We began the day with a lovely brunch for the KUMSN volunteers. Several of the volunteers tutor moms in English. One volunteer does art therapy with the mothers and with their children. Several volunteers help with translation and proof reading. It was very inspiring to hear how committed and thoughtful they are about wanting to help create change. The sincerity of the moms is an inspiration to all of us, including our excellent volunteers.
In the afternoon we had a ceremony with the Korean Foundation for Women to formally acknowledge the work KUMSN is doing with the Foundation. Dr. Cho is the President of the foundation and a thoughtful woman who is very supportive to the unwed moms and the work of KUMSN. After the more formal presentations, two groups shared their current work and plans for the rest of the year. The Miss Mama Mia group of unwed moms is transitioning into a more formal organization, the Korean Unwed Mothers Families Association (KUMFA). They are hard at work on many projects, including:
1. Providing counseling via email and phone and occasionally in person, to moms who are faced with difficulties regarding the choice to raise their children, or other child-raising issues.
2. Building the membership and involvement of new unwed moms.
3. Outreach to women in unwed mother facilities.
4. Working with journalists to help bring their stories to the wider society.
5. Working to make the government services currently available work better for moms and to increase the support the government provides for moms.
The Hanbumo (which means "single parent" in Korean) Association also shared their current work. The Hanbumo Association is a coalition of single mothers' organizations. Single mothers were married when they had children, but are now divorced or widowed. Korea had a huge increase in divorce in the late 1990s after the economic collapse and this high rate has continued. It has created huge social issues, since divorce used to be very uncommon. Like the unwed moms, the Hanbumo Assocation provides outreach and counseling to single mothers. They have ongoing street campaigns where they engage in street theater and hand out information to pedestrians about single mothers' issues. They are engaged in training and study to improve their own understanding of Korean society, to strengthen their own self-confidence, and to become better counselors. In addition they are working to improve their own internal structures and organization. They are all about empowering single mothers to make certain that government policy, laws, and social programs in Korea better serve all single parents.
After the initial presentations, there was a long and lively discussion during which both organizations shared experiences and developed ways they can support each other. As this was the first joint meeting, there was a lot to learn from each other about the work to improve the lives for all families, for all mothers and children. It was very exciting to listen to the exchange and imagine how they will work together.
We finished the day with a fantastic Korean meal with many of the participants. Among the delights was watching the little children run around so happily. It is painful to realize that without each others support and caring, these mother-child bonds might have been broken. It is such an honor and joy to be part of their support system.