A Memorable Experience At Aikangwon

The juniors reflect upon their experience at the Aikangwon Social Welfare Foundation and the new discoveries about the disabled individuals from their second Experiential Education trip.

As the buzzing atmosphere among students exchanging welcome-back greetings slowly died down after the first few weeks of school, the juniors embarked on an adventure to Aikangwon Social Welfare Foundation at Geoje Island for their second Experiential Education trip. Composed of a wide array of pastime projects specially coordinated by the faculty members, the three day journey was centered on volunteer service for the mentally and physically disabled at the Aikangwon headquarter. While taking a much needed break and reducing stress related to school work, the Class of 2018 were able to spend quality time and share many unforgettable memories with the handicapped individuals.

The juniors were presented with a variety of arduous physical activities ranging from hiking to kayaking in the ocean, not to mention taking an uncountable number of selfies as well. After the exhausting set of events, students were soon greeted by warm embraces from the fellow residents at Aikangwon. Although some people took a longer time to get adjusted to the new environment, it only took a matter of minutes to completely blend in with the atmosphere and enjoy the residents’ company. Proceeding through various different team-building exercises such as dancing to music, struggling through an egg race, and even a phenomenal marimba performance, the students gradually broke down their walls and fully interacted with the Aikangwon locals. Another bonding activity accompanied by a special piggy-­bank making period was given as well, tightening their bond even further. Bodies completely drained but hearts full, the entire faculty staff and rest of the students ended the day with a series of mini games as an advisory, short sessions to commemorate the entire experience at Geoje Island as classmates. It was overall a perfect time to reflect upon what have been done and felt on the EE trip – a chance to build more intimate relationships with each other.

The teachers and students enjoying the crisp air as they hike up the mountain (PC: Joey Park (’18))

Several students volunteered, voicing their opinions about the entire trip as a whole and expressing their honest views. While diverse reactions to the trip were apparent, the overall feedback by students, despite some downsides, was highly satisfactory and positive, especially towards the Aikangwon experience.

1) Was it your first chance to interact with the disabled? If so, how valuable was the experience? What lessons did you learn from it?

My trip to Aikangwon was the first time I interacted with the disabled. At first, it was uncomfortable not being able to communicate with the disabled. I tried to talk to a middle aged man with disabilities, but he did not respond no matter how many times I tried talking to him. But I soon learned from this experience that verbal communication is not the only way to form and strengthen bonds with others. By simply smiling to them, I could create a sense of connection with them, which was a deep and meaningful joy.

– Daewon Hong (‘18)

This was not my first time interacting with people with disabilities, but it certainly was the first time I interacted with them so closely and individually. As typical as this may sound, it was honestly an eye-opening experience that broke down prejudice. Now I feel really connected with persons with disabilities. They are really enthusiastic about everything. In the first place, they are not so different from us.

– Suahn Hur (‘18)

Yes, this was my first time interacting with people with disabilities on this trip. It was an absolutely wonderful experience because even though I have done community service before, it was nothing of this sort. Never in my life did I spend time with people with disabilities such as Down Syndrome or Autism. As stated, we realized how lucky we were. Every single person, who went on the EE trip, won the birth lottery. We are seldom reminded of it. We are all human beings, no matter the physical characteristics we were born with. We should not forget that.

– Sean Choi (‘18)

Matthew Kim (’18) smiling next to one of the Aikangwon locals (PC: Joey Park (’18))

2) In the world today, there is no denying that individuals with mental or physical handicaps tend to be discriminated or even shunned by society at large. What do you feel about this? How should this problem be alleviated?

I believe that discrimination against persons with mental or physical disabilities is morally wrong. Although those with mental or physical disabilities may seem intimidating at first, they are no different from us. They have the same emotions! They laugh, they smile, and they cry. Treating them with contempt is not acceptable.

– Daewon Hong (‘18)

I am worried that such barriers never cease to exist within our society, but I think it is inevitable. The best we can do is educating ourselves to truly understand the different actions of others, of their emotions and intentions.

– Suahn Hur (‘18)
I honestly think that it is impossible to solve this problem. I believe that prejudice is genetically programmed into the human nature. With misjudgment comes people’s tendency toward speaking their mind and taking action without deep consideration of others. Of course, we also have a sense of guilt. I am no exception. I felt uncomfortable when I did wrong to other people.
– Sean Choi (‘18)

A group of friends posing for a photo on the shore before kayaking (PC: Ashley Kim (’18))

3) What was your favorite activity of the trip? Did you face any difficulties or uncomfortable situations that you wish would be solved for the juniors next year?

My favorite activity during the trip was going to the beach. It was fun simply relaxing on the beach. However, I would like to point out that our hostel should have offered quality food. I wish the rising juniors would enjoy cleaner and better one for their next trip.

– Daewon Hong (‘18)

My favorite activity during the trip was kayaking! Our activity group decided to cross the ocean and visit a little island. It turned out to be quite scary and physically difficult on the way. But I realized that teamwork between friends is one of the most important factors in overcoming challenges.

– Suahn Hur (‘18)

My favorite activity was the talent shows we performed on the first day and the last day of our trip. This showed how talented we all were. All of us were capable of demonstrating athletic skills, musical skills, and dancing skills. I would like to leave one message: “No one is disabled. Instead, everyone is differently abled.”

– Sean Choi (‘18)

Claire Yoon (’18) and her partner share a tearful embrace when it is time to say goodbye (PC: Joey Park (’18))

For the first time in a long while, both the juniors and the faculty were able to temporarily release their stress and forget the social burden attained by the start of a new semester. As they detached themselves from their daily routines, the fresh air and time out in the wild served as a respite to the minds of the students. Although the opportunity to come in contact with the disabled was a completely new experience for many members, it certainly proved a pivotal point that irrevocably changed their lives by new lessons obtained through reaching out and collaborating in different ways. As it is important to demolish the initial emotional barrier between disabled and non-disabled persons, one also should remember that the ultimate aim of mutual understanding should be considered the most important objective in relationships. One thing all students can definitely take away from the experience is that this trip will be a memoir one will never forget.

– Ashley Kim (’18)

Author: Ashley Kim

I am in the KIS Blueprint club.

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