Life dedicated to reaching out hands for the needy: Lee Young-soung
Life dedicated to reaching out hands for the needy: Lee Young-soung
  • Lee Min-jeong
  • 승인 2012.11.26 10:47
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Lee Young-soung (’63, Christian Studies) talks about life in helping others. Photo by Kwon Eun-bi.

Pictures of numerous people with different faces, ages, and backgrounds are hung on the walls of Daumnuri’s office. In the center of every picture stands Lee Young-soung (’63, Christian Studies), as if those pictures trace back her life. Stepping inside, more pictures with explanation about the memories she shared with the people emerged.
Lee is the representative of Daumnuri, an NGO providing social services mainly for multicultural families, senior citizens who live alone, people from developing countries, North Korean defectors, and others in need.
“I am thankful that I was blessed enough to gain the valuable opportunity to work for others, not because I was talented or special,” Lee said.
Lee’s devotion to welfare started around 20 years ago. Upon graduating from Ewha, Lee taught Social Studies for 16 years at an elementary and middle school, and lived her life as a normal housewife. Following her husband, Lee’s family then moved to Seongnam City in the Gyeonggi Province, which was literally an undeveloped and desolated city during the early 90s.
“The moment I arrived at the city, I knew that I was sent here on an errand of God, allowing me to help other people, and turn this environment, barren in all aspects, into a better place,” Lee said.
Lee started to persuade neighbors and begin gathering worn-out clothes.
“Compared to the times you contemplate buying a single piece of clothing, people do not even hesitate a second when throwing away their clothes,” Lee said. “Recycling those scrapped resources soon adds up to 16 containers full of clothes.”
Lee donated the gathered clothes to the poor neighbors at no cost, or sold items for only 1,000 won to people in need. Lee started small, but together with help from the Korea Food for the Hungry International, she also sent the recycled clothes to 16 South Asian regions. This experience made her consider a more systematic approach to helping neglected groups. Eventually, Lee entered the political world and ran for the city councilwoman, and worked as a politician for 10 years serving different positions while building a reputation as a community leader.
Lee did not stop in participating in community services even after retirement; it was from then on when she started working in earnest.
“I founded an NGO named ‘Angel’s Hand’ in 2005 to expand and carry out my mission in serving the needy,” Lee said. “The organization was renamed as Daumnuri, which means to move together towards the future in pure Korean words, since a beautiful life can continue only when we take each other’s hand.”
Based on her accumulated experiences, Lee was able to gather supporters who joined her in launch social work projects, and help collaborating with schools in Gyeonggi Province for fund raising. She distributed coin banks at each school, named “Angel’s Fund,” to collect coin from students and use them as scholarship funds and work expenses.
For seven years, Daumnuri has grown from a small group to an organization managing approximately 15 domestic and overseas projects. Recently, it started to focus on supporting minorities such as multicultural children, international marriage migrant women, and foreign laborers. Lee considers, with its issues and social conflicts, a “time bomb,” waiting to explode in the near future. The problems that these group of people face such as the language barrier, age gap between spouses, and irresponsible marriage are not well supported or getting much public attention.
“Multicultural families are highly exposed to abnormal situations, for example, the parent’s sudden divorce,” Lee said. “Such situations cause children to drop out. Only 80 percent of students from multicultural families attend elementary school, 45 percent in middle school, and 30 percent in high school. Bullying is also a problem. Despite the seriousness, almost nothing has been prepared to handle those problems over the past 10 years.”
Especially, Lee created the “Angel Crayon Chorus,” which is made up of 30 multicultural elementary and middle school students from about 10 different countries like China, Vietnam, Turkmenistan, Cambodia, and Bangladesh. The chorus, which was organized to improve multicultural students’ self-esteem and confidence, won first place at the 2nd National Multinational Family Chorus Competition in June. Lee collected student’s essays together, published them into a book, to draw attention to multiculturalism. Daumnuri also operates a center where foreigners can gather and share their country’s traditional foods or receive legal counseling regarding Korean life, medical care, or education.
Lee plans to continue working as long as her health allows her to.
“We once reformed a village’s famous haunted house into a church in Thailand,” Lee said. “The situations and surroundings might not always be favorable. The works are sometimes physically and mentally demanding, especially when I hear the heartbreaking news of the breakup of a student’s family, who became no longer in contact. However, it is the sense of duty in practicing the missions that I should do, which pulls me out of my bed every day, and head toward the office even in my seventies.”
Lee also emphasizes the importance of a life serving others.
“Our lives are not completed only by ourselves, but we owe it to others’ hearts and warmth,” Lee said. “Therefore, we should all know how to pass on the love that we receive by giving ourselves to others.”

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