Thursday, August 13, 2009

Second to last day in Seoul, more meetings






Such a surprise, more meetings!

The highlights of today were visiting the Ae Ran Wan "Me You Us" center and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.

With support from KUMSN ARW started the first ( as far as we know) comprehensive, community based support center for unwed moms. (The government has since started several more affiliated with their family net program). In their first 6 months of operation they provided crisis counseling, small financial help to moms for medical care, job related expenses, housing and baby related expenses, parenting classes, helped moms finish school, learn how to search for jobs and then actually support them in the job search process, ongoing counseling, medical care, and organized and supported self help groups, all for the moms. In addition they shared training with a number of other organizations and have built a network they can refer moms to for various services. We were awed by how much they do, and how far they stretch their limited financial resources.

We asked Ms. Han, the warm and caring Director, what has been the most surprising thing so far, since opening the center. She said that it turns out they are in a great neighborhood, easily accessible to the moms, so that many moms have attended their programs or just dropped by they center. They have seen a quick increase in the amount of outreach and counseling they do and an increase in the parents attending parenting classes. When asked what is most challenging, she said that the social workers are overwhelmed and it is hard for them to work with so many people. Also, their space is too small for many of the programs they run, so they have to find other places to use.

Over all, we are just so impressed with the work the Me You Us center is doing for the moms.

The next stop was at the National Human Rights Commission. There we learned how the Commission works and the kinds of issues they address. They are concerned about discrimination and violation of human rights related to 20 areas of focus. Just a few are gender, race, religion, marital status, disability, mental health and age. They investiage individual cases and try to help the involved parties come to an agreement that respects human rights and Korean laws. They can make recommendations, review pending legistaion and initiate investigations. They do not have any enforcement powers however. We had a fruitful conversation about the rights of mothers to raise their own children, of children to be raised by their parents, of teens to finish school, of women to get health care, and to be safe from being fired or evicted based soley on their pregnancy or unmarried parent status. It is good to know about resources like this.

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