A pleasant feeling sweeps over the children as their true sides finally reveal themselves in all their innocence, sincerity, and purity. Their previously indifferent countenances now beam with angelic smiles. They have finally found a haven where they belong.
Pinwheel Relationship Building School is one of many projects affiliated with Peacecamp, an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) which envisions to help create a communal society without bias. The school strives to interact and further build a steady relationships with the disabled who are often marginalized solely because of their disabilities.
The organization forms a small, interactive community in which the students actively participate in various educational programs that are rarely offered to them in reality. Through the process, the group helps the students to obtain a vital experience that may further encourage them to become the integral part of society.
“Our ultimate goal is to make students understand that their disabilities are mere differences, not handicaps that sometimes indicate a sense of inferiority,” said Kim Yu-hyun, the coordinator of Pinwheel Relationsihp Building School. “Just as all individuals have differnent physical features and mental capabilities, they too are just different, not abnormal.”
The school is unique because it was founded and is operated solely by university students predominantly from Seodaemun-gu region.
“Pinwheel Relationship Building School was founded by university students who resented the inadequate educational opportunities that the disabled have in a nation in which the university entrance rate excels that of any other nations,” Kim said. “The school benefits not only the students but also the guardians to relax during the day.”
The educational programs and seminars on the rights of the disabled created and arranged by the university volunteers themselves include visits to entertaining places such as zoos or amusement parks and educational classes on cooking, art, music and physical education.
“We try to visit public places where the students are discouraged and deterred from going because they attract attention,” Kim said.
Pinwheel School recruits members every semester. Disabled students mostly from Parent Association in Seodaemun-gu as well as those who are not disabled are selected as the school also operates as a weekend school for youth in general. Each student is partnered with volunteers to complete 10 sessions held every Saturday for five hours. 20 university student volunteers from Yonsei University, Sogang University and Ewha Womans University and 15 disabled students will participate in the program from April until June.
Although the volunteers feel rewarded by their activities, they sometimes face mental and physical difficulties.
“University volunteers feel mentally burdened during the exam periods and physically struggle taking care of the students individually for hours,” Kim said. “However, since they are aware of their responsibility, they try their best to help as much as possible.”
However, difficulties do not discourage university volunteers.
The volunteers express much satisfaction and appreciation to their students whom they also learn from.
“The students always teach us valuable lessons and attitudes that we often forget or simply neglect,” Kim said. “I remember how embrassed I was when I witnessed the students sitting closely together sharing their lunch with one another while the volunteers ate separately without exchanging a word.”