount of effort,” said Lee. “The agent told us the scarcity of foreign books in Korea and how immigrant parents were struggling to tell their children of their language and culture, and I was moved.”
Lee used her last few days of free time and broke through the flock of tourists on streets of Katmandu in search of Nepal children’s books. To her surprise, she was one of the first to ask for native books in the numerous tourist bookstores.
“The owner and I had quite a comical time conversing in broken English and hunting for the scrap of Nepal books in the store. He came back, chuckling, with only a thin pile,” said Lee.
Even though the choice and number of books was limited, Lee had to “restrain” herself from the outstretching urge to buy every single book she could find. “The thought struck me again that the books were extremely rare and in desperate need in Korea,” said Lee. “The only thing that held me back were the weight of the books,”
The books were among the 7,000 to be distributed through The Beautiful Foundation to over 20 libraries for multinational families nationwide. Despite the gratitude of the foundation for the Lee's contribution, Lee feels more greatful towards those who came up with such ideas in the first place and is planning to look for more oppurtunities to participate in such movements.
"Volunteer work and contributing shouldn't be done in a solemn way, or in any shape that makes the people who are helping feel superior than the people being helped." said Lee. "It should be fun and interactive, like planning to go to the amusement park with your friends. You wouldn't solemnly promise to have a good time with your friends there, or feel obliged to entertain them."
Though careful in choosing words as not an expert but an undergraduate, Lee believes the social prejudice on social minorities such as muliticultural families should not necessarily be fought against, or should other perspectives be forced onto others. Instead, Lee wishes to find collegues who share her point of views and are willing to join in on her small but realistic actions.
“Organizations such as the Seoul Youth Factory for Alternative Culture and the Seoul Youth Cultural Exchange Center, also known as the MIZY Center, are open to all volunteers. Opportunities are abundantly found on their online networks, if only students take interest,” said Lee.