A seventh grade student recently volunteered at a welfare center. He was encouraged to do something meaningful during summer vacation.
The welfare center gave him a task of making shopping bags and files. Earnings would be used to help low-income and disabled people. Thirty volunteers were working hard in hot summer days. The boy worked for three days from 9 a.m. to noon. He said he made 500 shopping bags a day, though he seemed to be exaggerating.
After completing nearly eight hours of work, he was asked what he learned. It was an unexpected answer. He said he was afraid of the old woman who sat next to him. When he was taking a rest for a while, the old woman gave him massive work to do.
The boy called volunteer work as "labor." Because he had to work in an uncomfortable position, his shoulders, arms and back hurt, he said. When told not to exaggerate pain, he said with a serious look, "You know what conveyer belt is. I was given work as if the belt was rotating continuously. I was swamped with work."
Maybe the boy is too young to find meaning in volunteer work. When asked whether he is willing to work more at the welfare center, he showed an ambiguous look. It`s fortunate that he didn`t resist strongly.
A week earlier, a local newspaper for southern Seoul issued a feature article that grasped attention. The article contained a table introducing volunteer programs where teenagers could join during summer vacation.
The application deadline, duration and place of volunteer work, and qualifications for application were introduced. For example, the "energy saving volunteering campaign" will be promoted at the Seongdong Teenager Culture House and at Geumho-dong from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on August 22. The program will select 20 secondary school students until August 19. In southern district of Daegu, a water delivering campaign for hot summer will be promoted and middle to high school students can apply.
One can easily find on the Internet places where teenagers can volunteer. There are many websites that constantly update such information. Many people share volunteer information among themselves.
Korea may be turning into an advanced volunteer country, with teenagers taking the initiative. Not many people agree, however.
In 1996, the education authorities introduced a student volunteer activity point system to invigorate teenagers` volunteer activities. Though different among cities and provinces, many junior high schools allocate about 20 points to students` volunteer activity among total 300 points when measuring school records for high school entry. College admissions do not directly reflect volunteer scores. However, the volunteer activities written in school records are used in rolling admission.
Students are rushing to join volunteer activity due to this reason. Volunteer activity is like a "test subject" for college entrance. This is why parents are aggressive about their children`s volunteer activities. They visit their children`s volunteering places and take pictures for proof. Other volunteers who are devoting with pure heart could be affected.
Some people may say that teenagers still get to volunteer. But though teenagers may not be enthusiastic at first, they could gradually realize how meaningful volunteering is and this will create a virtuous cycle of students willing to volunteer regardless of score. Teenagers` volunteering is hoped to be continued even though volunteer activity is not point-based.