Sang Soon Han, Director of Ae Ran Won, has posted a special appeal asking for help with the considerable unexpected expenses Ae Ran Won now faces with having to reconstruct their building.
Please follow this link to read her message.
It gives me mixed emotions to realize that this would be my last letter to you. In April 1990, I started working as a director of Aeranwon at the age of 40. Now at the end of June 2015, I am retiring at the age of 65.
When I came to Aeranwon and started fund raising, we started publishing newsletters. That is when I started writing letters to our supporters too. Back then there were no computers in Aeranwon, so I wrote hand written letters to all supporters.
Those days had far worse social understandings of unwed single mothers than these days. Some of those who came across the newsletters would come to Aeranwon and scold in my face, “If these were your daughters, would you still make them give birth? You must be doing it for your own good, you should not be using unwed single mothers. You should rather make them take an abortion, send them home, and shut down Aeranwon.” In 1990s, abortions were not a rare occurrence and the respect for unborn babies or the rights of those women in need was not a familiar concept.
Writing this letter, I have a feeling that this letter would become a book to go over all those things that happened during my 25 years in Aeranwon, so it seems right to leave with all those stories kept in my heart.
I would really like to say this once sentence to you all here and it is “Thank you.” Due to your company I was able to work with joy and strength that I need. I would like to thank you all here through this letter to let you know that I am very very grateful.
Aeranwon has three invisible powers. The first is the Lord, the second is the supporters, and the third is our mothers. When I first came to Aeranwon in 1990s, there were a few things I wanted to do. One of them was to make Aeranwon a very nice facility for unwed single mothers. Aeranwon is a living facility where unwed single mothers live together, so I was watching them for 24 hours. Those days most of the babies were given up for adoption. When I did a rounding at night during my night shifts, I heard the mothers crying. I had learned through time that they had a harsh reality they had to face after giving up their own babies. They were suffering and they had to live with their unresolved pains.
Then I met God and got to learn how God sees through the mothers. Because he felt so painful when his only son cried out “Father” on the cross, so that he closed the door of the heaven, which made the world dark without light during the day, he understands the pain of the mother who lost her child. He Himself knows the pain so well than anyone else does. At that moment the pain of God became mine, and it became my calling.
God has sent us many supporters who have accompanied us on our journey. I would like to thank you to those who supported us with prayers, contributions, and by volunteering for the present and the future of the single mothers with trust. Due to your support, we were able to work for the financial, social, psychological, and emotional independence of the mothers. Due to your support, we were able to help the mothers to raise their own children. We deeply appreciate to you all who have accompanied us.
The third is our mothers. The mothers have become my life mentors and good friends. They have great inner strength they have earned by enduring the harsh reality after they had to give up their own child. After they go through so much pain, they could live their life and share their painful history for “others”, not for themselves. Every time Aeranwon tries a new challenge, they step in front of the members of the National Assembly, public officials, or other related facility staff. They share their own stories in tears, trying to make an effort to help us change negative understandings of single mothers. It helped changes in perceptions, systems, and even laws and regulations. Those days it was a taboo for unwed single mothers to go out in public, but they got over it and stepped out. Some even have become volunteer workers and support Aeranwon. It is a truly thankful experience.
Because I can now leave with all these grateful memories filled in my heart, I am a happy person.
Ms Kang, Young Shil, a current management director, will serve as a new director. Ms Kang was born in 1959, graduated from Seoul Women’s University with a master’s degree in social service. She serves as deacon at Somang Church. She worked at Social Welfare Service for 14 years. She has experience as manager in various fields, from consulting to fundraising fields. She has been working with me in Aeranwon for 19 years and she believes that this is the work given to her by God. She awes God, loves the mothers here, and devotes herself to them. She will work overnight if it is needed. She will not hesitate to do hard work that needs to be done. She gives thanks for the work she can do and enjoys that she can do the work for someone. She is a companion that I have had who filled my deficiencies for the 19 years and I am so grateful that God allowed her to be by my side and now to become a new leader of Aeranwon and Aeran One-Family Network. I am certain that my words will be confirmed through her work. I ask for your prayers for her.
email@example.com is the new email address for the new director, Ms Kang. Please use the email adress to communicate with Aeranwon.
We finally signed a contract with a vendor for reconstruction of Aeranwon building. After 3 months of designing process, the reconstruction is schedule to start in late September. I would like to ask your continuous prayers and support for the big reconstruction project.
There is an announcement. There will be a worship service for inauguration ceremony at 4pm on June 30, 2015. If you are available, please come and join us. We will be honored to have your company.
Once again I would like to say thank you. I give my farewell to you all who have showed kindness to our single mothers and look after them. I pray that God will do the same to you. I am making a deep bow to you in my heart. God knows your kindness and God will be with you. Good bye.
Director, Aeranwon & Aeran Parent-Child Support Network
It’s raining outside. For us it is a rain that resolves our droughts, but it makes me sad to think that this rain would be tears of blood for those in Nepal who mourn in the earthquake crisis. This reminds me of the phrase “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places." (Mathew 24:7-8), it makes me straighten up myself with modesty.
I wrote in my last letter that just like tulips need to stay in – 5 degrees for 50 days to blossom a flower, our young mothers come here after their biggest hardships.
There was a 17-year-old girl in Aeranwon. Her mother was constantly being abused by her alcoholic husband and even this young girl was constantly sexually abused by her father. Whenever her father came home after drinking he asked her wife to let the daughter come into his room and the mother did so. This girl finally ran away from home and came to Aeranwon when she found out that she became pregnant. She gave a birth and sent the baby for adoption, moved to Aeran Seumteo, graduated high school and finished vocational training. While she was staying with us, we had numerous urgent calls from her mother. The mother begged us to release her daughter because the father was threatening the mother to bring the daughter back. The mother begged us for her life saying her husband was threatening her by poking her thigh with scissors. But we never released the daughter.
This was twelve years ago.
This girl sent me an e-mail few days ago. She told me that the life she had while she was in Aeranwon and Aeran Seumteo was the only time of peace and safety throughout her life. She also said that she didn’t realize then how grateful she was, but now that she is old enough to look back on those days, she knows now how much that time was comforting and how it enabled her to live her present life. She wanted to know ways to help Aeranwon. I told her that she could do volunteer work, make contributions, or support our reconstruction project funding by making contributions of $10 each month for 18 months. She said her child is too young so it would be hard to do volunteer works but she would be happy to support the building reconstruction funding. It was a touching moment looking at the application documents that she sent me. I am sure that all of you would agree with me that her life seems to be more beautiful, when she had gone through her hard times.
I believe that the new building will be built beautifully. This should be the place where young mothers can be safe and rest, where they can heal their frozen minds with warm comforts, where they can find their lost dreams back, where they can learn and plan their future, and where God looks after these young mothers with a broken heart. It will be the house of the weak and also that of God. We ask your attention and your heart to be with us.
As the government subsidy has been finalized as 2 billion won( $1,836,547/exchange rate= 1,089won for $1) for 1,473m2 last March, we are moving forward with the construction project in a hectic schedule. According to the guidelines provided by the Seoul city government, the planning for construction will have to be processed as a private contract by a general bid in the Nara Marketplace for the government agencies. To proceed with the design, which is the first step of the reconstruction, the third construction committee was held for the presentations of the venders. It has been decided as SiHyung Architects Associate. In the next three months we have to finalize the construction design plan, establish construction budget projection, process required permission, and find a construction company. The construction is scheduled to start in late September or early October. We expect the construction will be completed in 10 months by July or August 2016.
We hope to put our efforts together to lay brick by brick with everyone, who gives us invaluable advice in every stage of the construction and who actually perform their work to design and build our new building.
The accumulated funding is 124,000,000won ($113,865.9) as of today, and we received 89 accounts signed up for monthly contribution of $10. We are still in need of 350 million won($321,395.7) and additional funding for design and supervision costs and we are praying for the fundraising. Thank you all for those who have participated.
We are also preparing for the alternative facility for the mother and the children of the Aeranwon to stay during the construction period. We were actually planning to reduce our facility during the construction period but the ministry of gender equality and family asked of us to continue our present 40 fixed limit, we have requested for 10 homes of the multiplex villa which can be rented from the SH public corporation villa and are waiting for the result in the 8th of May. If the 10 family gets to stay in the villa due to the increase of the housing we would need about 300 million for the charter/lease deposit and this money should be operated differently from the construction fund. The way to solve the security deposit is to get a bank loan in collateral of the security deposit or have a supporter who can support us through the one year period of the construction. Wish of your prayers and support for us to get a place for our mothers and children to stay during the construction period.
27th April we had a Spring bazaar. Our total profit was 5,730,000won ($5,262) Sales profit was 5,150,000won ($4,729), donation was 500,000 won ($459), and the recycled table sales profit was 80,000 won ($73,5). Those who have come encouraged us and bought our products even in the busy times thank you. This profit would be used for the payroll cost of the Me You Us PC Center’s social worker’s fee.
For this bazaar Petit Elin supported us with organic products, Kukje pharmacy supported us with cosmetics, God’s will kwangsung church(Good accompany division), Somang church, Zonta 5 club, Shinhan bank has supported us with products, Koamrotary club(15), Saltlux(10), Shinhanbank(43), Shinhan bank university student’s promotion unit(11), Allianzz(10), Goldman Sachs(14), Onnuri Church W community(10), Sechimtegi(10), K.C.C.(16), Soongeui Women’s College Children Art’s Department(10), Internationa Lutheran Church(3)... etc. many volunteer workers had come and worked for our bazaar.
Truly we are being loved by so many people, we owe you a lot of love. Thank you very much.
We truly thanks of those supporter who give us unchanging love and attention, and we pray that God be with you. Thank you very much.
Director, Aeranwon & Aeran Parent Child Support Network
Spring, a beautiful season of endless blossoms of flowers. Isn’t it a blessing that we can live in this beautiful nature?
According to Kim Gunso, head of the Everland research center, a Tulip needs a time of pain for 50 days in -5 degrees in order into blossom flower; if this is not done it can not grow well or even grow as a flower. As those spring trees blossom a beautiful flower after a cold winter, our lives will become more beautiful due to hardship.
Most of the girls that Aeran Network first meet, are going through the cold season. Especially if they were not acknowledged or protected from even one person, they are overwhelmed by the anger and frustration built in them, they criticize themselves, and believe that all of this happened because they are bad people, and consider themselves worthless.
Aeran Network gives down-to-earth help in order to help them finish their cold season and find their dreams and purpose of life to blossom in real life, and dream of better future. However these are impossible with only our power, but are possible through dear supporters who are the deputies of god. So throughout the last 25 years, even though there were hard times, I could work happily by witnessing changes within the girls. It was a huge blessing and a gift to work with all of you.
As we have informed you through our newsletters, ‘Mapo Aeranwon’(Mapo-gu Gongduk-dong), Maternity home for an adult single mother has opened in February, and with the support of Seoul city are helping the birth and the self reliance of 7 mothers and 5 babies.
‘Aeran Youngs’ vill.’ a group home for teenage mothers has finished setting the furniture and equipment through the government grants, and are planning to open in May after hiring 3 employees, reporting on the facility installation, and going through the assessment process of the local government.
Aeran Network has been trying to find a way to decrease the construction fee of the ‘Aeranwon Construction’ which is the biggest task of 2015~16, and even considered whether extension after remodeling and structural strengthening is possible. However it is a 32 year old building and as there are private houses next to it there is a great risk following structural strengthening and it is the experts' opinion that it would even cost more expenses. So March 27th in gathering the opinions of the experts it has been decided to be rebuilt. And have been instructed by the Seoul city to use electronic bid through Government’s Nara-marketplace. Due to this it is more expensive than the private work and the construction fee is about to increase more than the budget, and are reconsidering the design considering this change.
Due to the limited fee of government grant we are now in a situation of needing more collection for the construction. Because me and our coworkers are all unfamiliar with the construction we are proceeding with the help of construction committee and the professionals. We wish of your prayer and interest.
In ‘Me.You.Us Parent-Child Center’ we support self supporting single mothers by one-on-one supporting system and case management. One-on-one supporting system is a system that supports mothers with 100,000 won every month in cash, and this program is very important for mothers who are sustaining a very tough livelihood. It not only supports them economically, but also gives them consolation and encouragement that there is a person who wish them to be happy and even support them. It also gives strength to them to live through reality. Currently there are 48 families being supported. Through this we give great thanks to those supporters.
On April 1st after last year baptism for 8 in November, 7 were baptized (3 mothers 4 children). It was a joyous party due to the pizza and snacks prepared by the Ye-nung Church Wednesday team. In the past many of the kids were adopted so the baptism was a very sad event where as now due to the increase of mothers who raise their child baptism is like a party. We could see that the success rate of self-reliance was higher for those who have fate.
On April 25th 11am.~4pm. there is a Aeranwon Bazaar event. We would be very thankful if you could donate those clothes, plates, toys, children’s books, small electronics and furnitures that is no longer in use in your homes, it would be of a lot of help. And we would be very thankful if you could come and encourage staff and volunteer workers on that day. On flea market, purchase is a donate.
Next month we would inform you with a construction schedule and appointment of follow-up construction team. The collection fee for the construction is USD 11,592. What we are so thankful of is that about 10 former residents who have left Aeranwon heard of the construction and supported 1 or 2 accounts. One mother who works as a daily helper supported $230 she has save 10thousand one from her daily pay. It gave me a tear of movement receiving these supports and I believe that Aeranwon construction will be beautiful.
Even when I leave Aeranwon I would not forget your dearest support. With deepest thanks, we will deliver news again next month.
Aeran PC Network
To those who love and care for Aeran Parent Child Support Network:
We wish God's blessing be with you who support and work with us with prayers, volunteer work, and contributions.
According to “2014 The World Factbook” published by the CIA of the US, the total birthrate of Korea is 1.25, one of the lowest, which is the 219th amongst 226 countries. To maintain the current population it should at least be 2.1. For the sake of the rise of the birthrate, the government has spent 160 trillion won for the past ten years on the birth policy, which was not effective, and worse is that it is not expected that in the future that there will be any rise in the birthrate. In 2012, the Gender Equality and Family Committee of the National Assembly revised the Single-Parent Family Support Act, to make an effort to decrease the number of foreign adoptions. The government also acknowledged child-rearing of single mothers for a child in maternity homes, and approved to support the living expenses for the child, 4,350 Won (USD 3.85) per day.
The unwed single mother issues are now going through a big change in Korea.
For the majority of the society, with the older generation prejudiced, unwed single mothers are still considered discrediting. However there seem to be some changes in the awareness of the younger generation. Knowing that they are going to work as the central parts in the society within the next 10~20 years, the society would become more individualistic and more open, leading to allow more social understanding about unwed single mothers. Then more adult single mothers would be able to choose to stay at their homes and to get help rather than having to move into a facility. In other words, facilities for unwed single mothers and their children would be less needed than now.
Regarding the related policies, in July around the country 17 facilities for unwed mothers will be closed, and 13 facilities will be changed to “group homes for mother and child” where child rearing is supported. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and the Seoul city government are now trying to secure more facilities for unwed mothers, however, as we have proposed, increasing the number of facilities would be of no consideration of the current social changes.
In 1996 when I visited single mother and child facilities in the US, there were only 3~4 single mothers in those big facilities. Because of more understanding of single mothers within the local communities and throughout the country, they told us that unless the mother has any special need they no longer use the facility. Instead more in-home programs were being actively utilized.
In 2008 I attended a short term training at the Parent Child Center (PCC) in Vermont in the US. Many single mothers were getting in-home help through PCC with alternative schools and day-care centers. The PCC also operated housing programs and self-sufficiency programs. 95% of them were in their teens. Parent Child Center is similar to our Me.you.us Center, however there are big differences in sizes, and various funding sources, and facilities themselves. The single mothers come to the facility with their children, drop off their children to the daycare center, and study at the alternative school or join with various activities. They were also getting financial support including counseling and housing assistance. To promote independent education, there are various benefits provided at different stages along with the achievement. Also in the alternative school there are various incentive programs organized depending on the achievements in their studies. I was surprised that those support programs, which are still not possible now in Korea, were established by the strong support of the state government and the industries. At that time P.C.C. arranged a meeting with the entrepreneurs, where I was again more surprised that they regarded it as their mission and had a pride in supporting those young mothers and children not to be excluded from the society and become a part of the effort.
According to the statistics of 2014, there were 124 (69 mothers and 55 children) within the Aeran Won for the whole year. Me.You.Us Center assisted 103 families (103 mothers and 103 children) in total to include 38 families under intensive case management and 45 families with 1:1 support connection. However the operation expense is only a quarter of the operating expense of facility. Even to those who live outside of the facility we provide intensive case management service, self-sufficiency program, and child rearing program. To promote motivation on independence, we hold monthly free flee market to share basic necessities. We also provide other services, such as 1:1 support connection, summer camps, year-end parties. Only if we could hire one more social worker, we would be able to help much more unwed single mothers in the community. However it breaks my heart that currently due to the financial limits we have to restrict the cases.
After reconstruction, as systems for young mothers, Aeran network will support them with Aeranwon and Aeran Seumter (for the girls who send babies for adoption) and “group home” for young mothers who keep babies (we do not give its name yet, this home will be opened in May). And “Self-support home” and Me,You,Us PC Center in connection with Narea alternative school.
Aeranwon Mapo will support adult single mothers with special needs. They will receive the same support in connection with Aeran Mother and Baby's Home, Self-support home and Me,You, Us Cernter for follow up services.
Our current One-Stop Service System is going to be streamlined to have two lines for minors and adults, which will enable us to provide more professionally custom-tailored service on self- independence.
Still in Korean society, there is no easier way whether unwed single mothers choose child rearing or adoption. Both ways are difficult. Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist and psychologist, said that the power to endure adversity is an attitude. Even though we encounter a desperate faith that is unchangeable despairing, we can still find meanings and values that are worth of living for and live by them. It is a valuable lesson learned who had survived with miracles from the Jewish concentration camp under Nazi's rule. Our mothers also went through difficult childhood, lost their dreams and became a mother with no preparation. However with the support of Aeran network they found their once lost dreams and are now living a new life by finding and fulfilling the meaning and value of life.
The most important thing is that you have come along with us. We were only able to do what we do now all due to you. We feel fulfillment and happiness because you have come with us. I would like to thank you again for your love and support even now when the economy is not doing well. I pray God’s blessing to be with you and your family. Thank you.
Sang Soon Han
Director, Aeranwon & Aeran PC Support Network
Happy New Year! I wish God's grace and peace be with you and your family both at home and work in the new year.
This month we would like to briefly report Aeranwon’s work done in the year 2014. The total number of single mothers who were admitted in Aeranwon was 69 in 2014 (excluding those who were admitted in 2013 and giving a birth in 2014), 54 of them had a birth and 15 are waiting for the birth. 34 out of the total 55 babies (62%) including a pair of twins are reared by mothers and 15 out of 55 (27%) were sent for adoption.
33% of the mothers were less than 19 years, 42% were between 20-25 years old, and the rest were 26 years or older.
Compared to the statistics in 2013, the number of teenaged mothers decreased and the number of adoptions increased in 2014. The reason is that 19% of the mothers (in the number of 13) were with special personal issues such as: having mental disorders, homelessness, or intellectual disability, who needed to give birth in an unstable condition. Despite all those difficulties, they gave births to babies safe and healthy. However, finding a successive facility for each one was so difficult that we had to extend the length of care for them. Most of these babies were adopted, or referred to other government facilities when adoption was not possible. This resulted in less space available for other teen-aged single mothers. These women in the social blind spot continue to rise in numbers, so we newly established ‘Aeranwon Mapo' in Gongdeok-dong in February 2015 and there are currently 12 pregnant women.
Aeranwon has been running a Narae alternative school for single teen-aged mothers under the commission of the Department of Education of Seoul. Our missions are academic achievement and preparatory education for independent living. The number of students is 2 in the course of middle school and 11 in the course of high school. Among them, one student graduated from the course of middle school had enrolled in regular high school, and five successfully graduated from the course of high school. Everyone earned a diploma from the school she had attended before. Although a diploma is not issued by the name of Narae alternative school, we accepted the graduates’ request and held a graduation ceremony for them. We awarded at least one prize for each student for achievement. It seemed they could not believe receiving a school diploma and all of them seemed so happy to receive the awards and prizes in hands. All five people now began vocational training to be either nurses or baristas,etc.
With the communal home for single mothers that is scheduled to open in April 2015 and the renovation of the main building of Aeranwon, the independence-preparation program will become more active by providing a one-stop service for teen-aged single mothers. One fact that has never been changed so far in our statistics is that over 70% of the young mothers are asking their parents to understand and forgive them. They think that being unwed single mothers has hurt their families and given disappointment. And they feel sorry.
On January 27th, the babies’ first birthday party was held. A father of a single mother had come far away from Yeosu and gave a greeting of thanks to all the guests. He said in tears that he was embarrassed, but he wanted to say thank you for all the help. Most parents reluctantly acknowledge the reality that their daughters got pregnant before marriage. There is nothing they could do about the fact because it has already happened. However they feel it very difficult to accept that their daughters become unwed single mothers and raise their own children. In the past it took usually about three years for the parents to accept the baby as a new member of family, now it takes about two years. Most parents feel that their daughter's happiness is over when she becomes an unwed single mother raising a child and that their daughters will only have a miserable future. In fact, they could witness their daughter change and become a completely different person while raising a child and having a reason and purpose to live a life as mother. They also watch many others help their daughter with raising her child at the party and their perspective and attitude eventually change.
There were so many other things that I wanted to share that happened in our Aeran Parent Child Support network, but I will share more in details in our newsletter book in March.
And I would like to ask you one thing. For new supporters (including the contribution to the renovation fund), please please leave your address and telephone number. You could do that by phone (#02-393-4725/6), or by text (#010-8893-1356), or by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or even by kakaotalk (email@example.com).
We need that information to issue you receipts, which could be filed for your tax returns at the year end and also to establish and update our renovation plan according to the contribution funding amount. So, please contact us by all means. The current funding amount for the construction is 101,230,000 won (USD 92,027 ) and I would like to thank you all again for your support and contribution to Aeran Network. Thank you.
Aeranwon & Aeran Parent Child Support Network
It is 2015! Happy New Year! We wish God’s blessing be with you and your family, who support us with contributions, volunteering and with prayers.
In 2015 there will be some big changes in Aeran Network. In February there is going to be an opening of the Mapo branch of Aeranwon, and in April the Mangwondong adolescent single mother's group home. In September we will have to vacate the current building as the reconstruction of Aeranwon will begin. Our admin director Joo-Ok Choi will be away for three months on her maternity in February, and I am scheduled to retire in June. Young-Sil Kang, the Secretary-General, will be my successor and will work as director. I still wonder if I had made a right decision on extending for another year instead of retiring last year. I believe that it was not my own decision to make, but that I only accepted the consequences given from the environments as God’s will. But I still feel responsible for causing all these complicated circumstances.
Therefore, we deeply need your prayers. We ask for your prayers so that all these courses may work in harmony by help of God, for those who will take new responsibilities as the people in charge to successfully carry out their duties, and at the same time for continuous support for the mothers and their children within the network.
Last year, with the request from the government, the reconstruction plan of Aeranwon was put in one year in advance and the committee of the foundation of Korean Presbyterian churches demand was put on me to stay for one more year. We faced many issues due to my limited capability on problem-solving about the reconstruction and fund raising. I was so frustrated when the committee informed that the government support is just too short by 6 million Won per 3.3㎡ and we have to fund raise additional 700 million to 1 billion Won. I had doubts if I even had trust in God.
But God has encouraged and answered me in his ways. On November 12 last year, I attended the worship service of 횃불회(Torchlight gathering), which is prayers gathering, consisting of alumnae of Ewha Womans University and has been a great supporter of Aeranwon. A pastor sat down next to me, who graduated from Ewha law school and now works for a missionary organization. The chairwoman up on the stage was advertising the reconstruction issues for Aeranwon and was asking for prayers and support from those who attended the meeting. The pastor told me her experience of the construction of missionary hall she had. She said, now she knows that all the work was done by God whereas only things that she had done was nothing but to worry and to concern. So she told me not to try to do everything by myself but to pray for God to work.
Also on December 19 last year, one supporter visited to make contributions towards our reconstruction funds. While talking with him I shared my feelings of discouragement and frustration, he said in return "Don't worry but pray", and this came to me as a word of God.
Then I realized that God knows that I didn't have trust in him so he gave his words through all these people around me, our supporters and even single mothers.
One woman who stayed at Aeranwon in 1994 came to me and donated construction funds. The contribution of $300 from the mother was everything that she had. She offered everything just like the poor widow duoradon in bible. When she was staying in Aeranwon, she rather wished to die with her baby who was going to be adopted, and we were all so worried that she might throw herself into a running car one day after giving her baby up for adoption. She went through many difficulties and became a missionary to Africa. Now she returned to Korea temporarily to be trained to be sent again where she is needed. Getting the money from what she offered really moved me, a shiver went through me.
And my eyes were once again fixed upon God. Though I don't know how, I now accept it that God would achieve it in his own ways. I am in peace again. Currently the fund for the reconstruction has been raised is about $84,259, including promised contributions.
On December 6 last year, we were able to have a big year-end party at the Korean church's 100 year memorial hall with the full support from J.A. Korea. We were a group of 132: 107 mothers and children, 10 volunteers and staff members. J. A. Korea supported not only the whole expense for the party, but also doubled the joy of the mothers by taking pictures of the mothers and children and giving family pictures in frames.
There was a face painting event for children by one mother who is getting a vocational training in Aeran Seumter who came. The children had so much fun. We truly thank J. A. Korea and the mother for all their support.
On December 23 last year, the eighth US army gave the presents to the mothers. It was very special because each mother received a gift according to her wish that was in advance delivered. They made Christmas cakes together on that day. The mothers prepared flowers and cakes as gifts to the supporters and they were also happy with the surprise gifts.
On Christmas Eve, 17 members of the J.O.Y. Director Orchestra team came and gave us a splendid Christmas concert with their ensemble. The mothers really loved the music and the concert. Mr. Myong Jin An, the conductor, took time to explain each instrument and also the music they are playing, which was very special experience and made the mothers very happy. They also brought a delicious holiday dinner with chicken and pizza, which made the mothers even happier. We would like to thank you again to Mr. Ahn and all of the team members to take their precious time for the mothers on the Christmas eve. Without your help, the mothers would have been units of the orchestra to take their time and make our Christmas ever so happy which could have been a very lonely one.
There was a first-birthday party, the last one of the year 2014, which was hosted by Ms Young-Mi Kang, the team director, and her volunteers’ team from the God's Will Kwangsung Church. Ms. Myung-Ok Kang, who is in charge of preparing food, set the huge party food for the babies and the guests with utmost sincerity. A mother of one single mother who was invited said that "When I first heard that my daughter became an unwed mother, I thought that my daughter's life was over.” But she also said that she was very touched from the fact that even when her own family didn’t care, by the help of others her daughter brought up a child so well, has had good education, and now is having this marvelous party. She took my hand and thanked me over a dozen times sobbing and promised that she would also take care of her daughter and her grandchild. It was very rewarding. Ms. Myung-Ok Kang, who was in charge of the party foods, gave birthday presents to the children and the mothers who raise their children in Aeranwon and Mom & Baby’s home. She did the fund raising during the thanksgiving and Christmas holidays for the presents, doubling the mothers happiness.
There are so many more of you who have supported us. We in Aeranwon and Aeran network owe you so much in love. All these unseen love, prayers and supports gave us great power to finish last year well and to have a great start of this year 2015. I hope that it would become a true new day and a new year for all of us when all the work within our network becomes stable enough for our mothers and children, so the mothers become independent and the children can grow up in stable environment.
Martin Luther King said "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." I have worked for unwed single mothers over 30 years and I can understand what he meant. I have felt what silence is. I have experienced myself that silence is agreement. But those of you who have worked together with us as "acting moral" rather than a silent agree-er enabled us to go through hard works in 2014. This is a big encouragement for us and I know that this will continue in 2015. We truly thank you.
I would like to end this letter praying and wishing for those supporters who have worked with us until now, the blessing of God be with you in this year of 2015.
Aeranwon & Aeran Network
The time has slipped by and it’s already the end of the year, now I am writing my last letter of 2014. As the weather is getting colder each day, I wish you all health and happiness. I had a serious cold from last weekend and am having a hard time.
From last month’s letter thankfully many of you gave a call of encouragement. Every time at the bazaar there is a donor who, despite her age of 76, always patch a quilt by her. This donor has a troubling leg however came personally and gave a word of encouragement, telling us that we are doing a hard job, and contributed to the donation for the construction. Those hearts of yours which pray and love us gives us a lot of strength and encouragement. We deeply and truly thank you who stay in partners with us.
Thank you very much.
On November 5th , eight of unwed single mothers and seven of babies, totally fifteen got baptized. We were really thankful for the baptism of one mother who was admitted by the “emergency pregnant support program”. Her story was very unique, so all of her expenses, such as her medical bill, should have been all paid by the donation. Nonetheless she got to believe and got baptized. She thanked with tears for even though the birth of the baby was impending she had no place to go so she even thought of letting go of life, however now that Aeranwon has took her in she even got baptized. I myself am certain that emergency pregnancy support program is a program which saves both mother and a child’s life and felt it rewarding.
On November 8th there was a parent education for single mother and child family. In total 137 people participated, 85 mothers and children, 35 child care volunteers, 5 parent education instructors and 12 staff. Usually we organize those products you send us and present it for free in our thrifty market, however this month because of our bazar next Saturday we skipped it.
After the education we had a time of 1 year education assessment period with the instructors, who have made an effort, and social workers. Before our assessment we asked for mother’s opinion about the education programs and by sharing it with the instructors discussed a better parenting education programs for 2015.
November 11th we had our first meeting with the construction committee. It was formed by eight members: three members of the construction committee, two members of the Aeranwon network committee, the foundation’s secretary-general, Kang Yeong Sil general manager and me. From this day’s meeting Ewha Woman’s University’s architecture professor(who does not want her name to be public) has promised to design a plan without payment as a talent donation. After the approval from this matter there was a discussion about the required expenses concerning construction expenses etc. Following, we’re looking for a person to support us the execution drawing. We ask for your prayers.
November 15th at our bazaar we have earned sales proceeds of $4,594, bazaar contribution of $546 which add up to the total of $5,140 of profit, with an additional 1,200,000 won of contributions for the construction. The proceeds are going to be used on Me.You.Us Parent Child center’s local single mother family’s medical expenses and vocational training expenses. We truly want to thank those who have sponsored, purchased and helped our progress.
From December 3rd to next week Tuesday morning for a week there is going to be a fund-raising exhibition about Aeranwon Network at Insadong, Yoon Gallery by Korean watercolorist association. We truly thank those members who made an effort in turning in works.
December 6th there is a plan to open a year-end party inviting all the single mother families from the whole network in and out of the facilities. I’m very thankful and happy that 2014 year-end party is going to be without the concern of the cost, because JA Korea is planning to support. Approximately 130 unwed single mothers and children are going to join and have a great time. It would be a time of praise and encouragement for our mothers who have lived through hard times in 2014, and also make new resolutions for new year. From this party we can see how mothers and children are interacting, and in need of help. We could plan to add more professional counselors and other supports, so we believe that this would be a very productive time for both of us.
December 15th~16th Aeran Network is going to participate in Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary’s social welfare exhibition as a part of women’s welfare field. December is a very busy season for we have to submit our final report to our sponsoring groups and also to plan our next year’s business programs we should assess and write a report about this year’s programs, however since we were the only women’s welfare facility we decided to participate.
This year’s last first year birthday party is going to be in Gwangsug Presbyterian Church’s cafeteria. God knows the church’s first-birthday party preparing team’s effort in preparing the first-birthday party with their best, even more than preparing for their own child, preparing a first-birthday party table and delicious buffet. Thank you so much for your efforts this year.
December 22nd the 8th US Army has planned to deliver Christmas party and presents for both mother and a child. Everyone is going to have a fun time.
Ed Diener the professor of psychologist in Illinois State University America, suggests two ways for people to become happy. One is expanding my possession and the other is reducing one’s needs and lessen one’s possession.
Dear sponsors who have chosen to live by the later way I pray for the blessing of God. And I also pray that you hear God’s voice with your heart which says “The doing to the small one’s are the doing to me”, and live this tough world with peace, and that your next year be a fortunate.
I pray that in 2015 God’s mercy and grace be with you for those supporters, volunteers, our staff with endless effort and devotion even in this poor situations, and for those mothers and children who live their life intensely within and out of Aeran Network.
One last thing, until now(December 4th) the amount of donation for the new building for Aeranwon that was collected was $27,209. It would be very thankful if you could join our project of making a new building for those teenage single mothers who no longer have any dreams in their life to find a message of hope. (Aeranwon construction fund, Shinhan bank 100-030-286486)
Thank you and I wish you a happy day. Happy New Year..
Aeranwon. Aeran PC Center.
Dear all who love Aeran Network,
How are you? It’s been 25 years since I started working at Aeranwon in April 1990, and it was due to your continuous love and support that we are now able to establish an Aeran Network today.
The mothers in Aeran Network were able to get self confidence that they could be independent and 70% of them raised their children. The mothers who were in Aeranwon often come back as volunteers and supporters and become a powerful strength. All these were only possible due to your love and support, and I would like to thank you here again.
Now we are facing a big challenge. According to the revision of the single parent and family law in 2012, 17 maternity home facilities run by adoption agencies are going to be shut down or changed in July 2015. The Seoul city government and Ministry of Women and Family suggested that they could provide the funding to rebuild to increase the number of people to be accommodated. As the current building was established in 1983 and requires high maintenance costs, the operation committee was held and decided to accept the proposal.
The problem is that the unit cost used by the government funding has not been adjusted for inflation rates for the last 15 years and is extremely low. The unit cost to build facilities for children or the disabled is 4,190,000 Korean Won per 1 Pyong (3.3 square meters), but the unit cost for unwed single mothers is only 3,300,000 Korean Won per 1 Pyong. The new building will be 450 Pyong, which means we need additional 400,000,000 won.
With this big reconstruction project, we are facing several difficulties that we will have to overcome. The biggest challenge is that the funds provided from the Ministry of Women and Family because the cost projections are only based on market prices from 15 years ago. Our lack of experience and knowledge about building construction makes the situation more difficult and us feel even more overwhelmed.
We need your help! Please help us with this building reconstruction project. We need your support and contribution for more than any time. Our staff also contributed as much as we could. Some contributed 4 million Korean Won, which is the estimated cost for 1 Pyong (3.3 square meters), or 1 million Korean won, or some are contributing 10 thousand Korean won for 18 months. We thought that we should commit ourselves first before we ask for your support and contribution. Now we would like to ask our supporters to join us. We believe that small rain drops gathered become small streams, which turn into rivers running into the ocean. Each and every support that you offer will help our work completed.
Each month brings its own issues and troubles, and last month was no different. The issues seem to become more difficult and more diverse. I can’t go into every detail of the events, but I’ll share with you a few stories, some of which made my heart sink.
We had two mothers who left their babies behind. In the middle of the night we were called upon by a ward office to help out a mother who had given birth only two days ago. She had no place to go and was just sitting in the hospital lobby. After she came to us, she disappeared, leaving her baby behind. Another mother also left her baby behind. We were so worried because it had been only 3 days since she had a C-section. For two days, the social worker on her case and her supervisor searched all over the places where she could possibly have gone to. We found the mother. She had passed out with high fever. In the meantime, our staff had to stay overnight to take care of the baby all night in AeRanWon while the mother disappeared.
We had two mothers with psychological illnesses who had come to us through an Emergency Pregnancy Support Program. They had to go back and forth several times to get proper medical treatments, which was not available here. Both the obstetric and psychiatric clinics of Borame Hospital successfully assisted the mothers to give birth to their babies. The mothers have established trust relationship with us, to become stable, and they are doing well now. The babies have been transferred to the proper day care center.
Another young mother was having issues controlling her anger. She was attending a local high school after finishing her studies at NaRae alternative middle school. We visited the high school to meet with the principal and her teacher several times, but she eventually had to drop out. So she is unable to continue her studies. However, she was able to reunite with her mother. She had no memories of her childhood before age of 8, but through her mother, she is now able to restore lost memories of her childhood.
A North Korean refugee, who had escaped while pregnant, had serious health problems and gave a birth to a baby risking her own life. The baby died after a week. The mom had lost consciousness and it was hard to organize a funeral for the baby with the government organization and other non-profit organizations. A week passed amidst confusion. Fortunately, the mother recovered and we were able to have a funeral last Saturday. We are grateful to Rev. Park of BongWon Church who set aside all of his other commitments to conduct the funeral, providing much comfort to the mother. We wonder how difficult it must’ve been for the baby in this short life to leave this world so early. Our prayers go with the baby to heaven.
A third-year student at NaRae middle school celebrated her son’s first birthday with the support of Higher Way Gwang Sung Church. We were happy that her father, who lives far outside of Seoul, was able to join the party. Although he couldn’t stop crying at the sight of his young daughter and his grandson, he was finally able to enjoy the party with his grandson.
As you know, we have been trying to find a place for our student mothers before they begin at the Narae alternative school in December. Fortunately, we found a multi-unit apartment run by the government owned company in Mangwondong, Mapogu and applied for 10 units. However, there were another non-profit organization applied for the same units and after mediation process by the Seoul city government, we were able to get 7. But we are still concerned to find out the other units will be provided as a rest home for women in prostitution. Our student mothers are still young and easily influenced. Please pray for our young mothers. We pray that the other organization will find better apartment units for the entire people of their own.
In the midst of everything that’s been going on, AeRanWon is undergoing a scheduled audit by the Seoul city government for the last 5 years. This means providing the requisite 5 years’ worth of reports required for the audit, and it was a lot of additional work. Our deficiency was that we are not supposed to use the contribution funds to buy light refreshments for meetings and to buy meals during the overtime after the regular work hours. Unless the funds are designated solely for the purpose, we can not use for refreshments or meals.
Your continued support and prays are needed more than ever in this critical time. I am grateful for your continuous participation and pray that you stay healthy in this cold season. Thank you.
Sincerely, Sang Soon Han
AeRanWon & AeRan Family Network
It’s the end of summer. I hope that you could take some time off to take a good rest. As I said last month, I am still working and doing my job in Aeranwon. I believe everything is God’s providence and that God guides us at just the right moment.
For this one more year, I have following missions.
-to establish a group home for the alternative school student mothers who raise babies.
-to establish one additional Maternity Home for pregnant adult women, including homeless, or e motional disturbance.
-to prepare for re-construction of Aeranwon building for enlarging the capacity of Aeranwon. in 2015
-to move Seumter from Mapo- Ku to Kang seo- Ku.
-to establish the spirit of cooperative relationships in network among the facilities
Those tasks are led by the Ministry of Woman and Family and the Seoul city government. There are currently 33 Matenity homes nationwide and 17 of them are run by adoption agencies, which will have to be closed or reorganized by July 2015 according to the Constitutional Court Order and the revision of the Single parent family welfare law.
According to the government regulation, the facilities that are older than 20 years have to be renovated. The building of Aeranwon was built in 1983 and it has required a lot of repairs due to wears and tears. As the numbers of the single mothers who want to raise their children have increased, we need more space as well.
I would like to ask you to pray with us for below issues.
1. According to the matching fund policy of the Ministry of Woman and Family and the Seoul city government, 20% of the total renovation cost should be paid by the facility. so we will need to make fund raising for it.
2. During the renovation period, we will need a space to replace Aeranwon. The student mothers in Narae Alternative School must be able to study with no interruptions according to the academic schedule. There are currently 40 mothers and babies, and it could be decreased to 15. We will still need places for them to study and stay. We ask you to pray God with us.
3. We would like to build the following facilities: Narae Alternative School, Me.You.Us. Parent-child Center, Day care center, and Chapel room in the ARW building. We would like to support single mothers and their children to be emotionally and financially independent in the One Stop Service system to become invaluable human resources of our future society.
4. We are looking for donations in materials, funds, and talents to build those facilities. Please pray with us for the supports we need.
If we have those facilities added in Aeran Network, we can provide more spaces, services and programs for unwed mothers and children.
On July 12, 82 single mothers and children including 6 staff members had one night trip to Vivaldi Park in Hongchun, Kangwondo. It was solely due to the full supports from HI-UL, a volunteering group of HI Investment and Securities. The mothers and the children had a great time. They were saying one night trip is too short and wished they had more time. HI-UL even provided professional day care services for the mothers. There were some mothers who had not requested the day care services but changed their minds, so our staff members of Aeranwon who accompanied took care of the children. I would like to thank again HI-UL, HI Investment and Securities, and our staff members for your supports.
Many unwed single mothers residing in local communities participated in this summer camp. The children have grown up now and some are now going to schools. I had a chance to watch them play. Most mothers have to work during the day and the children are usually left home alone after school. Only few mothers can afford to send the children to extra curriculum activities after school. The children who spend their time alone in play grounds or stay home are suffering from emotional and/or behavioral disorder.
Watching the children and realizing what’s been missing, it really hurt me, and I couldn’t sleep that night. Supporting unwed single mothers should have meant not only helping them be independent and raising their children, but also helping the children grow up healthy. After I returned to Aeranwon, I started researching on available resources to help the children who are unattended and left alone, but I couldn’t find anything appropriate. Aeranwon will now work on establishing social support system for these children.
I am sorry to end this newsletter with depressing stories. Please stay healthy in this hot summer, and I’ll see you again next month.
Thank you as always.
Aeranwon, Aeran Network
Today I would like to apologize first for not being able to keep my words with you. To some of you especially who recently had met with me, I shared that I submitted my resignation letter to the Social Welfare Foundation of Presbyterian Church of Korea and spoke with the foundation regarding the period of my employment (as I would serve Ae Ran Won until the end of 2014 June). Accordingly, I wrote my last letter to you with my utmost sincerity. Also the Steering Committee of Ae Ran Network recommended Ms. Kang Young Sil (current secretary-general) to the foundation as an incoming Director.
However, apart from this abovementioned processes, responsible managers including Ms. Kang submitted petition to Head of Operation, Chief Director of the foundation and asked to delay my retirement for another one year. As a result, the foundation accepted the petition so my retirement date with Ae Ran Won will be June 2015. I am truly sorry for the confusion. Any blame should be placed on me as I preceded relevant procedures without building consensus within our agency.
I wanted to resign this year not only because I am physically tired of managing the organization.
Current social welfare environment on issues of unwed single mother and child welfare foretells many changes. There are many unfavorable factors before us; those factors includes prevalent corruption in our society, inappropriate decision making in the process of establishing policies, and various problems occur as a consequence of those decisions, meager reality of some of those showy welfare services and waste of welfare budget. In addition, quite different from the past, many people gathered round this issue of single mothers; so as a consequence, there are adverse effects from many interest groups and waste of commodities. My question has been “how could I maintain Christ-centered principles and methodologies in this circumstance and work efficiently, which will have to be beyond values in Korean society?” and I saw my limitation while I was trying to decide my mind. And I realized that God has been always in charge of placing “a right person at right timing” and lets the person to help achieving the plan of His; so this year is good time to entrust everything to Him.
After carefully thinking for a long time, I reached a decision to accept and obey to the order from the foundation and our managers. I feel thankful to know that I have something to offer and contribute to Ae Ran Won and Ae Ran Network, however, on the other hand, honestly I have developed fear about whether I could manage this work effectively for another year as I see it is time for me to rest. For this, I have been praying and thought of the word of God “ My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)”. I realize when I am most weak; the power of God rests upon me greatly. I think of this will be year of amazing grace of God, we could witness how God is going to achieve His purpose and plans in this work.
Again, I apologize for the confusion you may have. I will send the last letter to you next June. I thank you for your support and would like to ask you for continuous prayer support and donation for this meaningful work.
Thank you very much and yours faithfully,
Director of Ae Ran Won and Ae Ran Network
The flowers of May are so beautiful.
However, people feel guilty of even enjoying the beauty of them in full bloom because of the Sewol ferry disaster. In the poem of Kim, Yeong-nang, Until peonies bloom, he expressed “a spring of glorious sorrow” since it is not only in sorrow at the loss of their petals, but in waiting for peonies to bloom again. Nevertheless, I’m so much in pain because I was reminded of the verse of Matthew (2:18), “Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” when hearing the cries of many parents who lost their beloved children. I just came to ask God to give his compassion as well as to take time for deep repentance and self-reflection.
Though many events and festivals supported by public and private organizations were canceled, we held the spring bazaar on May 26, as scheduled. The total income is 5,229,000won (about $5,101): 4,229,000 won from the sale and 1,000,000won($ 1million) from donation of the day. Along with the proceeds of fall bazaar, this will be used for personnel expenses of social workers in charge of self-support of the local unmarried single mother and child at Me-You-Us parent child center. On the day of the bazaar, a few of the institutions including J.Style donated goods and support payments, and Saultlux, Samsung Securities and a few companies volunteered, so that we could have carried it off without a hitch. Thank you for giving away goods, visiting and purchasing.
We discussed at the bazaar evaluation meeting how to increase the income which remains flat at this level each year. The main reason is because of the sales at a lower-than-expected price, and especially was pointed out because local single mothers who were discharged from here get 50% off more on this price. They come earlier than 11a.m. which is the opening hour and look around goods, and as soon as the market opens, they take the advantage of the items.
Offering goods at a lower price to the mothers, considered their insufficient economic circumstances, is not much helping increase the profit. Rather, it is said this demotivates general customers who drop by in the afternoon to purchase as good items are already sold out, and there is no need to give the mothers the privilege even at this event since they are provided with things they need for free at a thrifty market on a monthly basis.
On the other hand, however, it's good to watch the children of the mothers grow more and more when they come to this bazaar with their moms. What can we possibly do? We would appreciate it if you have any idea on how to increase the profitability of our bazaar and let us know.
On April 16, executives and staff members from Doosan Corp. came here to remodel a part of the cafeteria on the 1st floor. Mothers here liked the remodeling that the dark wall with old ornaments was removed and replaced with bright wall paper, and a painting donated by the actress, Kang, Hye-won, is now hung on it. They also felt this is like 'Love-House'. Please visit any time and I will be more than happy to guide you around. I'd like to send my deepest gratitude to all of you. I will keep you informed next month.
Thanks a lot! Han, Sang-Soon
Director Aeranwon, Aeran Parent Child Support Network
It was the season when cherry blossoms reached their peak. Japan is also known for their cherry blossom in Spring. A while ago, there was a TV program that reported some studies on the origin of the cherry trees. The studies show that those cherry trees have originated in Mount Halla on Jeju Island. The ground is as follows: that the DNAs of the cherry trees from both areas are identical, whereas many efforts are still ‘under way’ to search for the habitat of the cherry trees in Japan, there are over 200 wild cherry trees growing on the Jeju Island. When there are even disputes between nations over the root of the cherry trees, then how serious should it be about the origin of human beings?
I’ve heard that Aeranwon is one of the places the adoptees overseas would like to visit in Korea. This could be due to the awareness of the two books we published: I Wish for You a Beautiful Life and Dreaming a World, but also because there are unwed single mothers staying here, who are just like their own birth mothers. They want to know about the single mothers here. As they know more about the mothers here, they would be able to understand their own birth mothers and come closer to their roots.
We’ve been asked for visits, interviews and going round the building, and all of these activities are their efforts to figure out their identities. They have many thoughts and questions such as “Who am I?”, “What are my birth parents like and why they had to give up on me and ended up sending me abroad?”, and “Do they still remember me and/or my birthday?” Because their whole future hangs on this, I would answer the questions in person every visit.
Last month, an adoptee from Australia emailed me with her birthday and her birthmother’s name, saying that her birthmother stayed at Aeranwon in 1994, and asked me heartily if the mother had left any documents. Looking up the data at that time, there was a letter from the mother in the pile of documents. I got the letter translated and sent it with the scanned copy of the original attached.
How amazed and impressed she was! She mentioned that she would learn Korean and read it on her own. In 1994, the facilities for unwed mothers were allowed to run according to the Prostitution Prevention Act. Thus, they were classified as a public vocational training center. The mothers who entered, regardless of their aptitudes, had to take vocational training from the instructors. There was no social worker or counsellor in the facilities.
However, Aeranwon recognized the importance of case management and counseling, and with your support, we were able to have recruited social workers and mainly focused on counseling, which has led this adoptee to have her birthmother’s letter today. This was a turning point for her life. The overseas adoptee who had been seeking the meaning of life was able to know the fact that she was never abandoned from her birthmother, and to find out that her mother only loved her so very much.
This is the result of the support you gave us 20 years ago. Thank you so much for your support.
“God didn’t have time to make a nobody, only a somebody!” Everyone counts. I was reminded that Mary Kay Ash, the author of Miracle Happens, said, “I believe that each of us has God-given talents within us waiting to be brought to fruition.” Whoever we are born from, every one of us is precious. We are all such delicate creatures who will return to the earth as we were when our breathing stops at the tip of our noses. Thus, I truly hope that we could more embrace, cherish and love one another as long as we all can so that we can work together to create the world a happier place. This is not only the will of God who did spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, which is our calling in the morning of Resurrection we celebrate.
A charity bazaar is on April 26. Donations of items would be greatly received, and your words of encouragement to the staff and volunteers will be appreciated. Purchasing on this day is sponsoring.
Sang Soon Han
Director, Aeranwon, Aeran Parent Child Support Network
It is February, winter deepens. The sorrow of farmers culling their precious ducklings and chicks due to the spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) also deepens, and concerns of people watching this incident rise. When I learned how the poultry industry practices in factory farm condition - under which the animals were raised – the only space for a grown-up chicken and or a duck is 15 x 15 cm square, this reminded me of a scene that I witnessed.
Many years ago, I joined a troupe of singers that aimed to provide opportunities for residents in remote areas enjoying cultural activities every month. At a lepers’ village, there were large pigs gasping in small square-boxes inside a pigsty. These pigs could not move much, just lying on floor covered in filth. Thinking I shouldn’t have to eat meat, I could not eat pork for a while after seeing this.
On January 15, 2014, there was a graduation ceremony of Narae Alternative School. Although our students receive their school diploma from their school of origin, since last year Narae School has held commencement as students expressed their wishes to have a proper ceremony. This year, two middle school students and six high school students received their diplomas. All the middle school graduates entered high school. Two of the high school graduates transited to college; one of them is taking vocational training while the rest of the high school graduates are preparing to start vocational trainings.
During the ceremony, we try to discover the strengths of our students and present various awards to as many students as possible. All of the graduates looked like they felt a sense of satisfaction and pride; felt great about having completed their study and receiving a high school diploma. I was proud of these young women having successfully completed their study while struggling with tough challenges presented by unprepared pregnancy and child birth.
Inspiring news is that there is a continuum of a supporting system for helping crisis-pregnancy projects; there are a few hospitals expected to support costs related to childbirth to the women who are in crisis. I am so grateful for generous support of our supporters and sponsors working in unison, pursuing a goal-to assure these young womens’ rights seeking happiness.
Moreover, through working in this crisis pregnancy projects, we would like to suggest other rights of women and children as alternatives in our society along with the aforementioned women’s rights to seek happiness in their lives; these are ‘rights to be pregnant’, ‘rights to give a birth to a child of their own’, ‘rights to raise their child’, ‘rights of fetus to protect its life’, ‘rights to be raise under children’s biological parents’, and ‘rights of child to receive adequate support in order to grow healthy. We saw the significance of guarding these rights and would like to help create an open and friendly society protecting these rights.
Last year, at our crisis pregnancy support center, we helped fifty three pregnant women who suffered in critical places in their lives. We provided support to a full-pregnant woman lying on her sides at a Homeless Center in Seoul Station, teen-age girl experienced extreme emotional anxiety, could not get out of dangerous situation without gradual transfer to a welfare service system and a woman who holds foreign nationality and did not have a place to stay. (She also seriously suffered from complications and lost her vision when she asked for help). We sensed that these women had very challenging lives while helping these women and children. However, we were sad to realize that our society can give only tenuous thing to these women and girls who survived from such difficulties. Under the circumstances, we felt that we need to go along a long journey with these women and girls and get on this project with piety somewhat dissimilar. I would really appreciate if you walk with us and remember us in your prayers.
From this year, Aeran Network appointed eight experts as new members of steering committee and they will be serving Aeran Network for three years. According to Social Welfare Act, representative of sponsors, representative of a public corporation, social welfare specialist, woman policy/adolescent education policy specialist, representative of local community, and representative of mothers. We expect various and technical advice from these newly-appointed members of our steering committee as all of them are experts in each field. I am grateful to each member of the steering committee for their partnership with Aeranwon.
Last but not least, since 2013, I held additional post of Director at Aeran Seumtur, and Aeran Mother and Child Home, but there was a suggestion from Seoul Metro City Government to appoint directors of each facility separately. Thus, we recently appointed to Ms. Kwon Ji Hyun (former Chief) as Director of Aeran Mother and Child Home and Ms. Pyo Seung Hee (former Department Head) as Director of Aeran Seumtur. Each facility operates independently though this network system will maintain in order to support the existing Miss Mom’s Self-reliance initiatives.
Thank you for reading this message and we would like to inform you about our activities helping young mothers and children via a letter next month.
Thank you and best regards,
Aeranwon, Aeran Parent Child Support Network
A new year has just begun. May God be with you and your family in this year 2014. I pray for you, who share love with single unwed mothers, so they can overcome prejudice in the society and overcome the crisis of their lives, and live a sound life. I pray God to share the same love with you.
In July, 2013, the "Emergency Pregnancy Support Center" was established in our "Me.You.Us. Family Center" due to the support of the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Korea Exchange Bank. It provides service and care for pregnancy, childbirth, and baby-related issues to alienated women, who are homeless, physically or mentally challenged, or foreigners, and otherwise would have chosen abortion or abandonment. We’ve had difficulties with pregnant single unwed mothers with those challenges. They have been fallen into the dead zone of welfare. For the first five months, we’ve had many cases that had received no help. A homeless mother with three babies came to us. A homeless woman could usually go to a shelter, but she was denied because of her pregnancy. We had her stay in Aeranwon and helped with contributions. We had her bathe, change her clothes and get a hair cut, but the other mothers didn’t want to stay with her because of her bad smell. One mother who had been denied several times came to Aeranwon and wished that she was a single mother, so she could get some proper help. Me.You.Us Family Center provided training and support to those who can support themselves with some help. Those who can’t support themselves due to challenges we helped to be on welfare so they can get proper support from the government.
On December 19, 2013, Me.You.Us Family Center called for a meeting to discuss the establishment of a social support system for Crisis Pregnancy. Aeran Network alone cannot make it happen because of the lack of budget and manpower. It takes more than just one agency to establish the cooperation system. For the first five months, we were able to help 53 mothers. As many organizations have had experiences with pregnant women and they didn’t know what to do or whom to refer to, they were happy to have us. More than 15 organizations including the Ministry of Health and Welfare and Planned Population Federation of Korea got together to have a fruitful discussion. Ms Choi, an obstetrician, promised to help and volunteered her clinic to be the primary support, and another hospital also volunteered to help with pre- and post- natal care.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, no budget is available for two or three months before the year 2014 budget is finalized for the specialized projects. It is also not guaranteed that we will be selected as the specialized project this year again. At a minimum, we need contributions to continue to operate for those two or three months without the funding. We have to fund the expenses for those two or three months. The operating expenses and the personnel expenses are about 10 million Korean won. We need your support and contributions to continue the Crisis Pregnancy Support Center. Please let us know if you would like to know more about the center.
On December 7, 2013, we threw a year-end party for over 100 unwed single mothers and their children living in local communities. As the number of the participants grows each year, we had to get a large restaurant in the Korean Church Centennial Memorial Building. I would like to thank Ms Yun, Isoon for the beautiful decoration of the restaurant and Mr. Jung for being a great host of the event. I also would like to thank you all who sent us gifts to share.
On December 11, 2013, a baptismal ceremony was held for four mothers and three babies. It was a beautiful day. Thank you all for praying for the mothers and the babies.
I’d like to make an announcement. We’ve been supporting the mothers to get high school diploma at a minimum to be self-independent. We are now supporting the mothers to continue to study in college for better career opportunities and to improve quality of life. Two of the seniors in Narae alternative school got admissions this year. We have limited funds and we would like to have your support for the two mothers to continue to study.
Thank you as always for your continuous love and support. We promise to do our best to help the self-independence of the mothers, which will bring us more stable future society. We will work with honesty and sincerity. We’ll provide more information on the projects and plans in details in our newsletter in March.
Aeran Parent Child Support Network
Over time, I'm writing the last letter of 2013 to you.
I started to look back on the past on the threshold of entering December while I've buried myself in the burden of daily work. Last month, such a beautiful fall foliage season wound down, and the pleasure of the first snowfall which was splendidly fluttering down suddenly disappeared. The joy of success and the frustration of failures of the past already faded away with time beyond memories. Likewise, the fact that the world is finite makes us long for eternity more. Though Moses says "Our life is toil and trouble", even the tough life in the wilderness is considered precious if we could ever take eternity.
The year 2013 when we've been through together with unwed mothers laughing and crying seems the same as before. However, when we looked at it closely, there was no such thing as a similar story. However, what was not changed were the consistent love, prayers and sponsorship from you. Despite these, most of you would commonly say, "Have I done something big? I feel ashamed of such a small thing I've done." Nevertheless, I believe rain drops, whether they are small or sometimes large, were gathered enough to become a small stream, which became a river that could flow. The powerful waves detoured the areas that hindered its flow and became a new trend in society, so that they're changing the world.
In the old days, there was a time when most babies born from unwed mothers were sent abroad. After that, it's believed that abortion for their pregnancy was the best choice, but against this unconsciously agreed value, the value of life that a biological mother should care for their own baby made us realize its importance and gave the strength to carry on. This has been a great support that can be indescribable to us, and later became the courage we could have to make a brand new start. Thus, Aeranwon created "Aeran One Family Network" with the strength, which played a role as priming water, protected and helped single mothers become independent.
Now, the flow of this value has held a predominant position in welfare services in our society. On May. 24, Korea signed the "Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption" and it has been ratified. It clearly states that its fundamental principle is when there is a child in particular need of protection, the best way is that his or her biological mother should care for him or her no matter how difficult situation it is, and adoption should be considered a second best solution. However, our sponsors already knew this 10 years ago and since that, you have given us your full material and emotional support. Small changes which started from your prayers and support at Aeranwon have been becoming a new trend in our society.
I truly appreciate your keen insight and partnership.
On November 26, "2013 Appreciation Night" was held at YeNeung church. Thankfully, about 60 sponsors could make it to this event through the rain, and your participation was a great comfort and encouragement to us. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy to see precious people who act as God's agents and fellow workers with God as if I had beheld God's face.
This year there were video productions such as "Our story" created by students of Narae alternative school and 'crisis pregnancy support' program, violin performance and special songs from the children of single mothers, and testimony from a deacon who is a sponsor and volunteer. And you suggested that we continue this event every year. Jung, Woo-Jung brother was the toastmaster of the event as always, and dining was prepared by the church. I sincerely appreciate it.*^^*
I hope those who could not make it this time could come for the following year. Also, if you have a chance to visit Aeranwon, I would like to show these videos to you.
I would surely like to thank all those who came to this event despite the lousy weather and a long way. Also, I felt humbled that the total contribution of the day made by those who came was 2.1million won. We will be honest and responsible for using this money. Thanks a lot!^^
I'm truly grateful that you've been with us so far.
Be healthy, blessed and in peace in the New Year!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
Aeran Parent Child Support Network
P.S: I apologize that I had forgotten to report the charity bazaar held on Oct. 19 in the letter of November, and am going to give a brief report of it: the proceeds from the bazaar were 5.8million won including the donation of 0.5million won. Part of the proceeds will be used for personnel expenses of social workers in charge of the independence support service of single mothers and sons at I-You-We One Family Center. As notified in the previous letter, until last year, the profits from the bazaar went to the mothers raising a child of independence home, but from this year it became difficult to collect money for personnel costs, so that we decided to spend some funds for these. Thanks.^^
It's only two months left, but seems like it's only yesterday we celebrated New Year. There is a saying called "contemplation of Aristotle" that there are those who expect too early to pull up turnips by the roots before they are fully grown, and those who are just spending time not pulling them up, thinking they are not ready to be pulled out yet, but they actually are.
How can we possibly find out and keep the middle way, not to push things hastily or to get damaged because of too much being cautious?
Depending on how to react to our weakness, crisis can be another opportunity and vice versa, so I'm always under pressure to make a balanced decision as the owner of the network and final decision maker. In particular, this is so true of Aeran network at which we handle a person's life and the fact that the decision would have a huge influence on the direction of life for mothers.
There was one sister who entered here at the age of 14, the 2year student of junior school, gave birth one year after, sent the baby away for adoption and got in a four-year college in Seoul after graduating from junior and junior high schools. This girl wanted to enter a better school, so that she asked me to support her for another year; however, I turned it down because quite a lot of financial support had been centered on her, and this meant depriving other mothers of their opportunity costs. What's more, I thought that wouldn't guarantee a better school, either.
Not agreeing on the decision, she got herself out of this place in order to study one more time on her own. As a result, I heard that she had got pregnant again and into another facility for single mom, and would look back on the incident with a broken heart, "Would her life have been different if I had let her study one more year at the moment?"
What decision would you have made if you had been me?
Now is a critical moment in time. As the law for adoption agencies which run facilities for single moms is reformed to shift the facility into another business from July in 2015, seventeen out of 32 facilities in total should be replaced. Under this big change, Aeran network is deeply worried about what to choose and focus on, not to cause a vacuum in the welfare of single-parent families. Just as Aeran network has done so far, this is because we have a big picture of the welfare for all the single moms and realize our roles to play accordingly. I will keep you updated when certain ideas are structuralized.
I have one announcement.
November 26th is the day of "Sponsor Appreciation Night" hosted by Aeranwon- family network and the event will be held at 'Mannam hall', YeNeung church. Although you may have a busy schedule, I'd truly ask you to come, take a look around things we've done with your support and to give us any advice and encouragement.
Your presence is an honor for all of us. Please refer to the attached page for details.
As we enter October, there has been a huge temperature difference between day and night. Please bundle up not to catch a cold, and hope to see you at 18:30, YeNeung church on Nov. 26th.
Han, SangSoon from Aeran One-family network
At the change of seasons, there are many people who have already got a cold, but I hope you are doing well.
It's on the 18th of this month that maple foliage is at its peak on Mt. Seorak.
I'm very fortunate to take one day off and look around Mt.Seorak on the 23rd because I have a training course from the 21st to the 22nd at the Public Official Training Institute in Sokcho, and for two consecutive days from the 24th I will take part in a workshop at the same place hosted by the Federation of Seoul Female Welfare. I wish you could also get this sort of unexpected pleasure in life just as I could.
On the day before Chuseok last month, we spent the time with mothers to the fullest, making seasonal foods, and watched a movie, and played the game, Yut game on Chuseok, having Korean Rice cake and fruits you have given us. Also, we distributed 10,000 won to each person in the form of Chuseok holiday grants from Seoul Metropolitan city and 20,000 won to the mothers with kids. I sincerely appreciate your support and care.
We'd like to appoint operation committee who could work for Aeran network for the next three years from 2014. We would like to ask the original members to continue the job, and if they are not available, we will look for new ones.
On the 28th of September, we held a workshop called "Family Management" with Legal Aid Center for Family Relations. Sixteen people of single-parent family within/outside the network attended this workshop. The themes of this were about "housing welfare education for unwed single-parent family" and "law education on claim for child care and clearing off debts".
Through this field training, young mothers could have learned about how to prepare a home, information on legal aid for child care, procedures of requesting the cost of rearing a child from the child's father, and how to clear off their debts.
I got an email last week from a 19-year-old adoptee living in the U.S. She introduced herself, saying that she is a college student, and heard from another adoptee that moms in Aeranwon are requested to leave a message to their babies if they choose to send their child abroad. She also mentioned she had a look at the document of adoption which showed her biological mother stayed here in 1994, so she asked us to trace back if her mother had left a letter for her.
In the 1990s, 80-90% of the mothers in Aeranwon chose to give up their babies for adoption. Domestic adoption institutes preferred the babies born from the mothers here who received a thorough medical checkup; however, quite a lot of babies were still sent abroad for adoption.
When these babies are grown up some day and looking for their biological mother, and/or visit Aeranwon where their mother once stayed, they wanted to know what their biological mother was like, why she chose to send them away, if she loved them, if she remembered their birthday, and what their mother's life would have been like after she had given up the child.
We would show the picture of the mother if we had it, and provide the adoptee with the information available because the records about counseling at the time had remained. In addition to this, if we could offer birthmother's message or letter, they burst into tears with unexpected excitement.
Unfortunately, not everyone could leave a letter. At the last session of group counseling when mothers decide on adoption, they are asked to write a message or letter, but there could be some occasions such as giving birth or getting illness and they thus could not make it.
This girl, however, was lucky enough to get a letter from the file of the biological mother. I was also pleased to see this girl could feel happy to receive the copy of her mother's letter and its translation.
I have two announcements:
1. A charity bazaar within the network will be open on the 19th of October from 11a.m.- 4p.m. "Purchasing is donating" on the day.
2. '2013 Sponsor Appreciation Night' will be scheduled on the 26th of November (Tuesday, 18:30-20:30) at Manam hall, YeNeung church. I highly appreciate if you could make it to this special night. I will notify you soon of the details of the upcoming event.
Hoping to see you all at the events, I will keep you updated next month.
Aeran Parent Child Support Network
It is August, that is the season which draws people towards the beach. I wish you could have a relaxing time for a moment, breathing fresh air.
Aeran network held a summer retreat for three days, from July 20 to 22, at the Retreat Center for Women, which is located by the East Sea, in Gangwon province. There were 83 mothers and children and included six staff.
On the first retreat in 2001, kids were so young that the staff had a lot of difficulty in looking after them while their mothers were taking part in a variety of maritime activities/programs; however, this time kids were old enough to enjoy the programs themselves offered by the center, and thus it was much easier to take care of only four babies.
During the stay, it was beneficial to watch mothers' attitudes towards and their interaction with their children, so that we could learn what and how we could change in the parenting education program for unwed mothers. Through this time we were not only pleased by looking closely at children grow more and more, but also feel responsible for supporting and taking good care of them. We could have figured out these mothers have worked hard in order to raise their children under their own circumstances. Just as the advertising phrase, "Hard workers, go for a rest!", it seemed the mothers deserved a good rest getting away from the daily heavy burden experiences.
The hot and humid summer made us really get exhausted. In the meantime, one mother who had stayed with us in the 90s visited Aeranwon. This mother who has been living in Gwangju did miss here like original home base, but couldn't afford to come because Aeranwon was very far from where she was, and she had to take care of her daughter and her work as well. My looking back on the past, she cried every day because her family members claimed they were against her raising the baby, and she should put the baby up for adoption and break up with the father of the baby. Thus, this couple had to move down to Gwangju and go through a hard time due to their family's criticism. She did once visit Aeranwon because of her child who wanted to look around the place where she was born when the child went through the age of adolescence, the period of confusion about who she was; now she is so proud of the fact that the child has been grown-up and mature enough to graduate from college and become a friend-like daughter, and so am I.
The mother had lunch with us, bought ice creams for the mothers at Aeranwon and introduced herself, saying that at that time she was overwhelmed by the situation and afraid of getting no support from her family members and by the uncertainty about the future. Yet, with the help of Aeranwon, she had overcome the moment of crisis and here she is. What's more, the baby she delivered here became as well grown-up as she could become a college student now. And she encouraged the young mothers, saying "Just like me who has been through all the difficulties and got them over, I am sure all of you could also do well." Thereupon, all the mothers who were impressed applauded with envy and respect. She remembered that there was no child support from the government except that of sponsors at those times. She said, just as they have helped her out, she would like to pay it forward by donating $1,000 on the spot and agreed to donate on a monthly basis.
All the staff members there including me were so touched. It has been so hot that we got worn out and weary, but we were so pleased with this unexpected reward. As this mother said, all the appreciation should be given to the Lord and sponsors who have been supporting us and Aeranwon staff members. Thank you so much for being with us.
I'd like to make an announcement. In case of regular sponsors, we have sent the monthly receipt of sponsoring so far, but from now on we are going to replace it by issuing once a year for tax refund. This way we can prevent unnecessary overuse of paper and print-ink, and some of our sponsors also suggested this because we should issue the statement of sponsoring at the end of the year for tax refund anyway.
We decided to implement this according to the government guideline on sponsor management. Yet, if you would like to receive the receipt on a monthly basis, please let us know, and we will send it out as before. The contact info is as follows: 02) 393-4723 / / firstname.lastname@example.org
I wish you stay healthy throughout the summer, and will keep you updated with our quarterly newsletter in September. Thanks a lot.
Aeran PC Support Network
Time has flown by so fast and it is hot summer already.
It was found that at a maternity home located in Seoul, the facility inappropriately intervened with an unwed single mother who had a still birth, and that the mother filed a complaint with the national Human Rights Commission. During the follow up, it was revealed that the facility had embezzled the government funding, which triggered an overall financial audit to all unwed single mothers facilities in Seoul by the Seoul city government. We are not concerned about the audit as at Aeran network everything is clear and accountable as it should be, but there is a lot of paperwork that is required to be prepared and submitted. It takes time and energy of our staff to prepare the required reports as we have several facilities in our Aeran Network system.
Ms Cho, Sung Hee has resigned as of May after 14 years of service due to personal health issues as she had been suffering tiredness and exhaustion. Ms Cho has been working with us since 1999, responsible for budget and accounting as management director. She has made sure that we keep our accounts and operations as transparent as possible and has done a great job. She had wanted to resign since July last year but we were having difficulties in finding a new person to replace the position. We had put out a vacancy announcement and interviewed several applicants, but it seemed impossible to find someone who has never doctored figures in accounting books. After numerous interviews, we decided that one of our staff, Ms Choi, Joo Ok be reassigned to replace Ms Cho.
As Ms Cho resigned after so many years with us, I became more concerned about our staff in Aeran Network. Many of those who have worked here long seem to suffer tiredness and exhaustion, not only Ms Cho. It was in the news several times that the government employees in the social benefits fields who get stressed, tired, and consumed from overloaded work and threats from the social benefit recipients have quit or even committed suicide. It is not much different for social workers in general. Here we are no exception in Aeran Network.
Many of the unwed single mothers who come to us are still in their teens, yet, they have been hurt and suffered with victim mentality. To successfully work as a social worker to support them, you need not only knowledge, skill and ability as a professional, but also need patience and persistence not to give up and to take care of them with a mother's love. It takes a great deal of energy, effort, and self-reflection, as well as training. I wish I could do something for our staff, but there are not many resources available with limited funding.
I am sorry for the depressing news, but we do have some happy news as well. We were nominated as the best facility by the government access for the single parent family welfare system in 2010, we were nominated again in 2013 and the award ceremony will be held on the social welfare day in September.
This is due to our supporters and hard working staff in Aeran network, and I hope this news could inspire you and our staff. Please stay healthy during the hot season, I’ll see you next month. Thank you very much for your supporting us.
Director. Aeranwon, Aeran Parent Child Support Network
I hope this letter finds you in good health. Korea is beautiful right now. One of my foreign friends used to say that she thought Seoul would be an unpleasant place to live but changed her mind when she saw all the flowers in bloom all over the city. She used to come in the winter but came this May and then spoke to us about the diversity of the four seasons in Korea.
In my letter from January, I mentioned the difficulties of a mother who was discharged from Aeranwon 14 years ago, but we have an update about her situation for you.
First, in order to gain a stable place to stay, the mother was provided with costs for finding a new place for them, and with extra money for finding new employment and other necessities for two months.
She also began to work at a restaurant kitchen. However, her teen-age boy, who had halted his regular education due to several instances with bullying, often loitered around the restaurant where his mother worked, and because of his frequent presence, the owner of the restaurant fired her.
This turn of events once again put her in a critical situation and her son's wandering continued. The mother and her son consequently moved to one of our group homes in Hongeun-dong.
Nearby the group home, she became re-employed. Her son, however, was unable to re-enroll in school because he missed the deadline for enrollment.
As her son's education is of the utmost importance, an agreement was reached to hopefully attend middle school next year. To prepare for a middle school entrance exam he will be taking in August, he has been receiving tutoring from a volunteer student of the Yonsei University twice a week. In addition, he has been receiving psychological therapy to counter his gaming addiction.
We are very grateful to Sheryl Koffman from the American Women's Club. After reading our letter about this mother/son story, she started to sponsor the family personally for a year. The mother and her boy appeared at the Aeranwon bazaar last week; we were able to see them looking much better.
On April 27th, we had our spring bazaar. Many sponsors and neighbors donated various goods and visited to shop and to donate money. The proceeds from the bazaar was 5,870,000 won ($5,210), 500,000 won ($443) of which came from immediate donations. We really appreciate your contributions.
The following is about the 1:1 sponsorship program.
A sponsor or group of sponsors can choose to donate 100,000 won ($88) to a single parent family. It would be very much appreciated if, in any situation, you as a sponsor are unable to send donation any more, please let us know in advance. Then we will find a new sponsor for the family.
You are the ones who help the Aeran network grow and succeed with the mothers and their children. We pursue the "safety, health, and self-independence" of the mothers and depend heavily on each and every one of our sponsors to achieve this goal. We thank you so much for all of you.
Sang Soon Han
Aeran Parent Child Support Network
Spring has come, it's easy to catch a cold due to the rapid changes in daily temperature. I hope this letter finds you in good health. As Korean forsythia and magnolia are blossoming, I hope God is always with you.
As you can see in the picture, we had a free flea market at Aeranwon on March 9th.
We also had a training on parenting for unmarried single mothers in local communities, and many local moms participated. The shop "Sarang Nanum Teo" which takes various household items and kid's clothes, books and toys as donations, also opened. Many of the moms took a box full of items with them. The next day, the social worker from the "Me, You, Us Family Center" told us that moms cried while they were organizing what they had taken home. I was worried if something had happened at the market and whether they were hurt. Instead, they were very thankful for getting all the goods they needed. Many of us, including the social worker who was in charge of the Free Flea Market, Judi Jung, were happy to hear such great news. We were so glad that these goods were actually useful to moms, and we wanted to share this happy news with you. As much as the mothers need words of compliments and comfort, our staff need them as well. And we were happy to know that mothers were happy and I believe you would be the same. : )
On the 12th, Yoon Sun Cho, the minister of Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, visited Aeranwon as her first official visit since her appointment. After the presentation on Aeran Parent Child Support network, she met with the mothers and the volunteers and encouraged them. She also sat down with six mothers; four who are living in local communities, one from Aeran Mom. & Baby's Home, and one from Aeranwon. She listened to them talk about challenges and obstacles within the current system that prevent mothers from becoming independent and self-reliant, and promised to help them find solutions. With the recent changes in welfare policy of the new government, I am participating in the taskforce team with the ministry of Gender Equality and Family and in the discussion of reorganizing welfare benefit systems for the single parent family.
As I said to the minister, the current welfare system to support basic livelihood creates more people to stay under the benefit system, which will lead to more financial issues regarding the welfare benefit in the future. We need to take single mothers as human resources rather than as those in need. They are young and can be re-educated. I suggested that the unwed single mothers should now be regarded as an investment for the future human resources, not as social welfare benefit recipients. Looking at the big picture, through Aeran Network they can be supported for at least five years concentrating on self-support. As each single mother's background and situation is very different and unique, we need to help educate each one on an individual basis. Many single moms are eager to get back in to the work force. They can become independent and will be good tax payers, which will save all of us financial resources for social welfare.
According to the revision of the related law, the facilities for single mothers run by adoption agencies have to be changed to other facilities by July 2015, and the government is trying to increase the number of private facilities for unwed single mothers. I insist that the self-reliance programs within local communities should be supported, rather than the facilities. The former costs less and is more effective. The later with higher costs due to operating expenses and labor costs only makes the mothers more dependent on the system.
On the 28th and the 29th, I attended a conference with the other directors of the Welfare Foundation of the Korean Presbyterian Church. On the second day when we had a lunch, I noticed there was a small lady wearing a very heavy make-up and wondered who she was. At the end of the 2-day conference, there was a 10-minute Korean traditional dance performance, and she was the dancer. She was beautiful and looked so charismatic on the stage. It was moving to see what comes out of her tiny body. I realized that artists look best on stage, and I wondered myself how it would be as per me.
As a Christian social worker, I think that it should be the most beautiful moment when I work and love and support unwed mothers in the middle of their lives who God loves to give out his own life.
I know that 'Aeran PC Support Network' is my calling and the right place for me, and I was very thankful this Easter morning that I am at the place where I need to be. God wants us to be "the embodiment of justice, and to show His mercy to others, and follow Him with humility." I promised this would be the way to live the rest of my life.
On April 27th from 11am to 3pm, there will be a bazaar held at Aeranwon. We would be so grateful if you could donate any new or used items including clothes, and kitchen appliances. The profits will be used as personnel expenses of the social workers at Me U and Us Family Center. If you buy anything, it will go directly to the donation, so we will be very appreciative if you could come and participate. Thank you as always to support us with your love.
Thank you so much for all your support!
Sang Soon Han
Aeranwon/ Aeran PC Support Network
Dearest friends and sponsors of Aeran PC Support Network.
A new year has begun, and may God fill all your families and workplaces with His amazing grace and heavenly blessings in 2013. According to research by the Korean Women’s Development Institute on neglected social groups, unmarried moms found themselves ranked lower than homosexuals. The report broke my heart to think of all the hardships those moms and their babies were going through to survive another day under such a low social awareness. At that, I felt grateful to have all the supporters and volunteers at Aeran Parent Child Support Network since they are the true pathfinders in our society and would like to express my deepest gratitude. I sincerely pray that God will repay you for all the love and hospitalities you have shown to help those mothers overcome their difficulties and find stability with their lives.
Many stories were unfolded at the Aeran Parent Child Support Network in 2012. Precious babies were born and are growing healthy. With great joy, we saw moms standing on their own feet following their hard work. We were devastated when a lovely high school girl died of disease, leaving her young daughter behind. An unwed single mom was kicked out of her hard-earned house without being paid any deposit back, and found her son addicted to computer games as they lived moving from one PC-room to another. These cases helped us further brace ourselves as to how to better serve and care for the unmarried moms here, and now who asks for help, broken-hearted.
Government evaluates women’s welfare facilities every three years. In 2012, Aeranwon, Ae Ran Mother & Baby’s Home and Aeran Seumter all came in first as the best facilities. Especially, Aeran Seumter being the only group home for the young mothers who gave babies up for adoption in Korea, it was almost excluded from the evaluation. However, we insisted it be evaluated, and rather it won their praise for its superb management and outstanding results despite the insignificant support from the government. Seeing that, the Seoul city government decided to support us with $1,000 per month for the educational expenses which had been covered solely by donations!
A Second Hand goods shop “Sarang Nanumter (The place of sharing love)” was opened thanks to the full donations from the Korea Securities Depository. Located on the right side of Aeranwon, working single moms who had not been able to use the monthly free flea market can now use the shop anytime they want. It is also open to all unwed single moms in the community to help them with their needs.
Me-You-Us PC Support Center, one of the country’s only two counseling centers for unmarried single-parent families, is producing some results. Last year, 613 women of premarital pregnancy who are in difficulties asked for help. The Center immediately connected them with the resources they needed and provided services itself to 67 people directly to overcome their crisis. Among them, to 34 who showed a strong will for self-reliance, it supplied with follow-up services of education and work skills. As a result, six people passed the qualification exam and entered universities, and fifteen received job education and are now working as a nursing assistant, a web designer, an apartment manager, taxation personnel, and so on. Also, 87 single moms participated in parent education and studied hard to be good mothers. The Center also opened professional counseling for child psychology since the children are growing up in a poorer child-rearing environment and thus may experience problems during their developmental stages and/or in psychosocial areas.
Our Resource Development Team expanded 1:1 sponsorships to help more single moms with self-supporting, child-rearing and education. In the beginning of the year and in the year-end, social workers wrote an annual report on the life stories of the single mom families who in return send thank-you letters to the sponsors. Also, after reviewing the status of those single moms who had been sponsored, in cases of confirming self-reliability, the Center ended corresponding sponsorships.
The main difficulty of operating the sponsorship service is that: in most cases, the greater the amount of counseling and support provided, the better are the results achieved; thus, many hours are demanded for each case. However, realistically, due to the lack of manpower at the Center, sufficient interactions are not being made with the needy. Also, as the number of school age children is increasing, the demand for children’s programs is ever rising but proper services are not being followed. This is a greatly unfortunate matter if we consider the social situations of the unmarried mothers since they could be easily isolated and their crisis could well be deepened. But this is the limitation of our manpower and budget, and we need a countermeasure for this problem.
The admittance rate of teenage moms increased this year to 54% compared to that of last year at 48%. Some of admitted girls attend the alternative school, and thus their average staying period increases to more than a year, and it is difficult for other single moms from outside to find rooms at Aeranwon. Moreover, the objectives of teenage moms and moms in their 20’s are quite different. Whereas the teenage moms are focused on educational achievements and need more sensitive guidance and education, the moms in their 20’s are focused on developing job skills. Since we cannot neglect one side but bring about both objectives together with a limited staff, the problem of space and manpower is being intensified.
Na Rae Alterative School started in the second semester of 2010 and produced the third class of graduating students this year. Three students graduated from the junior high school and entered high schools, and four students advanced to universities after graduating from the high school. Among them, one student moved to Ae Ran Mother & Baby’s Home and will attend the school from there. Their schools and majors are all different, but they all studied very hard nurturing their babies at the same time. I really would like to send a big applause for their passion for their lives and hard work. Following the baby shower event held last year, the American Women’s Club hosted a graduation party for those seven students, and we had a wonderful time.
In the Aeran Mother & Baby’s Home, three moms earned high school diplomas and two moms entered universities. Because of the increase in the number of teenage single moms, single moms on the waiting list asked for us to build one more group home house. Once, we ran storage trainings for teenage single moms, and about a month after the training when I visited the Aeran Mother & Baby’s Home, I was so impressed that everything was neatly stored. I told this to the volunteer teacher there, and she was so touched that they had continued to apply what they had learned over a month and came to tears.
In Aeran Seumter, eleven people are living together now and four people are going high school, and one person entered university and four people got jobs. In 2012, to help them with emotional stability which is important for self-supporting, Seumter conducted psychotherapies and family counseling. After graduating from a high school and completing job trainings at the Aeran Seumter, a 19-year-old girl moved to Self-supporting Home and worked very hard for two years’ of stay there, and finally got her own rental house. What is better is that her family, who had been all scattered because they did not have any place to live together, gathered together and lived together with her.
At the end of last year, we ran a survey of the moms in the facility on their wants and needs, and made 2013 work plans based on the result. In order for the single moms to be self-reliant, of all things, their active participation, strong will to become self-reliant and endurance are the most important aspects. Along with them, we intend to provide case management and programs tailored to the wants and needs of the single moms and society, and also to solidify the structure of and further revitalize the service supports.
The Resource Development Team made a resource list based on the survey we ran and the 2013 work plan and will build a system of resource development and distribution. Furthermore, we will intensify staff trainings for each team for active cooperation and networking between all departments. As we believe the organic cooperation between staff is the most important, we had started three years ago and have continued to hold private 1:1 interviewing between me and each staff once a year. Workers satisfaction reflects on mother’s satisfaction and achievement. Thus, during the interviewing times, we spoke about the missions, visions, values, strategies, networks and changes that are needed for improvement while collecting opinions from workers and solving them.
Aeran PC Support Network has been in full support for unwed single moms to have high school diplomas at least in order to expand their job opportunities. In addition to self-reliance, we now encourage them to advance to universities in order to lessen poverty and enhance the quality of their lives. As for the university tuitions, our financial ability is always limited to some extent, and we sincerely ask for your generous donations in this. I really would like to express my dearest gratitude for your continued and unchanged love and partnerships. In order for the results of your precious sponsorships to reflect as the self-reliable and stable and passionate lives of unwed single moms, we will make our best efforts and work in earnest with honesty. Thank you.
Director of Aeranwon, AR PC Support Network
I recently heard about the researchers working on developing an artificial brain. A computer had already won a human chess game. I felt like we are living in a new generation of the Tower of Babel. We need to wake up and think about what is really important for us.
Here is the story of "Two Old Men" by Tolstoy. There were two men who were dreaming of taking a pilgrimage and finally they left to worship God in Jerusalem. One day when they were passing the drought area, one of the men, Elisha, asked to stop by the town because he was thirsty. The other man, Efim, answered, "Why don't you just go get some water and come back, I will keep on going" and he moved his steps forward without looking back. Elisha went down to the town and knocked on a house to find a poor family who was very sick. He took care of them. He spent all his money to get them something to eat and saved the family, but because he did not have enough money to continue the trip, he had to go back home. Efim finished the pilgrimage while he was waiting for Elisha to catch up and join him. When they met again, Efim said, "My feet have been there, but whether my soul was there, I don’t know."
A few weeks ago, I got an email that was sent out randomly from someone who is known to have worked in the social work field. A 15-year old Chinese Korean girl gave a birth, and because she does not have 3,000 dollars, there is no way for her to get out from the hospital. She needs help, but since she is an illegal immigrant, other organizations weren’t able to help her. I contacted the person who wrote the email and said we will help and asked the girl's name and the hospital's name. However, I was told that he just wants the money and I can’t give her any help until the related laws and regulations are revised. So I told him we will still help him to help her and I am willing to help him with changing the existing laws or making a new one if necessary, and I do have prior experience in doing those things. I also explained how we work. Once we start, whether she is here with us or not, we will help and continue to help her for five years until she is fully independent.
He wasn’t too happy about the offer. He eventually hung up on me, and never returned my phone call. Later I realized that all they wanted was the money that was supposed to be used to help the girl, but not the help. He also needed the girl there so he can fundraise the money.
This was a turning point for me to think of why I am doing this and what is the meaning of this for me. I had to stop and look back at what the values are in doing all this work. We have to know why we are doing the work, and who are the reasons for the work. We have to make sure who are the ones getting the help, and who are the ones giving the help. We are not doing this work for ourselves, it’s for those who need the help. It’s not for the social awareness nor establishing a social network either.
As the whole world is covered by white snow, I pray that the wounds of the mothers and the children can be covered and healed as well. In March, we’ll see you again in the newsletter.
Thank you always.
Director of Aeranwon, AR PC Support Network
The New Year has come. I hope God has blessed your home and work.
According to the data, Koreans think more negatively about single moms than homosexuals. Single moms have a hard time surviving because of stereotypes. I really appreciate from the bottom of my heart that you have joined AeRanWon to help single moms, and I hope God will be with you.
At the end of last year, we planned a work project based on what moms want and need. In June 2010, we completed the Aeran Network system by building the school. Through the organic cooperation, the independent business program is powered up. Surely, a mom’s active willingness to participate is important, so we categorized case management, program, living and service based on the mom’s wants and needs.
Also, we are going to build a development system based on resources. And an internal-external network vitalization education program train to employees to be empowered. Most importantly organic cooperation among employees is important. We counsel every employee because an employee’s satisfaction is directly related to a mom’s satisfaction. When I had a personal interview with a staff member, I discussed Aeran Network’s mission and vision, and shared the value and strategy to keep the network strong.
The school is in constant need of teachers and volunteers. Because Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education’s support is not enough, Nare School’s alternative curriculum is lead by volunteers. So it changed by volunteer’s condition. And there are not enough working people for the administration part, so social workers are doing that work, too.
This year’s work plan will be completed in February, after Seoul City’s 2013 Social welfare facility’s unit price is going to be certain.
I would like to share two stories with you. One is a happy-ending story.
I got a call from girl in March 2010. She was three months pregnant, and a Junior in high school. She was from a small town in a southern province. She wanted help because she wanted to have her baby but her mom wanted for her to have an abortion. After many time’s call counseling, finally she entered Aeranwon. After she had a few times of counseling, she decided to keep her baby. She realized that she needs a high school diploma and job education in order to be self reliant, in order to care for her baby. So she transferred to an alternative school and she restarted studying.
After she gave birth, her mom wanted her to put the baby up for adoption. She wanted to keep her baby. Her mom was so angry, saying “ do whatever you want, and I don’t know you anymore” and she said to me “from now on please do not call me because she is nobody to me” and her mom went home. The girl felt sorry and said, “my mom had lots of things to be worried about and now including me, but the way I am important to her is exactly the same way my baby is important to me.” And after a while she got a healthy daughter. After she took care of herself she moved to Aeran Mothers & Babies’ Home, she graduated from the alternative school, she registered for aid-nursing school, and she trained for job education for a year. And after one failure, she got a license for an aid-nurse and coordinator, and now she is working at a hospital.
It took three years until her mom accepted the baby as part of her family. Now her mom loves the baby very much. The baby’s mom wants to save money after she works for a couple years and she wants to go to University. After seeing she changed in a positive way, her mom became her best supporter ever. She suggested that she moves to her mom’s house to live together with her daughter, and so she discharged from Aeran Mom & Babies’ Home.
Her friends are working in the grocery store or fast food restaurants as part time jobs after high school graduation because it’s too hard for high school graduates to have a regular job. She got two licenses and got a job and already saved $15,000. During the difficult time she thought ‘it is better to die’, but now her whole life has changed for the better because of her daughter. Happy-ending story.
Another sad story as follows.
In December, a mother who stayed at Aeranwon 14 years ago asked for help from the Me.You.Us Center. She had little schooling. We wanted to support her for her advanced schooling. But she thought studying and job-training would be too hard for her with her little schooling
After leaving Aeranwon, she started to work at a restaurant kitchen and had saved money for almost ten years. Finally she could rent her own fine place with the money, but after two years, she was evicted, and was not able to get her deposit back because of the owner’s default of an obligation.
This forced her to move from pc game room to game room. Sadly, her 14 year old boy has been addicted to games. Now she has stayed at the drop–in shelter of Aeran Network.
She is very diligent and good woman. Even though she had worked hard her circumstances were not getting better. Now, she is desperate and helpless. She plucked up her courage and she has started to work again. We need to find a one-to-one supporter as well as a residence for living. After we find her a living place, we are planning to refer toxicosis therapy for the boy. We were going to suggest that they enter Aeran Self-supporting Home at first, but that is not an option now because all the children at the Self-supporting Home are 5 or 6 year old girls. If we can not find any place for them, we will support her deposit money for rent a place from the Housing fund of Aeranwon.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I use any support money and goods in an honest way for the betterment of the school.
I really hope you will be always happy and under God’s protection. Thank you very much.
Thank you so much for your continuous love and support of our Aeran Parent Child Support Network this year.
Thank you for your support for our Single Parent to get their self-reliance for their stable lives in the future.
We promise to do our best in 2013 to support our Moms to live a stable life and our children to grow up as future valuable human resources in partnership with them in 2013.
I pray to God to bless you and be with you for 2013, who has embraced with a warm and open heart and supported our moms, so they won’t have to give up their babies and live in difficulties. Thank you again.
Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.
Aeran Parent-Child Support Network
Aeranwon, Aeran Seumter, Aeran Mom & Baby’s Home, Me.You.Us Parent Child Support Center
Self-supporting Home for the mothers who gave up baby for adoption.
Self-supporting Home for the mothers who raise babies.
This is a beautiful season of colored leaves. Trees are wise enough to have prepared for the coming winter and have faithfully fulfilled their role. We learn a life lesson again from the beautiful gift of nature.
Compared to this, it seems that we are too greedy just trying to own a little more, or trying to live a little longer.
“I am thoroughly dead from the world ... After death, I was able to focus myself to become a right person in the sight of God." The confession of George Muller comes up deep in mind.
It is a beautiful season, but in human life there cannot be always happy moments. The four phases of life - birth, aging, sickness, and death - will still continue. Today I’m going to convey a piece of sad news.
There was a girl, who was a third level student of Narae alternative school.
She was pretty and also had a beautiful mind. She got pregnant after dating her boyfriend shortly, but she knew the value of the life, so she decided to have a baby and diligently studied. This summer, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
While studying hard, she did her best to raise her kid. With small allowances from her parents, she never skipped giving God one-tenth of her small allowances.
At Aeranwon’s evening worship on Sundays, she played the piano. Shortly after the Chuseok holidays, she went home to spend the holidays with her family. It was when we heard the sad news that she suddenly passed away from a sudden disease.
We all lost our words. All of us who know the girl, including mothers, students, and volunteers and staff, gathered all together and held memorial worship. All of us who loved the girl were sad and it was hard to let her go. The memorial worship was held with room full of tears. We were told by her family that she had said while staying with the family that she met God and that she had confessed with joy that God hugged her. We are sure that this girl is now in heaven with God, and got a great comfort.
Through this we are reminded how we should carefully look after the mothers and babies in our Aeranwon network.
Here more updates since the latest newsletter. I’d like to let you know that the mother child family successfully moved into their new home on the 23rd with the ten million won deposit that many of you supported. Aeranwon will support 220,000 won out of their monthly rental payments. The mother repapered the place before she moved in. It was good to see her trying to decorate her new home. We will use your support and contributions transparently for the future independence of the mothers. Please continue to pray for this family.
The bazaar was successful despite the rain. The neighbors came even before we started while it was raining. We were worried about the bad weather, but former resident families, volunteers and supporters continue to come. I would like thank you all for sending the goods, helping us with setting up, cooking, selling and closing the bazaar. Without your love and support, it would not have been possible. We made 5,640,000 won in total and the total amount will be used for the single mothers who raise their children. I can’t mention all the names here who have supported us, but I would like to thank you again. You’re the ones who keep us moving forward to run the Aeran Network. Thank you!
It’s getting cold, please take good care of yourself. I’ll see you next month.
The end of year is just around the corner.
This is the poem written on the wall in our town.
“How surprising it is to not know that the life is just a moment, watching at the lightening…” (by Jaelim Ham)
I was more surprised by the poet’s insight who realized that.
However, Aeran Network’s day is often very long. There are lots of various happenings as we have a big family. Sometimes it is very difficult to take care of everything. We endure these hardships by thinking that these will go away soon after, but we see those difficulties coming in line one after another. To quote one of our staff, it will never go away.
These days, the government, non-profit organizations, private corporations, and many others are putting efforts all together to deal with social issues, and the power of governance required to solve issues is growing. As the result, although government has to provide support with the political concerns, there are many instances where the government puts corporations in to help the government’s budget deficit.
For this reason, the supports for single mothers are increasing dramatically, but we are more worried than relieved. This is because it is more problematic as the mothers have to satisfy the requirements to get support since these aids overlap. And it’s blocking the single mothers from standing on their own feet, and even making them be accustomed to being on welfare and therefore making it difficult to be independent. The support for the mothers’ wish to become independent should come true as soon as possible unless Korea provides welfare that fulfills every single need including education fees and child rearing expenses until the child becomes 18. We are hoping that one day Aeran Network’s consolidated supporting system expands throughout Korea so it can result in more effective help to the independence of these single mothers.
Moreover, Korea is arguing over which organization would provide the best child welfare to raise children among the birth family, foster home, child caring facilities, and adoption agencies. Adoption agencies insist that finding children a family is the best choice for them. Even the government enacted Act on Special Cases concerning Adoption to lead the adoption, and now, about 2500 children are being adopted at home and abroad annually. However, adoption is causing a deep sense of loss to both the birth families and the children, and there is high possibility of damaging society’s emotional stability and healthiness.
One American even raises objection to American parents who are considering international adoption. If one wants to truly help the children, then one should support the children so they can be raised by the birth parents. There is no better alternative than helping the children to live a stable life with the birth family and it even costs less than adopting the children and bringing them to the United States.
One of the members of the National Assembly attempted to amend Child Welfare Law so that the children under the age of 7 should firstly be considered for the foster homes, but the amendment was put off due to strong opposition. Under the Child Welfare Law, in the case of single mothers, the child would be protected in the foster homes for one to two years after birth so that the mothers would be ready in all aspects to raise their children.
The representatives of single mother facilities or the mothers themselves expressed deep concerns towards this policy as it is not reasonable to interrupt development of children’s attachment to their parents. Thus, suggesting foster homes as a solution does not help the single mothers, and more importantly, the policy does not consider the importance of children developing attachment to their mothers, and mothers developing maternal instinct as well.
In reality, single mothers seldom are ready to take their children in one or two years. If one really wants single mothers to never give up their children and wants to support them, it would be more effective to support the mother-and-child family to live together so that they can develop the attachment to each other. Even though it is proved in the United States that this policy doesn’t work even with an incredible amount of government budget, Korea is still concentrating on enlarging the competency of this policy which is very frustrating.
Therefore, in the real family’s perspective, neither adoption, protection by facilities, nor foster home gives the right solution to nurturing a child. The effort to preserve the real families should be made first, and if this doesn’t work, then foster home, adoption, and caring facilities should be considered afterwards.
Do you remember the mother who was in a trouble due to the order to leave the rented apartment? She has rented a first-floor room with a deposit of 10 million won, paying 350,000 won monthly, and she repapered the room by herself. Compared to the past when she paid 80,000 won monthly for the rental cost, she will have no big troubles in living because we provided the entire deposit and we are also paying 220,000 out of the monthly rental payments.
Currently, she asked the owner to repair the wallpaper since the repapered room has been damaged due to the water leakage. If there are no more problems, the moving will be done on October 14th. We hope that she will have no more troubles in moving as she already had enough difficulty finding the place with such a small budget. We are hoping that they adjust well to the new environment.
There is one announcement to be made. Ms Eun-Sung Yoo, our social worker who was in charge of the sponsor advertisement, resigned from the position due to personal reasons in June, and Ms Seok-Joo Jung has currently replaced the position.
Please contact Jung Seok-Joo, the current social worker, for any sponsor related work or year-end calculation. (Tel: 82- 393-4723)
We deeply appreciate those who provide consistent support to the single mothers so that they can safely stand on their own feet. We really wish you the best. Again, we thank you for the support, and we are looking forward to meeting you next month. Thank you very much.
Aeran PC Support Network
Miss Moon (a former resident of Aeranwon & Aeran Seumter who was awarded a scholarship for her undergraduate course from a Supporter and currently works as a social worker) is now a member of Me.You.Us. Parent-Child Support Center. She has written this for us:
Aeranwon, People in Faith, and Changes,
It was spring of 2006 when I came to Aeranwon. It was when my life that had been only dark and seemed hopeless turned into the one with many new opportunities. I would like to share my experience with you and wish that it could be a little bit of hope to you.
If someone asks me what Aeranwon means to me, I would say that it is my parents, my hometown and a womb. Aeranwon gave me love and future. Because of my dullness, I didn’t realize it back then, but I know for sure that Aeranwon had always supported me and has tried to replace the emptiness in myself with comfort and love. Only now I can know it.
When I first came to Aeranwon, one of the kitchen staff served a warm meal and kindly said "Feel at home and enjoy your meal." I felt a great support and consolation. I could not lift my head up but was crying while I was eating. I was not used to consulting someone about my situations, I had never talked to anyone nor ever had anyone who listened to my concerns. I couldn’t understand why someone else would take my issues so seriously and I thought that I was just nobody so it was meaningless to talk about my problems. However, as the worries I had were gradually solved with the help from Aeranwon, I learned about the trust. Above all, the biggest gift from Aeranwon is the present state of myself. I now have a future, which I had never dreamed of in the past.
When I was young, I was somewhat deprived of parents' care. I guess it was the reason that I was lacking in eagerness for my own life and made no effort to make myself better. However, throughout the continuous consultations at Aeranwon, I was able to sketch a blue print of my own future. Since I had never done it before, it wasn't easy and took me a while. Once I had my own goal to achieve, however, I came to learn the happiness of dreaming the future and the joy of fluttering with new hope.
Now I am living a new life in a totally new world as a social worker after graduating from a university, because I have found what it is like to live in the society and to be responsible for myself. Without Aeranwon, I could have not figured it out. I will never be able to forget about Aeranwon. Whether keeping in touch or not, Aeranwon would be always there for me to lean on. Aeranwon is like parents to me.
I would like to say to those who are reading what I wrote: no one knows how much love and time would take for one’s wound to be healed. The important thing is that if there is someone who has faith in you and waits for you, and if there is a trust, you can always come back and be on your own feet. It is Aeranwon who has the faith and could wait for you with trust. I think this is the reason Aeranwon exists.
If there is someone who’s afraid of stepping forward because everything is so hard, I suggest trying to hold the hands near you. You should dream about your own future. Be selfish to live your life. Try whatever you want. I wish I could hold you and say it is okay and everything is fine. You can never know what will happen in the future. Try to believe in yourself and the promising future you will face.
Our staff will start taking time off as we enter the summer vacation season nationwide. According to Mark Twain, “The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation and the person who works happily can succeed.”
Then how can we make a vocation a vacation? I always think about the ways our work environment could be improved so that my staff can work happily and they don’t get burned out. Especially for those are working in the Aeran Network, the work is about taking care of people in crisis with deep scars. As it takes time and energy to train a staff, it is an especially big loss when we must say goodbye to trained and experienced staff because they are exhausted. I understand, as Director, if this happens I am the one who should take the responsibility because I should have prevented them from being exhausted. However, the truth is that there are physical limitations to what I am able to do.
I have experienced several difficulties over the last 30 years as I have been working with unmarried mothers. I started working as an unmarried mother counselor in 1972, and at that time unmarried single mothers had no choice but to send their babies for adoption. When I delivered my first baby and left the hospital, I was seized with unknown fear and pain and was afraid that someone was going to take my baby away from me. I told myself hundreds of times that I would never give up my baby for anything as I held the baby in my arms and cried. My family was surprised at my rash idea and never understood why I had such strange ideas. I didn’t know either. But later on, I understood this strange feeling better, as I found that I had been also scarred deeply from my experiences with unmarried single mothers, who consistently cried with great pain in their hearts when they had to leave their babies.
Today, many unmarried single mothers at Aeranwon keep their babies, and there are fewer and fewer cases of pain and relinquishment for adoption. Other complicated factors have arisen, however; these come from family, society, and school. We need more energy and resources than we did in the past to address these significant challenges. As the work has become more complicated, the social workers’ workloads have increased as well. Workers must now, in an attempt to aid and manage these cases, identify, develop and manage more resources and alternatives for their birthmother clients and the children.
Yesterday, I received the sad news that Reverend Peter Van Lierop passed away. He was 94; he was the husband of Aeran Van, founder of Aeranwon. It was sent out from Gyeongan School. Mr. & Mrs. Aeran Van visited Korea as missionaries of the American Northern Presbyterian Church in 1949. Mr. and Mrs. Van Lierop founded the Gyeongan schools (Gyeongan High School, Gyeongan Women’s High School, Gyeongan Middle School, and Gyeongan Women’s Middle School), with their money as they realized the importance of education amidst the gloom of those days. After they successively served as first director and principal of the schools, they were transferred to Seoul in 1957 and worked as professors in Yonsei University.
During Mrs. Van’s time at Yonsei, one day a student came to her house with an abandoned woman. They asked Mrs. Van’s help for the night and supported her rehabilitation. It was through this experience that Mrs. Van became interested in Korean women’s situations and problems, and she realized that Korea needed more facilities for women in crisis. Mrs. Aeran Van, who majored in education, went back to the States and studied social work in the graduate school. Two years later, she returned to Korea and founded Aeranwon in 1960 with funds she had raised. That was truly amazing when you consider that in 1955, the national income per capita was US$65 and there only a few who were able to eat three meals a day. Today the national income of South Korea per capita is over US$20,000. Ms. Aeran Van’s achievements in fundraising take on new meaning and are a testament to her great personal effort.
During the lunch, I asked the unmarried single mothers to pray for Ms. Aeran Van. One of the mothers came to me and asked me to translate her letter and send it to Ms. Aeran Van. This morning I received the letter from the mother. She wrote how she really appreciates Ms. Aeran’s efforts to found Aeranwon so these unmarried single women can raise their children and prepare for their future. I believe that Reverend Van Lierop will feel comforted as he walks into Heaven for all those things he has done for Korea.
I know that these warm-hearted mothers here, who try to express their gratefulness to Ms. Aeran, even though they have never met her, will have bright futures, and I sincerely appreciate them.
We had Aeran Network’s summer camp at Kangneung Korean Women Training Center in July, and we stayed two nights there. 73 people participated (16 people from The Mother & Baby’s home, 7 people from Narae Alternate School and Aeranwon, 4 girls from Seumter, 40 people from Me,You, Us PC center, and 6 staff) . At that time, we needed two big buses, and Gwangjin Church and Yenung Church kindly provided those for us. We also applied for and were rewarded a tour voucher in the amount of 3,600,000 won ($3,229) from the Ministry of Culture.
The total budget for the summer camp was estimated to 9,800,000 won($8,789) for all the participants, which is a very large amount of money for us. However, through participation in marine sports and family activity programs such as rafting, banana boating, fishing, etc., we had the chance to provide special experiences and rest to the unmarried single mothers and their families, who struggle alone to raise their children in difficulties.
Following up on a report we shared in June, Ms. Youngsook Lee donated all of her gold to Aeran Network. The total sales proceeds of the gold resulted in 20,400,000 won ($18,296). When I received the gold I felt a shiver of gratitude. With her contribution, our total housing fund became 39,220,000 won ($35,175). I'd like to take this opportunity to thank her again.
I will share more stories with you about the mother who will be supported with the funding next month. There are so many stories that I want to share with you on these limited newsletters, so I have to carefully pick up only so many.
I pray for you to be careful with your health during this hot summer season. Thank you.
Aeranwon , Aeran Parent Child Support Network,
How are you doing? The weather's been really nice.
Today, the middle school students of Na-Rae Alternative school are going on a field trip to Gyeongbok Palace. As the weather is so nice, I think they will have a good time. We planned this field trip because the students told us that they have never been to Gyeongbok Palace. We had planned a nice lunch out all together after the field trip, but they had decided not to and refused politely. They said that as they have to study, they do not have much time to spend with their babies these days. So they told us that they would rather have lunch at Aeranwon with their babies. We were so moved by their maternal instincts. They are only sixteen and they would love a chance to have a nice meal at a nice restaurant, but they chose to spend that time with their babies, not in the nice restaurant. Motherhood is always admirable.
Their babies grow taller and get bigger every day. They are just so adorable. We are all so happy to see their smiles, winks and hand-clapping. We can see God’s affection and miracle through their daily lives.
Every three year, social welfare organizations get evaluations from the Government for the following six areas: facilities and environment, finance and organization management, human resources, programs, rights for people in organization and relationship with the local community. We were so busy until July 20th, as we had to submit all data from the last three years. I worked as a member of the Evaluation Committee, to develop evaluation scales. I tried to develop this scale to improve the quality of single-parent welfare organizations and to help these parents to stand on their own feet.
This was due to avoid having single-parents be dependent on government support. In the Aeran-network, Aeranwon had this evaluation on July 3rd already and Aeran Mother & Baby’s Home and Seumter will be evaluated on the 12th and 20th. Also, on the 16th, our foundation will be audited for the first half of the year. Until then, we will be very busy.
We asked you to support a single-mother family with a rice cooker last month. Thankfully, four supporters contacted us after reading our newsletter. We received three million won from Y.H. Kim and two rice cookers (30 servings) for Aeranwon from K.Y. Kim and a 6-serving rice cooker for Aeran Seumter. And also, missionary Sonia Strawn contacted us for one-on-one support and she will support 100,000 won per month for two years from now on. We thanked them very very much. However, we couldn't meet our goal, the ten million won.
But, a miracle happened!
We received a call from a supporter, Y.S. Lee, and she told us she would donate a few gold rings that she received as presents from her relatives and friends for her grand-daughter's first birthday. We thanked her and when we received her package, we were so surprised. As you can see on the picture, she donated not only a few gold rings but all the gold material she had to us. We went to jewelry shop at Shin-chon, and they were worth 15,820,000 won (equivalent to US $13,880) altogether. The owner of the jewelry shop said that she was so moved by the donor that she didn't charge us the taxes and also became a one-on–one supporter.
We asked Mrs. Lee whether we can use this money as a housing fund and help other single-mothers too, and she allowed us gladly. So we have total 18,820,000 won ($16,509) for the housing fund.
We wish this housing fund could be increased, so we can help many single-parent families, and they will be fair and honorable members of the society. Thank you all very very much.
We contacted the mother who we try to help with this fund, and she told us that she only has one month of grace period left, however, she couldn't find any solution, now she is about to give up all. However, she told us that she will never reduce her wages on purpose to get the support from government. Because when she lowers her wage, her own value seems to be lowered as well. She told us that she wants to be a dignified mother in front of her son. We told her that when the house is decided, she will get the support. She gives thanks to all supporters, and said she will pay back to help other mothers who have similar difficulties as she has now. She was so happy to find out that her problem is solved. We will keep you posted with her situation as soon as her housing is decided.
As you always support us, we found the solution again. We thank you all to help us to make single-mothers to become fair and responsible members of this society again, even under the current welfare system that lets people stay dependent on the government support. You enable us to help the single mothers be completely independent. All of you are always our power and energy and we thank you always.
Your sincere support makes all the wonders possible. I am very proud of you and I really appreciate you. Thank you. I will keep you posted. Bye.
Aeranwon. Aeran Parent Child Support Network.
Blue sky, puffy clouds, cool fields...... a good place to take a rest. Can you imagine a little stream over the trail? Just thinking of a stream makes me feel refreshed. Would you like to take a walk with me in this imaginary paradise?
A boy who worked as a shoe-shine boy at a ball park asked a coach, "How come the baseball passes over so beautifully, describing a parabola?" The coach responded, "Well, there are stitches on the ball. They are the ball’s scars and the scars make the ball fly high and far.” The boy who used to sorry for himself all the time because of his miserable life turned his thinking to a positive direction and created big dreams for his life. This is a story from Kofi Annan who was born into a poor family and had hard times in his teens. But he grew up to serve as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Like Kofi Annan, most of the single mothers at Aeran Network carry their own scars. But they eventually stand on their own feet despite the wounds, holding their once given-up dreams. Because of their unplanned pregnancies, they had to stop and look back at their lives. Those young single mothers almost always make me cry. At such a young age, they made the decision to give birth to their children, to raise those children, and to continue to get their educations under any circumstances. When their children have fevers or are sick, they run their babies to the hospital and stay by the children’s sides until the children are stabilized. I have felt sorry for them and proud of them at the same time, each time realizing the royal summons God has given me to serve.
I learn quite a lot working here. One thing I learn is the importance of a parent's role. When parents say, "I believe in you. Do your best in whatever you do" to their daughters in the Aeran Network, these young mothers realize their parents' love for them in their hearts and they are motivated to do their best to pursue their dreams. On the other hands, some of these young mothers have parents who hardly support their daughters. Some parents cut off contact with their daughters. That makes their daughters despise themselves and they consider themselves abandoned by their own parents. They often discontinue their education in despair, thinking,"What's the use of studying when there is no hope at all?" We always carefully try to contact the parents in these cases and when we do so, we emphasize that parents' emotional support is the most important factor for the young mothers to continue their schooling, and is necessary for the young mothers to lead their lives in a positive way. For this reason, we must place family preservation and family counseling as the top priority at the Aeran Network. Developing these essential programs with sincerity can lead young mothers to finish their schooling and job training and get adequate jobs as a result.
There are some people who misunderstand our Aeran Network. They tend to think of our facility as one that sends many hopeless single mothers to other facilities while only taking in some seem-to-be-successful mothers. But that's not true. It's rather the opposite. Aeranwon often holds workshops and successful case study presentations to share its know-how with other facilities.
And surely, we have another secret to success. It is you, our supporters, the hidden power of Aeran Network! Your committed support, one-on-one support, and one-on-one case management under One Stop Support System are the important, essential factors of Aeran Network.
I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart one more time.
There is one agenda that I like to ask you to help. I wrote about a single mom in the April newsletter, who finally became independent by freeing herself from government welfare, but at the same time she lost her privilege to live in a government subsidized low-income house. As a result, she had to leave her residence by the first week of July. She is now working at a dentist's office with her LPN license which she got while staying at Aeran Mother and Baby's Home. She is working very hard and has a plan to go to a college to study dental hygiene after saving some money.
But she is frustrated so much these days because it is impossible for her to save enough money to pay the full deposit of her newly rented house. If she cannot get the money, she has to give up her current job and go back to the government welfare system. We are looking for a one-to-one sponsor who is willing to provide her with the deposit and the monthly rent. If only one of you can support her, she can keep her job and be independent in the near future. Your support will mean a lot to her and her son!
And there is one more donation we need. An electric rice cooker for 6~8 people is needed at Aeran Seumter. Please contact us if you can donate. A used one is fine as long as it's in good working condition.
On the 19th of May, a seminar was held by Psychology Society and Infants Psychiatric Health Society. I attended the seminar and made a presentation. One of the panelists told that Aeran Network seemed to be working quite effectively for the single mothers, but by the same token the staff seemed too overworked to properly take care of themselves. Much more benefit for the staff should be put into action, he suggested.
We all agree to the suggestion, but due to a financial deficit, that change is really hard to put it into practice. I feel so sorry about that.
There is a dry spell now throughout the country. We need rain! I hope you are all well in this season. I will keep you posted. Thank you, and good-bye!
Aeranwon. Aeran Parent-Child Support Network.
May, the queen of the season, is in its peak now. I have an American friend who visits Seoul every winter. This year, she came to Seoul at the end of April and was surprised to find so many flowers blooming in the city. She never guessed Seoul could be this beautiful at this time of year. As always, nature enriches our lives with such pleasure and wisdom, doing what it has to do all over the place.
Some say, "Modesty itself is the earth." That's because the earth embraces and promotes living all the time, holding out against the hard times. That reminds me of many young single mothers who are doing their best to raise their children up, putting up with their own trauma, financial problems, and the social biases that exist against them.
A young mom, a junior at the Narae Alternative School, had been in agony for quite a while as to whether she would place her baby up for adoption as her father was insisting she do. Eventually, she talked it over with her father when he visited Aeranwon. She asked him, "Daddy, may I lead my life in a little different way than you or my sister?" Her father, exhausted from his hard life, thought it over and finally agreed to let his daughter do what she really wanted to. He told her, "O.K. I believe there is no one standard, right way to live. You just do your best under the circumstances. It would be the most natural for you to live your life in any way you please."
This young mom is the one who couldn't get the recommendation letter from her original school. (I talked about her in a previous communication to you.) Without that letter, she was going to have to cease her education even at the Narae Alternative School, so we sent a petition to Korea’s National Human Rights Committee. As soon as the petition was duly processed, her school took the necessary action to ensure that she could continue her schooling at Narae. She gave birth to a baby girl and breast-fed her. Now her daughter is six months old. This young mother loves ballet class, one of our alternative classes at Narae. She lost some weight after delivery thanks to the ballet class and she is happy to get her figure back. Upon her suggestion, we added 30 more minutes to the ballet class, making it a 90-minute class. We all are pleased to see her enjoying her life, forming a close relationship with her daughter and studying hard!
Our fundraising bazaar was held on April 28th and was a success thanks to your support. Funds raised totaled $6,130. All the staff members were relieved and thankful to achieve the goal of $6,000 that we had set. I appreciate all the support you give. As stated before, the funds, including those raised at the fall bazaar, will go to the Aeran Self-Supporting Home so that young single mothers can maximize the benefits there.
Thank you very much! I hope you are well in peace.
Aeran Parent Child Support Network
Spring flowers are in full bloom on the streets as well as in the mountains. But as the daily temperature range is quite extensive, please be careful not to catch a cold. If you do, hope you take a very good care of yourself. These days symptoms of the cold are so severe.
There's a very good news to spread. One of the former residents of Aeran Seumter got a very good job after passing the national qualification exam, earning Degree 1 as "Social Worker." Her social worker when she stayed at Aeranwon made her have a dream to be a wonderful social worker like her. She studied very hard to get into college and graduated in four years, majoring in social work.
One of our supporters has sponsored her tuition and she is so pleased to see her graduate. She was a little doubtful about if she really could finish her school, frankly speaking. She is so proud of her, because what she is now was what she wanted her to be. I have a sincere belief that this young lady will do her best to accomplish her duty as a social worker. That made me realize one more time how important one's education can be. And to my pleasant surprise, the supporter promised to sponsor another college mom at Seumter. My sincere thanks goes to her!
I have quite different stories to share about two unwed single mothers. One achieved her goal of a certificate to work at a day care center after having one year of education, but she is not willing to get a full time job, because she knows she will lose some privileges on her government welfare if she earns more than W 1,225,000 ($1000). She is now making about W 700,000 ($575) a month, and maintains the qualification for government welfare and also lives at a government rental apartment for low-income single parent families with her nine year old son. She pays only W 80,000 ($70) a month for the rental. She is working at this and that, also volunteering at the Narae Alternative School as a part-time lecturer in after-school classes.
The other also got a certificate as an aid-nurse, and to get a better and more stable position she had herself educated in more specialized and specified fields, getting the related certificates, too. As a result, she was offered a very good position. But as soon as she got the job, she was excluded from the government social welfare system. Luckily she still could live at a rental apartment with her seven year old son only because her income did not go over W 1,225,000 ($1,000) per month. A little later, she was promoted to a higher position with a salary of W 1,700,000 ($1,500) per month. She was happy because she finally could get out of government welfare. But a whole new problem occurred soon. Her contract for the rental house will become due in June this year and she cannot make a new contract for the rental because she is over-qualified now. She lost her privilege as a low income single parent family which enabled her to live at a rental house of the government, due to her comparatively high income. Now she has to rent a regular house or apartment to live with her son. Her living expenses including the rent, her son's schooling, and child care will go up high. If so, she will be working hard, with no savings and no future at all. It seems that she is going back to the start. That's why she is debating with herself whether she had better quit her job so that she can go back to government welfare. She is now considering very seriously to go back to the government's welfare in order to get the privilege of its housing welfare.
As you know, once you are in the government welfare system, it is hard to get out of it. Aeran Parent Child Support Network has informed this problem several times to the government in various channels. If the government lets mothers keep their privilege for the government rental house for five years no matter what, they will try very hard to stand on their feet in that given time and accordingly, the government can save quite a sum of welfare budget and at the same time, working mothers can pay taxes, bringing up their children to be good citizens. The government is now spending lots of money to raise the birthrate, but supporting those already-born children should be urgent and important, too. What do you think? What is your opinion?
If we switch our mind toward the young single mothers from the welfare beneficiaries to the important future human resources, deep social bias will be eased sooner rather than later. I hope this notion can materialize in no time so that many single mothers can get their self-esteem back. Let's pray for them, please.
I will let you go now. Hope you keep your health in good shape and I will see you next month.
Sang Soon Han
Aeranwon/Aeran PC Support Network
I am sending my sincere thanks to all who sponsor Aeran Network with cash donations, goods donations, volunteering, and prayers. Many of you sent me comforting messages after reading the February newsletter. Realizing I have been loved by so many people, I was so happy. I consider all the ups and downs in my life not like a coincidence but like a learning course in a curriculum. With our Lord in my heart, I accept any hardships thankfully.
One of the former residents who used to stay at Aeranwon 18 years ago came to my office to find that I had surgery. She called me at the hospital, crying all the while she was on the phone. And the following day she called me again, saying she would donate $3,000. It was way too much money considering her situation and I had to refuse to accept the donation several times. But she kept insisting that I should accept and use it for good. I finally accepted her offer and decided to use the money for the Seumter, because her birth daughter adopted after birth reached about the same age as the children in Aeran Seumter. She loved the idea and sent the money right away. It was a great pleasure for me to see one of our mothers who once had been helped give her support back to others. And it would be one of my utmost responsibilities to use those valuable funds in the most appropriate way.
Thanks to your love and prayers, there have been many positive changes at Aeran PC Support Network in 2011.
At Aeranwon, we were all worried about a premature baby who lost his weight to 1.5kg from 2kg since birth. But the baby survived the incubator and now is growing up with his mom's care. It was imperative to expand the nursery at Aeranwon, because more and more birth mothers decided to bring up their baby by themselves. Owing to the help of Seoul City and the Ministry of Women and Family, we could add some space to it. I was very happy for the moms and the babies. They are going to play a very important role in the near future in our low-birthrate, aging society. Please stop by sometime so that I can show you around.
At Aeran Seumter, there were one each of junior high and high school graduates, and two college goers. And two young people got their jobs with their certificates after finishing their job training. Seumter is a facility for young single mothers who cannot go back to their homes even though they are done with their high school education and job training session. The reason they cannot go back even when they have a job is that their home is not ready to have them back due to many domestic problems.
Seumter at first nested on a free-rent house belonging to a church, but the lease ended last year and it was quite a challenge for us to move, but thanks to our Lord and your help, we could move to a new place at Hongeun-dong, Seoul. And as I told you before, many of the appliances were replaced to brand new ones to every moms' pleasant surprise.
At Aeran Mother & Baby's Home, three young mothers graduated from high school: one went to a college and two started their job training. Our neighbor, Kwang Sung Church, has been supporting the first birthday party for the babies and at that special event, young single mothers got together with their families and gave their pledges to do their best in order to bring up their children as well as possible in the course of studying hard and getting a job.
At Narae Alternative School, the number of enrolled student has increased to 15 in 2011 from 4 in 2010. Six of them were done with all the required course work and went on to a high school. The rest either returned to their regular high school or returned to Narae Alternative School again. Unlike the original purpose of the school, some of the students wanted to go on to a college. That's why we made a special effort to provide them with more advanced course works. Thanks to teachers, staff, and volunteers, we could offer them specifically leveled course work in special after school classes. But still, it went without saying that we should reinforce some of the teaching courses. Above all, it seems that Narae Alternative School needs to be transformed into a separate independent school due to the increase of the enrolled students. I am looking forward to building a new school equipped with its dormitory and a child care center.
As our Me.You.Us Parent Child Support Center was chosen as the designated Unwed Single Parent Support Agency in Seoul, we are going to more actively carry out the supporting programs for the single parent households. As for the Center project, we developed and implemented Unwed Single Parent Education Classified by Age for the single parents who went back to their homes. Case studies of single mothers on the education program with independence supporting project were presented last November to share the results with other facilities.
At the Center, four mothers got a job after finishing their job training with an appropriate certificate. One single mother passed the high school qualification test. And a first-level handicapped mom, a mom with cancer, and a mom with an emergency delivery were all well helped. No wonder they consider us the only agency that can carry out all the cases of crisis intervention with success. As the children of single parent households at the center were growing up, we went camping to Kangreung, Kangwon Province, for two nights and three days last summer. It was our first camp out and was a great success. All the children and their single parents enjoyed the trip a lot, having a very good time. And for the year-end party in 2011, more than 100 joined to have fun. The party was successfully carried out by the single mothers from the beginning to the end.
As always, the year 2011 has been a wonderful one with so many vigorous and moving events. And for the year of 2012, there are some projects that have overriding priority.
Being a designated Unwed Parent Support Agency in Seoul, the Me.You.Us Parent Child Support Center will expand its projects on the crisis intervention for the single parent households and the independency support. We are going to try to level-up our job training for the single mothers from the mere way of earning with any job to the adoptive way of developing their potential capabilities and enhancing their careers.
Also, we are going to strengthen our three level case management service for single parent independency at all of the Aeran PC Network. The quality of Narae Alternative School education should be improved, too.
There will be an evaluation for women welfare facility this year. After the evaluation, we are going to have a special workshop for all the staff. Your support and prayers will be needed in order to perform all our plans with success. God bless you and your family! Please be happy in good health all year round. Thank you.
Sang Soon Han
Aeranwon/Aeran PC Support Network
How are you? This is the second letter of 2012. Remember when I said that, with our belief in God, we could go anywhere and do anything? Well, not long after writing that, things took an unexpected turn for me. I had no idea that I would start this year in a hospital!!
Due to severe back pain, I had spine surgery on January 18th, and since then I have been resting at home. One of our volunteers visited me in the hospital to pray with me. While there, she commented, "Blessings come after hardship, so let's wait and see what blessing our Lord has in store for you." I told her that I already felt blessed at the end of last year when our Me.You.Us Parent Child Support Center was chosen as the designated Single Parent Support Agency in Seoul. We both burst out laughing when she said, "Ah, then, I guess the Lord wanted to humble you!"
Being hospitalized, I had the opportunity to meet many other patients all suffering from different illnesses. I realized how thankful I am for the everyday things that I can do like breathing, standing, sitting, eating, and lying down. I had taken all that for granted and had forgotten to be grateful for what seemed, at the time, like trivial abilities. When I was sick, those simple activities were very hard for me to perform for quite a while. In the many years since I first started at Aeranwon in 1990, I worked without great worry or fear for my health. But I have realized that it is only with the Lord’s blessings that I have been able to accomplish all that I have. I thought I knew that, but I didn’t truly know it in my heart. I hope I don’t forget the lesson I learned through this very physical experience.
On January 4th, there was the first baptism of the year; four mothers and three babies were baptized. The mothers did their middle and high school education at the Narae Alternative School. As part of their baptism, they also took part in Bible study.
There is one thing that I ask you to pray for us. A volunteering minister who had been in charge of the Sunday evening service at Aeranwon has tendered his resignation and will be leaving in March. We thank Kiwon Shin our minister for his messages and hard work. As the service is optional for mothers, a minister plays a very important role here. We are hoping that our new minister will also be one who has a deep loving and caring mind toward mothers. Please pray for us.
Well, that's all for now. I will keep you posted with more details next month. It will be a Spring newsletter. I wish you well. Thank you and goodbye.
Aeran PC Support Network
God bless all of you at home and work as well in the year of 2012! There is no way to foresee our future, but as we believe in our God under any circumstances, we can travel to the unknown times with comfort and confidence. We are praying for unwed single mothers suffering from prejudice and discrimination in society, and for our supporters and volunteers who have helped those anguished mothers.
There is a piece of happy news I would like to share. At the end of last year, The Me.You.Us Parent-Child Support Center was selected as 'Unwed Single Parent Support Agency' for the year of 2012 - 2013 by the Ministry of Women and Family and the City of Seoul. There are seventeen agencies nationwide and they are mostly managed by the Healthy Home Support Center. The government regulates its role as to emergency/crisis support, psychological/emotional support for single parent homes, supporting the program with the budget of about 53 million won per year.
On the 22nd of December, the City of Seoul did its presentation on the project and asked me how we were going to differentiate us from other competitive agencies. I answered we would co-operate with Aeran Parent Child Support Network systematically to help the Unwed Parent-Child independent providing them not only public support but also private supplemental services through one-on-one specialized case management, because a temporary public support would not accomplish its goal. And the task was not a mere 'job' but a 'Calling' for us from God, I added.
Actually, Aeranwon has addressed the importance of supporting Unwed single parent homes many times to the government through our reports since 2005. Eventually recognizing the importance, in 2006, the government planned to organize a system to support them after a three-year demo management of Aeranwon with a co-operation of the Ministry of Women and Family. But this project stopped in the middle of the project due to the change of government organizations.
Most of all, I am glad that Me.You.Us Parent-Child Support Center went into the circle of the government system. The present system, which simply focuses on building more facilities and supporting everything they want, may result in more and more Unwed single parents’ letting themselves be dependent on the system.
I think it is an investment for our future human resources development, as well as a way to decrease future social welfare expenses. I will operate this system so it can be established according to its original purpose and to be actually helpful for the independence of the unwed single parents and children.
On Dec. 27, there was a year end party at nearby Bongwon Church for the re-married single mothers and their children. 54 single mothers joined the party and many volunteers came to take care of their children just like last year. This year, a concert featuring Kim Ja-kyung Opera Group was performed sponsored by E-Corporation. In addition, I deeply appreciate 'Canadian Women's Club', Culture and Arts Public Welfare Contribution Network, and other 'anonymous' contributors who supported the gift portion of the party. Thanks to you all, it was a wonderful party that everyone enjoyed.
Aeran Network gets lots of good news items all the time and I wish I could share each and every one of them, but this letter might become too lengthy. I am going to deliver major news diligently through these monthly letters. Until next month then. Thank you always.
Aeranwon / Aeran Parent Child Support Network
Thank you so much for your continuous love and support of our Aeran Parent Child Support Network this year.
Thanks to your support, we promise to do our best in 2012 to support our Moms to live a stable life and our children to grow up as future valuable future resources in partnership with the single mothers in 2012.
I pray God bless you and be with you for 2012, who has embraced with a warm and open heart and supported our Moms, so they won’t have to give up their lives in difficulties.
Thank you again.
Aeran PC Support Network
The last month of 2011 is passing by fast. I feel rather comfortable knowing that someday the Lord will call me to come to Heaven. Since there is no way to know when that will be, I will just do my best doing whatever I have to do until then.
I have been so happy to work at Aeran Parent Child Support Network since this year and I deeply appreciate your support. Without your commitment, I couldn't have done it at all. To be frank with you, I feel overwhelmed from time to time, but whenever there's a crisis to overcome, you always reach out to us with your help.
In the 1990s, most of the unwed mothers placed their babies for adoption. This decision ate away at their hearts and many of them cried for days on end. It was so painful for me to see them troubled by their anguish. But when some returned to Aeranwon being pregnant again, I realized each and every one of them had deep wound inside them that needed to be healed. Their wounds should be healed once and for all for good.
Your support has helped many unwed mothers to dream again and to try to make their dreams come true. Instead of choosing adoption for their children, many are now making the choice to raise their babies. To bring up their child as well as possible, they try to further their education and receive job training. Little by little, hope has taken the place of despair, and laughter has replaced crying. These small, but great changes are owed to our Lord and his representatives, you, all the supporters!
The case study presentation held on November 24th was a success. As posted, the results of Parent Education Program which has been carried out since 2006 also were presented. It revealed that most birth mothers experience a lot of difficulties while bringing up their children. These difficulties are due, primarily, to lack of support from families and friends. This originates in the fact that many of these mothers themselves were abused and mistreated in their own homes. In cases where the birthmothers never attached with their own mothers, the problems that arise while parenting worsen for birthmothers with this history. That's why, in 2006, Aeran Parent Child Support Network started the Parent Education Program which includes a special 'attachment program'. Now it is up and running effectively and generating some positive results. At the November 24th gathering, we presented a number of case studies in order to share the results of this Parent Education Program with other related organizations. Many public officials and community facility personnel who couldn't attend the meeting then, have asked us to do the presentation one more time and we are planning to do so next year.
Our neighbor, Kwang Sung Church, has been supporting our first birthday party celebrations each month. Two babies had their first birthday parties on November 26. Their mothers are a sophomore and senior in high school, respectively. For the parties, church staff and the young mothers got together and discussed the importance of the event. Later, the church staff told us how all the worries they had about the young, single mothers were groundless and that they realized the age of a mother did not necessarily determine whether the mother was going to be a good parent. One high school sophomore birthmother's mom attended the party. She commented, "I was shocked and disappointed with my daughter so much when I found out she was pregnant when she was only a 7th grader. But thanks to the Narae Alternative School, she has been able to go on to high school and take care of her child. Now I am so proud of my daughter and I am getting to know a world that I would have otherwise not known. If she had gotten an abortion as I planned at first, I would have never learned how precious a life can be. I don't know how to thank you for helping my daughter." While listening to this mom, I thought about the fact that everyone has various crises that they have to overcome in life, but in all those critical moments, our Lord helps lead us down the right path and we need to just follow Him. That's a blessing that only those who have overcome their troubles can understand. My staff and I were so proud of those young mothers who participated in the Parent Education Program as often as they could and who have raised their children with successful attachment. We cry because we are so happy not sad.
This is to announce that Me.You.Us. Parent Child Support Center is going to hold a year-end party. We are inviting all the members of unwed single mothers' households in the community. Last year, a total of 53 mothers came to the party and 36 volunteers came to take care of the 36 children. This year, about 100 single mothers and their children will join the party. We are going to give out some presents to console and encourage them. If you have anything to donate as a gift, please do so for the party. We are also looking for supporters willing to give monetary donations of $10 per person attending the party. Please help us to comfort single mothers and their children with your support of the year-end party.
The appliances needed at the Self Supporting Homes have been replaced with new ones thanks to Minister Geun Hwe Cho, Mrs. Jaewook Han, and Mr. Soonho Shin. Mothers at the Homes were very happy to see new appliances because they were expecting just other used ones. We deeply thank those three supporters, for giving us such wonderful Christmas presents! We owe you a lot!!
Christmas is coming. We wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Thanks a bunch!!
Aeranwon / Aeran Parent Child Support Network
It's a season of Fall trees with their vivid colored leaves. Such a beautiful season! Falling autumn leaves in warm breezes make me so happy. Trees, even though they are getting ready for the coming harsh winter, give us such pleasure. I wish the hard times in our lives could be remembered as beautifully as those falling leaves. It seems most of life’s precious moments come to us wrapped in difficult ordeals as in the Psalms verse, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."
Life of single mothers in Korea is so tough. Their lives seem to be a series of unfortunate incidents. They have suffered from the difficulties of growing-up and adolescence, through pregnancy and childbirth. Those hardships, however, allow them a chance to stop for awhile and take a good look at their lives. They are called to ponder where they are going. And meanwhile, the rest of us here witness, each day, those single mothers becoming more responsible, more mature, and healthier physically and psychologically.
Even though they were not ready for their unplanned pregnancies, they decided to give birth and raise their children on their own. To do so, they had to fight social prejudice and cope amidst financial difficulties. For the past 30 years, I have seen so many of those young, single, courageous, strong-willed mothers struggle to become independent, sound members of our society. It goes without saying that if it had not been for all of you, our supporters and volunteers, they could not have reached their goals. All of us truly appreciate your support.
There is a poem with this same story that I would like to share.
A Jujube by Chang, Sukjoo
That can't be ripe red by itself.
Couple of typhoons, couple of thunders,
couple of bolts of lightning might have it ripe red.
That can't be getting round by itself.
Couple of nights with early frost, month of hot sunshine,
a few nights of crescent might have it getting round.
All of you, supporters and volunteers, are the hidden power of our Aeran Network. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The bazaar held on Oct. 29th was a success thanks to the sponsors and volunteers. We raised a total of $6,534 including 750,000won of the bazaar supporting aid. I really appreciate all the sponsors and volunteers who support us in any way possible, and those who visit the bazaar. The raised money will be used all for the single mothers and their children at the Self-supporting Home.
There is an announcement I want make. The presentation of a case (managed by the Aeran Parent Child Support Network) and a special lecture on Parent Education for the unwed single mothers with case studies will be held at the Great Meeting Room on the third floor of Seodaemoon-gu Office from 14:00 to 17:00 on Thursday, Nov. 24th. I will report you about it next month.
Thank you very much.
Aeranwon / Aeran Parent Child Support Network
Hello. With sincere thanks to our supporters and volunteers, I'm letting you know what happened at Aeran Network last month. But I am wondering if you read the Newsletter which we send biannually. It had a lot of news in. The other day I visited one of our generous supporters. He said there seemed no distinguishable difference between Aeranwon and other social welfare facilities that he has been supporting. And in the course of conversation, I realized he had never read our monthly or biannual newsletters. I earnestly requested him to read the newsletter every month in order to get to know exactly what is going on at Aeranwon. I earnestly request that you, too, please read our monthly newsletter without fail.
There have been more and more students coming to the Narae Alternative School which opened last year. Now there are five middle school students and eight high school students. As there are an increased number of high school students who want to go to a college, we social workers and the teachers at the school have become very alert to improve their scholastic ability to get a better score on the College Test. As there was a gap between each student's capability anyway, teachers divided students into separate classes according to their levels for English and Math. And for other subjects, students were connected to volunteers who taught them individually. Private Internet lectures are being used, too. They are studying until 11 at night on their own these days. They are not supposed to study later than 11 because they had better be careful about their pregnancy.
There was, however, a very sad incident that we couldn't do much about. Last month one girl entered Aeranwon. She is a third level student at a high school. She was very happy to know that she doesn't have to give up her study even though she is pregnant. She needed just one more semester to graduate. But to enroll at the Narae School, it is imperative for the students to get a recommendation letter from her regular high school principal. Unfortunately, her principal refused to write a recommendation letter for her even though not only she and her parents but teachers at the Narae Alternative School asked over and over. Even a city school inspector visited him in vain. She eventually had to drop out of school. There seem to be so many obstacles to overcome for teen mothers' education.
Here is another sad story about a single mom who decided to give birth because of her responsibility for her baby despite that she, in a sense, expected lots of difficulties caused by social prejudice. She was admitted into Aeranwon and gave birth to her healthy son. She made a choice to raise her son by herself instead of letting him be adopted. She studied very hard and got a license to work after having vocational training, and she finally got a job. She has been working very hard for the past seven years, bringing up her child as well as she could. She has joined the Parenting Education Class of Me.You.Us Support Center to raise him with love and care. Lately, one of the famous Daily Newspapers asked us to interview one single mother on its special article about unwed single mothers, and because she wanted to lessen the prejudice in the society on unwed mothers, she volunteered and did get the interview (of course namelessly). But it turned out to be a disaster. As soon as her interview was on the Internet site of the Daily Newspaper, there were tens of vicious replies and posts on the Internet and she got hurt deeply. All of us felt so sorry for her. Deep social bias still firmly exists.
On October 29th, Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the fall bazaar will be held at Aeranwon. Please pray for it. The funds raised will be used for the self-supporting group home for the mothers who raise their children. You know, on the bazaar, purchasing is donating at the same time. :)I am so proud that you are a supporter at Aeranwon.
With my sincere thanks. Thank you!!
Sang Soon Han
It's August already! It seems the end of this year is running toward us. Some say life goes 10km/hour for the teens, 20 for the twenties, 30 for the thirties, 40 for the forties, 50 for the fifties, and so on. Why do we feel time flies as we get older? One theory is that the old and the young have different speed systems. As we get old, such vital signs as breath, blood pressure, pulse, and metabolism slow down and our physical movements get sluggish. That's why we feel that time passes so quickly compared to our physical slowness. Seeing that I feel time really flies, I must really be getting old. :D
Did you have a good summer vacation? As our staff members take turns going on their summer vacations, there is not much going on at Aeranwon. It has been comparatively uneventful here at the Aeran Network. But I keep myself busy at this time of year preparing for the many guests who visit. Most of them are overseas-adoptees. Those adoptees usually come to Aeranwon to get some information about their biological families and to find out more about their biological mothers and thus, understand the harsh circumstances under which they were placed for adoption. These adoptees also seek to resolve identity crises and anger rooted in the abandonment they feel from their biological mothers.
Many of the adoptees who visit have already read I Wish for You a Beautiful Life published by Aeranwon in 1999, so they truly understand that they were not just given up by their birthmothers. They realize now how deep their biological mothers’ sorrow and agony were, and how hard these women tried to bring up their children on their own. Despite the fact that most adoptees intellectually understand this, emotionally they still want to the answer to the question, "Why?" (Most of them probably have not read Aeranwon’s second book - Dreaming a World- published in January 2010.)
Most adoptees who visit Aeranwon are between 20 and 40, and their faces reflect how good or bad their lives have been to them. When they visit in small groups, they almost always want to meet single mothers who once placed their children for adoption. At Aeranwon we have a special volunteer group of past Aeranwon clients, and these women meet with visiting groups whenever they are available.
To the single mothers who have placed their children for adoption, the adoptees they meet represent the children whom they placed. It is good for single mothers to meet with adoptees and help the adoptees resolve hurt feelings and anger caused by adoption. In doing so, these single mothers believe that in return, when required, their birth children will be able to find the help they need.
One recent visiting group consisted of six adult adoptees. This group wanted to know how tough it was to be an unmarried single mom in our society, how what kinds of childhoods these birthmothers had had, under what circumstances they became pregnant and delivered their children, and how they came to the decision of adoption (especially if their children were going to be placed internationally), and how they feel about their birthchildren today. Single mothers who volunteered to meet with this small group answered every question as honestly and earnestly as they could. Some of the adoptees didn't talk at all, sitting at the meeting with gloomy expressions, but they all listened to the single moms with care.
Among the members of this visiting group, there was a 25-year old young man who wanted to find his biological mother, but realized it would be impossible due to the lack of information available to do a search. Following the meeting with our single mothers, this young man approached one single mother in the group. This woman was waiting for her own birth son to come back someday from the United States and look for her, his biological mother. The young man consoled the single mom, saying that her son would surely be back for her whenever her son had time and opportunity.
The young man and the single mother promised and embraced as they encouraged each other to be patient until they could meet their respective biological family members. This experience contributed to the healing of both their wounds. We all realized the meeting helped the young man to open his mind, who later shared that he had been thinking about committing suicide all along.
Looking at those single mothers and young adoptees in the meeting, I learned that newly born love and care can grow on top of old wounds. The bigger old wounds are, the wider and the deeper world we can find to create this new love and care. I have always been so proud of these mothers at Aeranwon. They have been strong enough to help others even through their own sorrow and pain. They have said, "We can understand how great [the adoptees’] pain is because we have been there before." Those strong-willed single mothers are a valuable source of power to the Aeran Network and its life-saving mission, in addition to our generous supporters and volunteers. Where on Earth could I meet these beautiful women if I didn't come to Aeranwon?
I thank God for allowing me this precious encounter.
There are many things I want to share with you, but the stories are getting too long. I will let you go now, but keep continue to keep you posted. I hope you have a wonderful summer with good health. And I will pray for you all. Thank you!!
Aeran Parent Child Support Network
Hello. It's getting warmer and warmer. I hope you have a wonderful summer in good health.
According to Dr. Harry F. Harlow, who was an American psychologist best known for his maternal-separation and social isolation experiments on rhesus monkeys, infant monkeys raised in isolation chambers emerged severely disturbed even though they got fed enough food. As a lack of contact comfort is psychologically stressful to the monkeys, they showed a lot of trouble in social and cognitive development. The importance of these findings is that nursing strengthened the mother-child bond because of the intimate body contact that it provided. He described his experiments as a study of love. And he also believed that contact comfort could be provided by either the mother or the father.
Believing that children raised with love can understand and care about others with a great capability of resilience, in 2010 we carried out a model program on forming strong attachment between unwed mothers and their children under the guidance of a specialist. The results were successful. And to share the results with all the other Maternity Homes and Group Homes for the Unwedmother-child, and to educate the importance of the mother-child bond, we held a special workshop with the theme of "raising single-parent children with success" on December 9, 2010. We informed single parents that their own attitude towards their child was tremendously important to form their child's creativity, high self-esteem, and credibility. The workshop was also a great success.
Actually, there was momentum for us to hold the mother-child bond program at Aeranwon last year. There was a teen single mother who didn't have any emotional bonds with her baby. The baby was very restless, fussing and crying a lot whenever he was held by the mother. The young mom didn't understand why her child behaved that way at all. We encouraged her to take part in the special program to enhance the mother-child attachment and videotaped how she dealt with her baby in everyday situations. She finally realized that the problem was with her, not her child. After the program, she changed her attitude towards her baby in a positive way, trying to raise her baby as well as possible. And she herself did pass the high school graduation test and now is ready for job training at the Aeran Mother-Baby’s Home in Aeran PC Network.
These days 80% of single mothers prefer to raise their own children rather than to give them up for adoption. That is why we are trying to help them raise their children well. Most of them now realize that their swift response to the baby's needs, warm bodily contact, and positive conversation help their child grow well enough to be a good member of the society.
The bazaar held on May 14th was a great success thanks to your support. We raised total of 6,600,000 Won, including cash donation of 1,100,000 Won. Lots of single mothers in the community came to the bazaar because the price of the goods was very low and a variety of food was prepared. We gave them free coupons for the food and let the mothers have any food they wanted.
Although sharing food with them at the bazaar did not make a good profit, it did make the event very enjoyable. It was my great pleasure to see all the mothers and their children enjoy the event.
The fund will be used to support those single mothers at the Self Supporting Home who are eager to stand on their own feet in the society. I deeply thank each and every supporter for your donation, and for coming to our bazaar, purchasing goods, and encouraging us.
Your sincere support makes all the wonders possible. I am very proud of you and I really appreciate. Thank you. I will keep you posted. Bye.
Aeran Parent Child Support Network
Greetings from Aeranwon and Aeran network to you all in May, the queen month in all seasons, May. Beautiful flowers are everywhere. Wish you and your family the very best for this month of family
Working at Aeranwon, I realize how important a well-functioning home is for children. I keenly feel all the time the importance of raising a child with love and care, experiencing the deep inner wounds and anger of young teen mothers. In the 1990s when teen mothers made up to 75% of the unwed mothers of Aeranwon, I once planned to move to a child-care facility. Even though I didn’t carry out the plan, I clearly understood the scriptural phrase: "Don't make your child get angry." And like a saying, "A broken hand works, but not a broken heart," children whose home is unstable hardly get along with others well enough to be a friend with them because of their own suppressed anger, fear, and pain. That's why we have helped and encouraged young mothers to learn the way to build up credibility and love between themselves without hurting each other while staying at Aeranwon.
One of the young mothers at Narae Alternative School said she felt so good that she could even be proud of herself when she was done with all the house chores, such as laundry and cleaning. She also told me she became so thankful for everything. She used to be a church-goer before being admitted to Aeranwon but didn't believe in God. Now she is a true believer. Aeranwon becomes a place of hope and peace thanks to those mothers who lead their lives strong in a positive attitude, studying hard with a high hope and dream.
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who developed a type of existentialist analysis, Logotherapy, successfully treated his patients by helping them focus on a will to meaning of their life. He believed that the striving to find a meaning in one's life is the primary and most powerful motivating and driving force in humans. I cannot help but strongly agree with his theory.
I’d like to share another bit of good news with you.
I mentioned that we were collecting for a security deposit 5,490,000 won to rent a Self-supporting home for the young mothers. Thankfully, the fund was raised to a total amount of 5,525,000 won. Our sponsors donated for the special collection, 3,900,000 won, and we received two unexpected donations in the amount of 1,625,000 won. And one prayer came to us and said that she wants to donate 1 million won to obey God’s will. It was so amazing. The total collection was just a bit higher than our goal by 35,000 won. The excess will be deposited into the account which is used to support the Self-supporting Home.
I would like to thank God and our supporters so much.
There is no way we can keep on going without your precious support. I deeply appreciate your help. Thank you, thank you, and thank you!!
I will keep you posted. See you then.
Sang Soon Han
It's a beautiful season! I can see the trees are changing day by day when I walk to work through the campus of Yonsei University every morning. Azaleas, forsythias, and magnolias are full-blooming and it won't be long for all trees to get blossomed with their many shades of green. Every spring we can eyewitness a miracle. That's how we can have hope for tomorrow in spite of bad news from the world.
Aeran Network has been peaceful these days. Newly admitted young mothers who were quite defensive and aggressive when they first came into the Network now are pretty cooperative to other mothers and staff, putting down their guards. The teachers who used to teach them at their regular school visited once and were surprised to see them change their attitudes. They are getting rid of their desperate and negative attitudes now. It is such a pleasure to see them focus on their lives with confidence. Their high-toned laughter, their babies crying, the sound of cooing the babies, and even their complaining about tight class schedules are all so sweet music to my ear.
But, you know, it can’t always be quiet with no problems, especially in a big family like us. One of the serious problems is lack of support. A company that used to support us with personnel expenses for a staff in charge of fund-raising, volunteer, and public relations, informed us that it could not help but stop the support because of the bad economy situation. We were just about to hire more staff to ease the staff's overloaded work. We are now only praying for God's blessing.
Another thing we have to overcome is to get a place - a Self supporting Home - for young mothers who gave their babies up for adoption. A church used to provide us with a small house for them but the church needs the house back now. Those young mothers have to move out of the house in June. We have been looking for a monthly-rent housing which can be purchased in the long run. Luckily there is a three -bedroom house at Hongeun-dong and we are going to make a contract with Korea Land and Housing Corporation. It is for unwed mothers who have a job with a high school diploma and job education after putting their baby up for adoption. The house is on a steep hill, but close to their work place, and our office as well, so that they can commute to work with ease and we can give them help any time they need. We have to pay 5,490,000 Won (exchange rate: 1068/1$) for deposit and 245,000 Won for monthly rent. If we can put 41,865,000 Won for deposit, then there will be no monthly payment. If, by any chance, some of you can help us with part of the deposit, it will be a great relief for all of us.
Recently, one of the young mothers in this place tried to commit suicide by cutting an artery on her wrist. She was admitted to Aeranwon at the age of 16, delivered a baby, put the baby up for adoption, and was admitted to Seumter. She has done her best to stand up on her feet. In fifteen months, she has passed not only her middle school qualification test but also the high school one. And having done with her job training, she got a job immediately. She has been saving as much money as she possibly could. But her father who went broke living with his girl friend asked her for quite a sum of money. She sent all the money she had and committed suicide that night. She was saved all right and began to work again. We were so sorry to see the 20-year old girl struggle to live on her own with all the burden she got. She reminds me of the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin's poem, "Should this life sometime deceive you, Don't be sad or mad at it! On a gloomy day, submit: Trust- fair day will come,,,”
There were several crisis cases we encountered at Me.You.Us Parent-Child Center. There is a 25-year old single mother who suffered from a lung cancer. Being on the last stage, she gave birth, but she had no one to take care of the child. Even adoption agencies rejected intaking her baby. Lately so many serious cases came into the Aeran Network. Aeran Network seems to be the last stronghold. We are doing our very best to help them out.
There will be a bazaar on Saturday, May 14th, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Aeranwon. We hold a bazaar twice a year, every spring and fall, and the funds raised from the bazaar has been used for the Self-supporting Home. If you have items such as appliances, clothes, and general goods, please send them to us for the bazaar. Used ones are fine. And if you can come to Aeranwon and participate in the bazaar, all the staff members and mothers will be greatly encouraged.
They say laughter brings us happiness, happiness does not make us laugh. And they believe thinking can change behavior, behavior can change habits, and habits can change fate. But from time to time, behavior can change thinking and habit as well. Let's give it a try to laugh out loud on purpose when we feel like giving up. God bless you all, and wish all be happy! Thank you very much.
Sang Soon Han
Aeran Parent Child Support Network.
Thank you all who love, support, and pray for the Aeran Parent Child Support Network. God's blessings and your support have enabled us to organize all the more specialized and systemized networks to help single mothers be independent and stable in the society. We couldn't have done itwithout you!
The year 2010 has been a meaningful one for us. Most of all, it was a blessing and a pleasure to see babies born everyday, and their young single mothers get settled day by day. Especially, seeing the babies grow healthy made me realize how valuable life is. If somebody wonders if there is a miracle in this modern society, I will tell him without hesitation thatlife itself is a miracle. And also I was told keeping Aeran Network in control was a miracle, too.
I feel such a tremendous responsibility whenever I watch the innocent eyes of the babies. I sincerely wish our society to be a good place for those naive children to live without any prejudice and discrimination. Whomever they were born to, each and every life should be respected, and raised with dignity so that those children can be as happy as anyone can. We, Aeran Network, will do our best to attain that dream.
One of many changes in 2010 was to improve the single parent education system in order to help single parents raise their children with success. The previous unified system was run without considering the child's age, causing the parent to lose interest in their child's education. So we divided the system into four groups according to the child's age: pre-parent, 13-24 months, 24-36 months, and 36 months plus. The new system encouraged single mothers to share all the information concerning their child's education and after school activities.
As the children grow old, special children's programs were needed to let them experience expanded sociality, freeing themselves from the limited mother-child relationship. That's how "Big Brother, Good Brother" project started. Teen volunteers from three science high schools in Seoul were connected to the children. And MNV, a math/science club at Hansung Science High School provided a fun math/science program for 5-7 year-old children to enhance their creativity.
"Miss Mom's Hope Tree" one-to-one connection project has also been enlarged and now 34 single mothers and their children are being individually supported at the amount of 100,000 won per month. They must have had a special feeling of encouragement and support.
The most impressive project in 2010 was starting Narae Alternative School with the cooperation of Seoul City Education Office in June. All the teen mothers who have been deprived of their public education rights during their pregnancy now can get their rights back at Narae Substitute School.
In 2010, not only a special ceremony but a seminar, "History of Unwed Single Mothers' Welfare and Its Direction to Develop" was held to commemorate Aeranwon's 50th anniversary. Especially, a daughter of Ban Aeran, a missionary and a founder, as well and the family of Mrs. Sue Rice, our second director, visited Korea to celebrate with us.
The second book, Dreaming a World, has been published by Brian Boyd at Yeong & Yeong Book Company in Minnesota, U. S. A. As international adoptees loved the second book as well as the first one, I Wish for You a Beautiful Life, we got a great deal of consolation from them. A U.S. adoptive parent suggested that I should visit all the adoptees in the world taking those two books with me to let them realize how much their birthmothers loved them and how deep their sorrow was when they had to put their babies up for adoption.
In the latter half of 2010, a young mothers' self-supporting home project was begun. Young mothers at Aeran Seumter had no place to go even after they got a job because their parents abused them with physical or sexual violence. That's why we started the self-supporting home project so that they could save some money for the rent deposit during their stay at the home.
Aeranwon and Aeran Mother-baby's Home were recognized as the best facility in the nation by National Women Welfare Evaluation run by the government. Last May, each and every staff member could get a bonus of 241,300 won. That was a small compensation but big encouragement to all the staff who have worked day and night, acting like a family to the single mothers at the facility.
This year, grasping mothers' needs, we are going to reorganize our programs according to its priority and work load to prevent the tasks from overlapping. And also, we will do our best to standardize each program's work load, developing human resources so that all the staff members can show their upgraded capability in their own field. We will try to avoid manpower problems by utilizing part-time staff, volunteers, and mothers at the Aeran Network who are capable, available, and willing to work hard, earning some money instead of being helped for free. However, mobilization of manpower will be a demanding project for us for the coming years.
We will be very careful not to fall into any mannerism and optimism bias which we are accustomed to get just because we have experienced such successful results through lots of hardships. We promise that with your support we will do our very best to spare fragile lives and to help mothers to be independent, raising their children as well as possible. Thank you!
Director of Aeranwon
First of all, I would like to thank you for the feedback on my newsletter, saying they have never been too long. The fact that you actually read my letters is a great pleasure and consolation to me.
Having so many unfortunate families with us, we experience various happenings all the time. By dealing with those issues, we are learning how to adapt all the sadness, agony, and even happiness in a quiet mind. I was smiling at the idea that I might be able to come up with quite a thick book if I intend to write a story about the past 26 years of my experience.
-A story about a young single mother who was in labor but was refused from a couple of hospitals because of her physical condition with toxemia of pregnancy plus high blood pressure. She finally was admitted into a hospital and got an emergency operation at one o'clock in the morning.
-A story about another single mother who refused to change her clothes at the labor room because she hid some money – hundreds of 1,000 won bills- in her underwear. She used to get some allowance from us saying she had no money at all. We all were rather so sorry about her hard life than upset at her lie.
-A story about a young single mother who cried all the time refusing to eat because she decided to give her baby up for adoption. She wanted to keep her baby just for a week until her baby's belly button fell apart so that she could keep it for memory. She cried so hard for a week that her face was all black and blue. Her facial veins got all torn off. We all cried when the adoption day finally came.
-A story about a single mother who refused any blood transfusion during her operation. The hospital called us at night and suggested us to transfer her to another hospital if we could not persuade the patient. I prayed and prayed kneeling down at the door of the operating room and only got an answer that having her get the operation was a blessing. I didn’t understand why that was a blessing until I met her mother who came to the hospital to see her daughter. Her daughter fell into a heterodoxy and that's why she refused to get a blood transfusion.
I have to confess that there hasn't been a single moment when there was not God's blessing for thousands of babies' births. In the past, there have been many difficulties due to each and every single mother's distressing situation, however, there are now many frustrating problems caused by social environment concerning single mothers and the facilities. Some of you might think there have been changes toward single mothers in the society compared to the past, but still there are many more difficulties to solve. But we entrust all to our God, just carrying out our mission which is to help lives in crisis and to help them keep their own safety, rights, and dignity. Our Narae Alternative School was honored as a group of people who brighten the world by the Environment Foundation last year. We accepted the award, considering it as the social agreement on the rights of teen single mothers' education. Thanks to you, our precious supporters, we could open the school and help those young mothers have their dream come true, letting them go on with their studying.
Thank you so much and I'll keep you posted.
Director of Aeranwon
Greetings for the New Year! I wish for you God's blessings on your home and your job throughout the New Year! In 2010, there were quite a few ordeals, from the devastating earthquake in Haiti to North Korea's bombings of Yeonpyeong Island. But thanks to God's blessings and your committed support, Aeranwon continued to help unwed mothers. The changes that those young single mothers made to their lives gave us a great pleasure and we all believe those changes will benefit the whole of our society, too.
The goal of Aeranwon is to support the stability of struggling single mothers in society and make it possible for them to raise their children successfully. One of the promising facts is that the government now recognizes the importance of single mothers' independence as the result of Aeranwon's persistence on that issue. I hope the Aeran Network system can be spread nationwide as a good model. In addition to the public sector's support, the private sector's supplemental service, and specialized 1:1 case management are needed to help single mothers achieve their independence.
All the programs in the Aeran Network were evaluated in December. It’s an in-house evaluation which is executed at the end of a year. Among those evaluations, that of Narae Alternative School was a very special one because the program was quite new, starting 6 months prior. In the process of evaluation, its teachers and students gained valuable insights and a sense of satisfaction. There are now four students in the school and they all expressed their thanks for the program, saying they have started to build confidence through education, and that with that confidence, they can take an important turn in the paths of their lives.
There were 362 cases of crisis intervention at the Me.You.Us. Parent-Child Support Center. In contrast to the previous year there was an increase in the number of cases that moved from short-term intervention to long-term management cases. About 800 consultations and support were provided. The Parenting Education Program (classified by age) developed a Big Brother Program with three science high schools in the Seoul area acting as a children's health management program as well. Now a total of 22 cases are moving into the case management for independence phase.
On December 18th, there was a year-end party with local single mothers who had returned to their homes. It was a very special gathering for us because the party was organized and operated by team leaders of those single mother groups. 52 mothers with their 52 children attended the party. 36 volunteers came to the party to babysit the children and a native speaker teacher had an English class for the moms. Because of the space limitations, we rented a cafeteria in our neighboring Bongwon Presbyterian Church. And we were so surprisingly happy to get the space as a present from its pastor. The single mothers at first wanted to dine out at a fancy restaurant, but in the course of planning they got practical and frugal, and the party turned out to be a huge success. I could see the mothers were satisfied with themselves, growing big in the real world.
As for Aeran Seumter, it seemed the service contents and independence support methods need some changes. Six out of ten of the residents were transferred from other facilities and they came in via emergency circumstances like mental disability, and homelessness. Those individuals are very different from the members transferred from within the Aeran Network who have prepared to be independent for some time. People from other facilities need far more time because they have to start from the first step, planning and counseling towards self-reliance. In the year 2011, Seumter plans to help these young birth mothers according to their individual capacity. Last year, from Seumter, two went to a college, five completed job training, and they all found employment; two became baristas, and three became office workers, and the others a nurse’s aid and baker, respectively. After getting jobs, three of the young mothers moved to the Self-Independence Home within the Aeran Network.
Five mothers with their kids took their leave from Aeran Mother & Baby’s Home, as the moms were hired as a web designer, a nurse’s aid, a skin therapist, and a barista. One of them went to a college and was in the second semester of her third year. All of us were so happy to see the mother hired as a web designer with a fairly high annual income of $18,000 (20,000,000 Korean won). Most of single mothers are participating various programs in the Me.You.Us Parent-Child Support Center with a high hope of getting a good job and raising their child as well as possible. Compared to the previous year, many more teen mothers have come to the Mother & Baby’s Home, making up 56% of the residents. We are trying to develop and reinforce services for those teen mothers.
The year-end interview for all staff members was held, too. It was to figure out their concerns, to improve the system, and to get some feedback encouraging their morale at the same time. There was a general concern that they were overloaded. But due to the insufficient funding, it isn't a simple matter to hire more staff at this moment. We are planning to get more volunteers in the near future.
There was so much news in December, but I am going to finish the letter now because some have advised me that when a letter gets too long, it is not likely to be read at all.
Please be advised that the Statistics Report for Aeranwon 2010 is included here. The link is just below this note. Thank you very much!
Sang Soon Han
Director, Aeran Network
Please click here to open a PDF of the 2010 Statistics. The report is three pages, showing counseling statistics about the background and situations of Aeranwon clients.
It’s hard to believe, but 2010 is quickly drawing to a close. I would like to take this time to extend my thanks to each of you for making this year another grateful one. You have continuously supported and helped the single mothers of Aeranwon in Korea, and for that you have my deepest appreciation.
Merry Christmas! My best wishes to you and your families as you celebrate the many joys of the holiday season. May these days be filled with happiness, peace and hope for the New Year. May God bless you!
Sang Soon Han
First of all, I deeply thank you all for your support, and commitment to our Ae Ran Network and unwed mother families.
The year of 2010 has been a significant one to Ae Ran Won. Narae Alternative School opened for teen age mother's education and Self-supporting Home was established for young mothers who had no place to return after they gave up their baby for adoption, and who had difficulties to pay a rent even though they got a job after getting a special job training with their high school diploma in Seumter.
82.9% of those teens were victims of domestic violence. It was impossible for them to go back to their own home. That's why Self supporting Home for those young mothers was needed . We have done our best to support them to stand on their own feet in economical, psychological, and social wise through the organized networking of Ae Ran Won, Narae Alternative School, Ae Ran Mother and Baby’s Home, Self-supporting Home, Seumter, and Me.You.Us Single family Support Center for five years. To be efficient, we built a cooperation system by establishing partnership with specialists in such fields as law, economy, labor, medicine, and other social welfare.
In addition, we started setting up of relationship between unwed single mothers and sponsors to give mothers a strong motive to be successful in the society. One or more sponsors support a single mother family by sending 100,000 Won ($860) every month. So far, we have 44 sponsors supporting 26 families. My special thanks go to those sponsors who are participating in the relationship. The value of 100,000 Won is much more than its actual one to those mothers and they feel so much more encouraged and relieved to know that there is somebody out there who understands and supports them. It is imperative we should have as many sponsors as possible.
Mothers felt good about new parenting education program which was re-edited according to their age.
Especially, they were happy about their children's English class taught by a native speaker who has volunteered since November while they were attending the Parenting Education.
In December, we are going to evaluate this year's projects with single mothers and get some feedback from them to modify next year's projects. As we are expecting a lot of mothers come and join the evaluation meetings, we are planning to rent our neighbor Bongwon Presbyterian Church to accommodate. And we are going to have an year-end party, too. The mothers are in charge of the party planning!
On December 9th, a workshop was held on the theme, "Bringing Up Unmarried, Single Parent Children With Success," for the staffs of unwed mothers related facilities and group homes nationwide. We are going to provide them with all the know-how we got from the experience, giving all the information about networking.
In Ae Ran network, all the programs except Mother and Baby’s Home depend solely on donations. Securing fund for the next year's projects is my number one priority and I am doing my best to raise as much funding as I can.
People say Ae Ran Won is growing a lot. But the goal of ARW is not to be bigger, but to be more effective. The important thing for us is to be more efficient and more effective to support mothers achieve their goal and be independent. And if there are better ways verified to support the mothers, ARW won't be afraid of being challenged and changing its system. And also, if any method applied to the system is wrong, we think the result has no meaning even though it is a huge success. We believe real success comes from the righteous process.
I'd like to thank you once more for your support and confidence in us. I will keep you posted with more significant and fresher news next year. All the staff members at ARW will do our best with sincere responsibility and accountability in the year of 2011.
I wish you all God's blessing. Thank you!
Director of Aeranwon
P.S. Please kindly understand this letter being quite lengthy, as it’s for the whole year of 2010. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Hello! I am sending greetings from home, for I am taking a month-long vacation, as reward of twenty-years of service at Aeranwon. Being away from Aeranwon, I realize how happy I have been just because of working there, meeting a lot of beautiful supporters and volunteers. And I have been so lucky to do a job that I really like to do. It fits my religion, belief, philosophy, and my major at college. I am so thrilled to think back how much I have learned from the work and the people. Just like the gospel song, 'God's love bears fruit through our meetings,' there has been a lot of wonderful fruits through meeting all of you, and it is so true that the fruit surely influence our society in a very good way. I'd like to send you all my deepest thanks. THANK YOU!!!
The other day, I read a series of articles on "New Run-Away Home Generation" in a daily newspaper. But what I thought after reading was if we consider them only as problematic adolescents who ran away from home without their parents' consent, it will be very difficult to solve the problem.
According to the cases in Aeranwon, 82% of the run-away teens have never been treated or raised properly by their parents. They have suffered from lots of verbal, physical, and emotional abuse, and even sexual harassment. In most of the cases, they had to run away from home just to survive. When young teen girls run away from home, they have nowhere to turn to and end up living on the street. What they need on the street is somebody to lean on through the hard times, not sex. But most of the men who come to offer help rape them and go.
In 2001 Aeranwon realized that the problems of teen girls' pregnancy, re-pregnancy and sex trade are closely related to their domestic violence and the difficulties of achieving their independence. Providing them with a stable place to live can be the key to help them get independent and that's how Aeranwon was established. For young single mothers, their insuperable experience such as domestic violence while they were growing up, guilt when they put their baby up for adoption, and insecurity of their future are the greatest obstacles for their independence. Here, at Aeranwon, once they are admitted, we let them stay for two years, helping them to have a job to stand on their own feet. We also offer them job training because we believe they need a good, solid job to be independent.
Without your support, all of these programs could have not been carried out. Lately, however, due to the economic crisis worldwide, funds for Aeran Seumter have dwindled. This is the time we need more of your interest and support. As single mothers are literally very young, they have all the possibilities in their future. Please help them with your generous support so that they can heal their wounds, recover from their hard past, fly high to the sky, and then return their gratitude to our society. We, the Aeranwon Network, will also do our very best to accomplish this goal.
Hope you have a wonderful summer with good health and I will talk to you next month.
Sang Soon Han
Director of Aeranwon
Hello! July has come with half of the year already passed! I took a walk the other day along the Han River in the early morning and saw lots of cosmos flowers in full bloom, making a wonderful view. Nature is surely preparing the coming season as always. In order for you to take a short nature break, I'm including a picture of the beautiful cosmos.
Ae Ran Won has been busy as usual. There are eleven babies at present and we are expecting two more in no time. We are experiencing wonderful miracles every day, watching the babies smile, babble, and grow. But at the same time we do have one concern. When it's summer, all the windows are open because of the hot weather. And when the babies cry, our neighbors complain about the noise. We all wish that our neighbors would hear the babies' cries as a chorus of future hope, not a nuisance.
There's also news for you. I'm proud to say Ae Ran Won was chosen by the Seoul City Office of Education to be an alternative education facility for young pregnant teens.
We are now very happy to be able to prepare the special school here at Ae Ran Won. Even though the right to an education for adolescents is clearly written in the Law, when adolescent women become pregnant, they are either forced out or asked to drop out of school. Moreover, when the father-to-be and a mother-to-be are at the same school, only the girl student is asked to quit her regular education. That's because school officials feel very uncomfortable having pregnant girls in classrooms. This was a major issue that emerged when we discussed continuing education for pregnant girls with the National Human Rights Committee last year. When anyone is stripped of the right to essential education, it is almost impossible for that person to prosper in life and it increases the individual's suffering from poverty and depression.
At Ae Ran Won, we have been trying to give those young women who have left school a chance to get a high school diploma with a proper vocational education sponsored by funds raised from donors. These Ae Ran Won education programs have been recognized to be of high enough quality to be a primary course for young pregnant adolescents and they are intended to cover 60% of the classes that they would have received in regular school. The remaining 40% is to be covered by such regular subjects as Korean, English, Math, and Social Studies and Science. We are now in the process of hiring certified teachers for those five general subjects. If a school asks us to take a pregnant girl in and give her continuing education until she gets ready to go back to school, we are going to take full responsibility to educate her during her pregnancy.
Although Ae Ran Won, as an alternative school, is going to admit pregnant teens, there still are other obstacles to be overcome. One thing is that parents of a pregnant girl should allow their daughter's pregnancy to be recognized by the school and should understand that the baby may be placed for adoption and not raised by the biological mother.
There are a few issues that need to be solved. However, if we just maintain our current status, there won't be any progress whatsoever. We at Ae Ran Won will do our best to help out young pregnant girls who have had to abandon their regular day-to-day lives because of unexpected pregnancies; we will help them to re-enter society with high spirits and increased self-esteem.
I thank you all, Supporters. Despite the fact that there is still discrimination against the unwed mothers in our society, you continue to support us and we deeply appreciate it.
We wish you a wonderful summer!
Sang Soon Han
Director of Ae Ran Won
Dear Supporters of Ae Ran Network,
How have you been these days? The weather in Korea is getting hotter nowadays, and summer is already upon us. I hope you have a joyful and healthy summer.
Today, I would like to tell you about the moms in our Ae Ran Network. We are delighted to share the news that five of the moms under our support have made big steps in their careers. Three young mothers passed the national high school qualification exam and two have been accepted to study in a nurse's assistant professional development program. Additionally, from the Mother & Baby's Home, three of our high school students graduated from high school, and two more in our Seumter Program also completed their high school course work. Moreover one girl, after graduating from high school, was accepted to an internship program in a dental clinic and completed a nurse's assistant course at the same time. Her family situation continues to improve through the assistance of family counseling for three years and the time she is able to spend at home.
Another one of the young mothers from Seumter had failed the national qualification exam three times, but she didn't give up and kept studying and finally passed the exam, eventually getting a job after finishing her studies at a nursing institute for one year. Finally she found a job as a nurse's aid.
She had run away from home, but last month she returned home after undergoing two years' family counseling. She used to tell me that when her mom saw her she was always saying "You're a real headache. You are a troublemaker."
After reconciling, her mom now says, "I believe in you." The young woman recently told me, "I've realized my status has changed simply through my mom's words. I really appreciate the support and care I got at Seumter." It gave me great pleasure to hear about her transformation.
On May 18th, The Commission on Human Rights, sponsored by the national government, held a panel discussion about young unwed mothers and their right to education. I and one of our mothers, a young woman who only recently graduated from high school, served as presenters on the panel.
She gave a speech which deeply impressed everyone in attendance.
She revealed how she had been roaming the streets as an adolescent, got pregnant when she was teenager and wanted to give up everything she had at that time. But after she came to Ae Ran Won she gave birth to a healthy boy and she began to study harder. Her determination has increased even more since she had her baby. She obtained a graduation certificate and now she's taking vocational training for career counseling and inquiry. Everyone complimented her that she wants to be a confident mom, work hard, be independent and not disappoint our supporters. Attendees at the conference were worried about how the young woman could nurture a baby, but they became assured if we could help them they can achieve their goals.
During a question and answer period, the director of an unwed mother's facility in Kyunggi province introduced herself, and she said about 80~90% of her program's young mothers failed the qualification test and asked us for guidance. After the panel discussion, while I was coming back home I was thinking carefully about the unique characteristics of Ae Ran network since almost everyone in Ae Ran network passes the exam. It could not be that only smart and capable women are admitted to our program.
The answer, I think, is in our approach: we take care of each woman's needs, and we have a one-on-one program with patient and dedicated staff members who treat each other and the women in our care as they would their own family.
However, most importantly, all our work can be carried out because of your support. If we did not have your support we couldn't support various education programs for the mothers and we could never have dreamed about maintaining our one-on-one training education system. Through your support and the support of dedicated volunteers who help as tutors for the mothers, together we are able to give them the support that they need.
We held a fund-raising bazaar on May 15th, for the Ae Ran Self-supporting home, and all the proceeds of the sale, approximately $4500, will be used for completing their self-independence. I am greatly thankful to those who donated goods and helped us in person on that day. Let me renew my promise to wisely and transparently manage the funds that Ae Ran Won receives through such sales and through direct donations.
The Ae Ran network is indebted to the people who have supported us. I'm so proud to be the director of such a meaningful program. Thank you for your continued support so that our mothers may confidently overcome a challenging period in their lives and take their next steps toward healthy and independent lives.
I'll keep you up-to-date on our program in the coming months again. Once again, thank you for all of your support.
Director of Ae Ran Won
We were very busy in April, doing a variety of events to celebrate Ae Ran Won's 50th anniversary. And now, May, the most beautiful month of the season, has come. Seeing the wonderful scenery of the mountains and rivers that slide into a darker shade of green day by day, I wish that our lives have changes as beautiful as the season.
As one of the 50th anniversary special events, we planned to publish a book, The History of Ae Ran Won. Getting started on carrying out the project, we realized there were so many preliminary things to do such as collecting many writing materials and credible data. In order to collect all the data, we first reached out for those staff members and volunteers who used to work for Ae Ran Won in the early days. And also, we should contact the foreign missionaries who used to work at the beginning of the organization to gather all the pictures and statements. And statements from single mothers who stayed at Ae Ran Won at one time or another should be put together, too.
I was so pleased to hear from staff members, saying that it was quite worthwhile to work at Ae Ran Won. Its history with all those impressive statements and incredible data made our current staff members feel like what they're doing was quite worth trying hard. Now that we are done with the publication, I cannot help but think we should have done it better.
I would like to express my special thanks to the minister of Yeaneung Church, Mr. Cho Geunhoe, who let us use his parish for the anniversary events even though it fell on a Saturday night. When I was told that he and his fellow Christians cleaned the building up until the following morning to get it ready for the Sunday worship, I was filled with thanks. And also, I felt grateful for all the flowers, gifts, sponsorships, and congratulation messages. I was so happy to realize Ae Ran Won is loved so much.
Two single mothers were supposed to come and give a special speech on successful stories of Ae Ran Won at the anniversary ceremony. But one of them couldn't come because of her work schedule. We were at a loss for a while. But to our pleasant surprise, one of the single mothers who attended the ceremony volunteered to make a speech. We were very grateful for God's help.
The daughter of the founder Ms. Ban, Aeran (Mrs. Eleanor Van Lierrop) visited Korea to take part in the celebration. She felt so happy to know her mother's achievement was far greater than she imagined. She was surprised to know that on the basis of her mother's sacrifice, so many single mothers and their children overcame society's prejudices and achieved their independence. Moreover, the fact that it was possible only with the help of supporters and volunteers surprised her a great deal. Because, when she was young, she often overheard many people ask her mother why she helped unwed single mothers. They told her mother helping single mothers was not worthwhile and there were so many good, but unfortunate women other than single mothers in the society. Now she realized Korea was no longer an underdeveloped country not only economy-wise but also consciousness-wise. She believed her mother would be very happy to hear that.
I am so proud of you, a precious supporter, who keeps on helping us in spite of social prejudice against single mothers. I deeply appreciate it. God bless the single mothers and their children, and bless you. Thank you.
Sang Soon Han
Director of Ae Ran Won
Some thoughts after reading an article in an opinion column, "Will the government increase the population by letting teen-agers give birth?" on March 4th issue, Cho Sun Il Bo
I was surprised to read an article in a newspaper delivered in the morning. A columnist openly presents her offensive opinion, writing "Will the government increase the population by letting teen-agers give birth?" This was the second time I was shocked for the past few weeks. The other day I visited a friend hospitalized in a room shared with a few other patients. One of them, an elderly man, told us if the government helps and supports young, single mothers, there will be more of them in society. Most of those people never talk about the birth fathers who get the young women pregnant in the first place. They just put all the responsibilities on the women, considering them as sinners. After that incident, I asked around all the young women I met including a woman reporter who came out to have an interview on Ae Ran Won. "Would you be willing to become an unwed mother if the government would support you in full financially?" All of them said, "No way!"
There was a girl. Her father was a violent alcoholic, which made her mother run away from home. She had to take care of her young siblings and her father by herself. Giving up her dream to get a high school education, she got an odd job at a small store right after she finished her middle school. Even though she wanted to go to high school so badly, she had to work for living. When she happened to be friends with a college boy a few years later who used to be a customer at the store, she was so happy that she would do anything for him. She believed in him and they became very close. Knowing she was pregnant, he persuaded her to get an abortion, saying he couldn't afford to raise a baby because he was a mere student without a job. When she got pregnant again for the second time, she wanted to keep the baby so badly. But he insisted she should get an abortion again, threatening to leave her unless she did as he asked. She had to either get an abortion or give her baby up for adoption.
She finally realized that it was not love but a form of violence against her. Breaking up with him, she came to Ae Ran Won to give a birth. She had a son and she decided to raise him all on her own. She made a plan for her future with the support of a social worker. And then she was referred to Ae Ran Mother & Baby's Home. She studied hard enough to pass the qualification exam for the high school graduation and got a license in her favorite field after finishing her job training. She is now doing so fine with her son.
She always says she is happy because of her son. If she had given up on her boy, she wouldn't be as happy as she is now. She is so thankful to every supporter, and all the volunteers. Knowing that parents with the experience of domestic violence in their childhood are likely to be violent parents, she joined Ae Ran Won's Parenting Education Programs. I am so proud of her because I know how hard she has tried all along.
The issue of unwed mothers is not a matter of an individual sex problem but rather the vices of our social system and structure, and also a lack of social awareness. A "single mother" is a "mother" who has her baby in her womb for ten months and gives a birth with unspeakable pain. The only difference between these mothers and other mothers is their martial status. If we equally respect their right to have and raise a baby without considering their martial status, there will be no prejudice against single mothers. Also there shouldn't be any age discrimination. The age of a mother shouldn't be an issue. We have to accept all the mothers as they are.
As a matter of fact, they are not special women. Anybody in the world can happen to get the worst unexpected experiences. Becoming a single mother is just one of them. They did not plan to be single mothers. And they did not have the slightest idea about becoming single mothers. People in our society are quite positive and supportive about the mothers who are trying to raise their children, suffering from violent husbands. They do not think helping those mothers or divorcees would promote violence and divorce at all. It is the same with the single mothers. Supporting young, single mothers does not increase the number of those mothers. If we can show them more options without any prejudice, they can become self-supporting. With help, they will choose to raise their own children rather than to give them up for adoption. They are the same mothers after all.
Most single mothers are young. They can get a job when they are trained well enough. In addition to that, they have a strong will to raise their children with love, because they chose to do that instead of giving them up for adoption. If we support them to establish themselves, they will stand on their own feet and raise their children well enough to be valuable human resources in the future. I truly wish that people respect all single mothers who gave birth to their children in spite of the social prejudice against them, and facilitate raising all the babies no matter whom they were born to.
Sang Soon Han
Director of Ae Ran Won
Dear Supporters Who Love Ae Ran Won,
Hello! Two whole months have already passed. As the anniversary, which is April 10th, is just around the corner, we have been busy with this and that. As Ms. Ban Aeran, the founder and missionary, has been under medical treatment, we instead invited her daughter and the second director and missionary, Sue Rice. We started to organize the ceremony and a special fund raising event, and also the publication of the 50 year history of Ae Ran Won and a special seminar - presentation of successful stories by mothers- are on the way. I was glad the steering committee decided to combine the commemoration ceremony and special events, because we were going to have another fund raising dinner which would need a lot of work from the staff.
The other day I went to a hospital to see one of my relatives and happened to watch TV news in the hospital room on the government policy for supporting teen single mothers that I told you about last month. There were other patients in the room and I was so disappointed when hearing an old male patient saying, "There will be more of those single mothers if government supports them!" The problem is there are so many people in our society who have the same point of view. They think all the single mothers are evil women who are very loose in sex. They don't think about the men who got them pregnant. I feel so sorry for single mothers whenever people talk about their morality and responsibility. Even though there are many criticisms and much blame directed at the single mothers, Ae Ran Won can do whatever it can for those young women, thanks to your strong and faithful support.
These days about 30% of the mothers are either mentally handicapped or physically disabled because of living on the streets for so long. They are in need of intense care mentally as well as physically. At Ae Ran Won, we have been trying to figure out a way to support single mothers' independence, but many of the newly admitted mothers need complete protection rather than independence. Having been trying so hard to build up the independence system here at Ae Ran Won, I feel sorry for our staff members who are having a lot of trouble in dealing with these newly admitted mothers in a whole new way.
For help, many of these women at first contacted police stations, call centers, or homeless facilities. To take care of these mothers, however, far more people than expected are needed, and that's why they eventually have to be distributed to many unwed mothers' facilities. But most of the facilities refuse to admit them due to lack of staff and budget.
It seems that not only society but home is getting more and more torn down these days. Each and every mother has her own tragic story. For one example, there is a case of a young mother. Her biological parents were divorced when she was young, so she had to live with her mother and her step-father. When her mother got killed by another boy friend, there was no alternative for the daughter but to live with her step-father. She was sexually abused, and she ran away from home, living on the street, sexual trafficking for making her living, and pick-pocketing for money. She was caught by the police and was transferred to our facility when they found she was pregnant. When she was admitted, her hair was full of lice, her face was completely blank, and she had no desire whatsoever. Violent parents abuse their children verbally and physically as well. And the children consider themselves as a burden, blaming everything on themselves, and become neurotic, and a personality disorder patient.
There is a good news that I happened to miss the chance to tell you about. At the end of last year, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family announced the result of its evaluation of the national facilities for women. Ae Ran Won and Ae Ran Mother & Baby's Home got the top ranking, earning 97.5 and 95.9 out of 100 respectively. I deeply thank all the supporters and volunteers for your help. Without your support, we could not make it happen.
I'd like to remind you of our anniversary one more time. It is from 5 to 8 p.m., Saturday, April 10th. Please don't forget to come and join our special celebration. Seeing you on the anniversary day will be our great pleasure and honor. Thank you!
Sang Soon Han
Director of Ae Ran Won
Dear Supporters Who Love Ae Ran Won,
How are you doing? I would like to start off by saying Happy 2010! My wish for you is that you be blessed with joy and happiness throughout the New Year. We are looking forward to 2010 because we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him.
Despite some difficulties due to snowstorms, the Opening Ceremony for the New Year was a success with Chairman of the Steering Committee Mr. Cho, Kunhoe. 2010 also marks the government’s policy change in regards to financial aid for unwed single mothers. Single mothers under the age of 24 will now be able to receive government grants if they wish to continue schooling and take the qualification examinations for middle and/or high school graduation equivalency. This aid, however, is limited to young mothers whose parents have no assets and earnings fall under the national minimum income requirements. Unfortunately, the financial support does not provide funding for job training expenses. Job training is vitally important for high school graduates who need to receive specific job training in order to be hired in a job or field that will provide adequate income. These job training expenses will have to continue to be provided by unwed mothers’ homes nationwide via donations.
The Government will also continue to provide the monthly child care support of 100,000 won and 24,000 won for child medical expenses to single teen mothers whose income is near or below the national minimum. We have suggested that adoptive families, unconditionally, receive this same child care support of 100,000 won monthly as well as the child medical expenses until the child turns 13 years old, but this recommendation was rejected. More detailed additional information concerning government financial support will be available after February of this year at which time the government will have established its guidelines around a “single-mother household.”
It is our position that the government should not determine the level of financial aid for a young mother based on her parents’ income. There are many cases in which the young teen mother has no relationship with her parents or is estranged from the family. We had one young client who had a social security number, but there was no record of her or her social security number on her Family Registry. She asked her father to please correct the Registry so as to permit her to request government financial aid, but her father repeatedly refused. He continued to refuse her request until a social worker for the young girl threatened to post a request for the father’s cooperation in his workplace. As soon as the young mother was listed on her father’s Family Registry (which establishes birth and citizenship), she was able to register her own son’s birth. She subsequently was denied any government grant aid because her father’s monthly income of 3,000,000 won was above the national minimum.
Despite this situation, the government’s newfound concern and subsequent policies to financially support teen mothers is a big step forward in improving a currently very difficult situation for young single mothers and their children. My wish is that we eventually see a society that cares for all children no matter who gave birth to them. There are some who ask why we should make the support of unwed single mothers a priority when there are so many other crises in the world. The answer is that if no one reaches out to help these mothers, they will not be able to parent their children. Many may give their children up and live the rest of their lives burdened with guilt and sadness. And what about the children? These children, separated from their mothers, experience abandonment and potentially grow up with feelings of anger and loss throughout their lives.
When those of us at Ae Ran Won, our supporters, and all the volunteers reach out and help these young mothers in the name of God, they will gain the tools and support they need to successfully parent their children and both mother and child will become flourishing members of our society.
Please mark your calendars for our big 50th Anniversary Event and Seminar on April 10th and 13th. Some amazing success stories will be presented. A detailed schedule of the event and seminar will be sent to you at a later date. Thank you very much for your concern and care for our single mothers.
God bless you. Take care until we “meet” again in next month’s newsletter.
Sang Soon Han
Director of Ae Ran Won
Dear Supporters Who Love Ae Ran Won,
I apologize for sending out this newsletter so late. It should have been sent out by mid-September. After my trip to U.S. in July, we had the important visits of the guests from U.S. in August and September, who have been supporting Ae Ran Won and Ae Ran Seumter. We had to prepare a lot of Interim reports on the programs on their support and more documents had to be prepared for the funding for next year. We also tried to translate some information into English for the overseas fund raising after the second book (the sequel to "I Wish for You a Beautiful Life", called "Dreaming a World") is published.
One of the supporters, who has been operating a Clinic, asked me what the difference between the other welfare organizations and Ae Ran Won system is. I replied, “the biggest difference is that Ae Ran Won not only does support of the temporal issues of pregnancy or child birth but also deals with the aftermath of giving birth, that is, from pregnancy to getting self-reliance.” The supporter, however, said that this difference was hard to catch just through reading our newsletters. Upon my return from the clinic, I began contemplating what the true differences are that we make compared to other welfare organizations.
The basic philosophical value of Ae Ran Won is that every individual should be respected and have the right to be happy, which should not be limited due to the status of being an unwed mother. Following this basic concept, Ae Ran Won tries to protect the rights, especially, of the unwed mothers, by helping them gain back dignity, security, and value in their lives.
Over the past eight years, Ae Ran Won has founded various facilities such as Mother-and-Baby’s Home, Seumter, Self-supporting Home, and Me.You.Us Support Center, and suggested more various alternatives with internal and external resources, which have broadened the opportunities for unwed mothers. If there is only one choice with no alternatives, how can that be a choice after all? If the mothers had no alternatives but to choose adoption, they had no choice but to decide on adoption. No matter how hard the government tries to lower the number of overseas adoption cases, it would be still very difficult if there is no other choices but adoption.
The services provided by Ae Ran Won open up a way for the mothers to preserve their families. Ae Ran Won has been helping not only each and every one of the mothers, but also helping the babies and their families to be established healthily. For in many cases, there are many families of the mothers in Ae Ran Won with their own difficulties.
Ae Ran Won tries to guide the mothers to become stronger and more independent. Ae Ran Won is not just a place where the mothers come for help, but we try to have the mothers resolve their own issues and their problems by establishing a partnership relationship between the mothers and the Ae Ran Won system. We believe that we know ourselves better than anyone else. We are giving all our efforts to change the society to be more aware of the rights of those who are socially marginalized, such as the mothers and their children. And we are also trying to improve the system. The facilities of Ae Ran Won are serving the mothers and their children with the love of Jesus Christ, beyond the limits of social welfare.
These may not be very evident to those who have not experienced the services Ae Ran Won provides. However, once you are in our facilities, those will become clear to you. This very fact, I believe, is the reason that Ae Ran Won has had new volunteers who become supporters and come back.
Ae Ran Won is having a seminar with the subject of “Juvenile unwed mothers, how can we support?” Please send us words of encouragement in your hearts.
Your endless love and support for Ae Ran Won is keeping us strong. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Sang Soon Han
Director of Ae Ran Won
How are you all spending these hot humid days? Like all the other months, I have a feeling August is going to pass us by so fast that we need to cherish what is left of summer.
I went on a trip to the United States from July 19th to July 30th with two goals in mind. The first goal was to explore the Parent Child Center (PCC) in Vermont. PCC is just like the ‘Me.You.Us Support Center’ in Ae Ran Won, where the single mothers are given advices to adapt themselves in society. At PCC, I observed the methods how to effectively help single mothers succeed in society and how to efficiently involve young mothers into the program.
PCC is a community level program that provides opportunities for single mothers to get together and learn and gain information from each other. As for teenage mothers, PCC paid extra attention. For example, they provide a secure place where young girls could obtain self-confidence to stand up by themselves, and where their young kids could grow up safely under careful supervision. Furthermore, PCC also offers wide-ranging services to support needy families from the middle of their pregnancy in order to guide them settle in healthy independent child rearing.
They have diverse support from the federal and the state government as well as from local community groups, realizing: ‘If we don’t take an appropriate action right now, the situation will get worse’, ‘Abortion and putting kids up for adoption are not the only solution to this problem’ and ‘The problems caused by the parentless minors were not the fault of the single mothers but other causes’. These realizations made people think that such an agency as PCC is desperately needed. This feeling of necessity let the government and the community closely get together to provide an ample amount of funding.
The most outstanding quality PCC realizes is that the children who are referred to foster care home centers ended up going back to their biological parents. This understanding enforces people to focus their funds on helping single parents, which ultimately helps the society and the community.
From my perspective, the community and the federal and state government involvement for helping single parents is the most enviable aspect. Besides, PCC operates a day care center and an alternative school for the young parents. These are the qualities I want to apply in Ae Ran Won.
To my surprise, during the visit in Vermont, I met Ae Ran Won’s second director, Mrs. Sue Rice. She and her husband, Randy Rice, a pastor, have worked in Korea for 16 years as missionaries. Ten years ago, when the couple visited Korea, they donated the amount of $1000 to Ae Ran Won despite the fact that they were already retired. I remember that the pastor’s suit looked quite worn out at the time of donation. Now, living in Vermont, they invited me to their house. There, I noticed that the couple leads a very simple life style, decorating their living room with various kinds of Korean folk art. During dinner, they served me delicious Korean foods like bean sprouts and kimchi. After experiencing the couple’s simple but devotional life toward Christianity and other people, I felt as if I took a spirit bath.. The two were still showing affection toward Ae Ran Won by praying for us and happily accepting the invitation to Ae Ran Won’s 50th anniversary celebration. I am very grateful that I will be able to serve them at the anniversary.
The second goal was to visit CHSFS (Children’s Home Society & Family Services) located in St. Paul, Minnesota. It is one of the sponsors of Ae Ran Won. There, I had a wonderful meeting with CHSFS President and the director as well who is responsible for sponsoring Ae Ran Won in order to report Ae Ran Won’s current situation and to convince them that their generous support is continuously needed in the future. Even though the U.S. economy isn’t doing too well these days, the CHSFS President and the director thankfully promised to continue supporting Ae Ran Won. CHSFS supports various programs globally. During my visit, the director told me that of all the programs, Ae Ran Won is the most outstanding program. I was informed that Ae Ran Won was on the verge of being dropped from the list of sponsored programs; however, the director took a stance and defended Ae Ran Won by claiming, "how can we drop the most outstanding program?" When I heard the story, I was speechlessly thankful toward the director.
While in Minnesota, I did my best to finish up with proof-reading the second book about birth mothers stories. Meeting the book designer, I was able to discuss little details about the edition to finalize and conclude the book publishing. While at it, I also met a few people who were all thrilled about the book as much as I was.
When I came back from my ten day business trip, piles of papers and to-do tasks were waiting for me on my desk. Each day, as I plow through the piles, is passing by very fast.
I pray that you will all be healthy during the last hump of summer. See you again next month. Thank you very much for your support.
Sang Soon Han
Director of Ae Ran Won
How are you? I hope you can enjoy yourself in this hot summer.
I have a news for you. Do you remember the story I told you from the letter in August 2008 about one of our birth mothers? Today, I am delivering a good news regarding her!
She was being raised in an orphanage. One night when she was sleeping, she was exposed to carbon monoxide and had been unconscious for three nights. She received no treatment but some cold soup. Since then she has suffered from endless headaches and she wasn't able to read or study well in school as she had been before the accident. She has some hearing issues as well, so she has hard time to hear and understand.
She was adopted by a Korean family when she was 15 years old. Unfortunately, the family had abused her by making her do all the household chores for over 15 years and forcing her to marry a man who had a record of domestic violence. She ran away from her husband when she got pregnant and was referred to Ae Ran Won. She gave birth to her son, who was then placed for adoption. She went back to her adoptive parents' home because there was no place else to go. (At that time, Ae Ran Won had no group home for the mothers.) Her adoptive parents again made her do all the housework and forced her to marry yet another man who also was very violent. After she was married, she found out that the man was divorced twice due to his domestic violence. She had suffered from continuous physical and verbal violence. She eventually filed for a divorce, and with a help of free legal services for domestic abuse victims, she finally got legally divorced.
In early 2009, she started a job at a restaurant as dishwasher while spending the nights on a cold restaurant couch. However, the owner of the restaurant did not pay her the monthly salary of $530. When she said she would sue him (actually I taught her to do that), he paid only $1500 for all of her five months of work. With the money, she was able to find a small room with $2300 deposit plus $150 monthly rent. Although it was just a small room, she was very happy to have her own place. Ae Ran Won supported her with a partial amount of her deposit money ($770).
Ae Ran Won also provided her with some money to cover her medical expenses and to pay back the credit card debt that her ex-husband used in her name (Ae Ran Won negotiated and had the balance reduced). She bought some second hand furniture for $330. The total amount of $1,500 was used to brighten her life. Now she is looking for a job to make her own living. Last Friday she visited Ae Ran Won to cook for all of us in Ae Ran Won with joy and we all had a delicious and enjoyable lunch.
Thanks to all of your support, she was finally able to stand up and face the world with new life. I really appreciate to you all. Thank you so much!
Sang soon Han
Director. Ae Ran Won
As the summer approaches, the bright green leaves heavily ornament the trees. The gentle wind under these trees is cool and relieving. Like the trees, Ae Ran Won would also like to provide a place of relief and hope to those single moms who have challenging lives ahead of them.
Early one morning, there was an old man resting his weakened and fatigued body on a wheelbarrow. He was so worn-out that he appeared as if he was about to dive right onto the path headfirst. Seeing this, I thought to myself, how would he continue to pull the wheelbarrow if he was that tired? Wanting to help the old man out even just a little bit, I went to the nearest convenient store and bought a bottle of refreshing juice. When I handed the juice to him, his face was brightened filled with a warm smile. Seeing the smile of the old man, I decided to give a bottle of juice to the other people around as well.
Making the world a happier and a better place didn’t seem to be as complex as I’d thought. If you just respect and encourage others whole heartily, even though the troubled situation itself may not change, you are able to provide at least a little bit of hope to the lives of those in need. When you give effort to help others, even if it may not be much, “the sum total of this world's happiness” can increase “by giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged. Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime" (Dale Carnegie, a famous American writer and a lecturer who focuses on public speaking and personality development).
In the past, the unwed single moms said, “I don’t want any help, nor do I need compassion. Just don’t criticize. The discouraging and judgmental criticisms are the source of the death of my hope to strive to keep my baby.”
It is amazing that a single criticism from the general public has the power to take away hope from the moms. For these moms, Ae Ran Won has provided such programs as Seumter, Mother & Baby’s Home, and Self-supporting Home for their self-reliance. Although our help isn’t much, just the fact that Ae Ran Won can provide a place where the moms feel accepted, talking about their problems with comfort, is the most important thing.
At first, I often felt helpless and a little bit frustrated at myself as well as at the center for not being able to provide the full support for the moms who left the facilities for the real world. But now, I am relieved to know that Ae Ran Won is able to support the moms who have left us and gone out into society through the “One Stop” support system. A few days ago, I told one of those moms who was discharged from Ae Ran Won, “I am not worried about your leaving Ae Ran Won” and she replied, “Me, neither. I now have a trusting family, Ae Ran Won and the Me.You.Us center, to turn to whenever I need a help.” Hearing this, I felt proud to be working at the Ae Ran Support System.
All this has become possible because of the supporters’ infinite interest and love. I sincerely thank you. We at Ae Ran Won will do our best to provide the mothers with a stable and happy life. To those who show unlimited love and support, may your hot summer be healthy and joyful. Again, thank you very much.
Sang Soon Han
Director of Ae Ran Won
Spring has been in every corner these days. Colorful flowers are in full bloom and baby leaves are coming out on every branch. It's a blessing that we can see this MIRACLE each and every year. Despite nature being so beautiful, the world is suffering from the epidemic of H1N1 virus. All of our families, 39 at Ae Ran Won including 12 infants and their mothers, 28 at Mother-Child Home Center, 8 at Seumter, and 4 at Self-supporting Home, are being extremely cautious about our hygiene.
The bazaar held on the 25th of April was a kind of success. On the previous day, the weather was so bad with rain and strong wind, and it was impossible for us to put up an outdoor tent. To make it worse, they broadcasted it would rain on the following day, too. We were all concerned about the weather. But just like one of our birth mother's belief--she believed the weather couldn't be bad on the day of Ae Ran Won's bazaar--the wind subsided during the night so that we could set up the tent, and it didn't rain in the following morning! It wasn't until around 3 in the afternoon when we were almost done with our bazaar that it started to rain again. How thankful we all were!
Many of our neighbors who saw our advertising posters came out early at around 10 and lined up before we open the bazaar There were lots of baby clothes, woman's dresses, cardigans, T-shirts. One of our supporters donated several used, but brand-name handbags which were very popular worldwide. They were sold in a flash at our bazaar, too. An old lady came to the bazaar told us that last year she bought 14,000 Won's worth of used clothes but forgot to take them home. So we decided to cut down 14,000 Won from what she purchased this year, which made her very happy. She spent almost the entire day with us at the bazaar, shopping for more second-hand clothes and having lunch at the cafeteria. And there came two persons who escaped from North Korea a few years ago, and now students of Yonsei University. They were happy to realize the prices were really low, buying winter coats, sweaters, and jeans. When we did some more discount from the total amount of money, they were pleased enough to be willing to volunteer at Ae Ran Won.
I kind of felt sorry for my staff on the previous day because they had a hard time in preparing the bazaar: collecting, cleaning, and setting up all the stuff. To see them working too much made me wonder if we have to continue this event year after year. But holding a bazaar is one of the ways to get to know your community and your neighbors. And our staff became so good at organizing a bazaar! Total of 5,126,000 Won (approximately $4,100) collected this year at the bazaar will go to the independence fund for the unwed single mother's homes in our community. I really appreciate everybody who helped us hold the bazaar. Without your help, we could not get such a success.
There is a happy news. Since April, the Me.You.Us Support Center has provided mothers in our community with free vaccinations and milk formula and diapers for their children. Although they can get basic vaccinations for free at government clinics, they need some more vaccinations for epidemic illnesses, which are rather expensive. As its motto of this year is "Lowering Infants' Death Rate," the International Rotary Club donated $40,000 for the community mothers which will be used to provide necessary vaccination for the unwed single mother's children in our community. Ex-president Kang, Chang Ho helped a lot to make it happen for us.
More good news is that two of our young mothers at Seumter have passed the high school diploma test. One of them passed the test on her first try, but the other had tried three times before and finally she passed it on her fourth try. We all were so happy for her. We congratulated her on her being so determined and persistent, not giving up her dream. And one more mom at the Mother & Baby's Home also passed the test on her first try. With their high school diplomas, they now can take all the vocational courses they'd like.
We will do our best to support unwed mothers to stand on their own, starting from the point of having a healthy childbirth to the final stage of being independent mentally as well as financially. I thank you for your sincere support with love. Your continuous support is making this happen. God bless you and your family. Thank you!!
Sang Soon Han
Ae Ran Won
Dear Patrons of Ae Ran Won,
I would like to say thank you for your continuous support to Ae Ran Won. I am very happy to say that we have established a one-stop supporting service system, "From Childbirth to Self-Reliance." Your steady love cheers all of us up, to get over difficult issues and to keep working.
I recently met two women who had stayed in Ae Ran Won. On March 1, 2009, one mother who stayed here for 27 days in 1984 came by to ask for a picture of her baby who had been adopted immediately after birth. She cried her heart out saying not to blame her irresponsible behavior that she had to let her baby be sent away. She was 25 years and nine months pregnant when she came to us. After childbirth, the hospital doctor advised her repeatedly to look at the baby boy’s face for one last time but she could never open her eyes. She said she couldn’t because she didn’t deserve to see her own baby whom she couldn’t take responsibility for.
She returned to Ae Ran Won after she heard the baby had been taken away. She left Ae Ran Won after only three days because she was guilty as a mother who made her baby go away. She couldn’t just take care of her own health when she couldn’t take care of her own boy. She left Ae Ran Won without any notice and returned home, and her mother didn’t ask her anything. She had lived with her mother in a shack, until her mother passed away. Since she was left alone, she had to go though a lot of ups and downs. She said she had to go see a psychiatrist. It made my heart hurt to see her dark face, her eyes blank with guilt. It’s now 2009 and her clock was still stuck in 1984. She says she knows that people still talk behind her back about her guilt of sending her baby away, even though they smile at her. She says she knows that she should still be blamed. It hurt my heart to see her saying that. I asked the adoption agency for any available information and fortunately we were able to get a picture of the baby. However it was too old to even recognize the baby’s face. She was deeply grieved and kept saying “that’s not what I want."
The other mother who was here in 1990 was an unmarried single mother raising her son. On my first day at Ae Ran Won on April 1, 1990, she initiated a protest demonstration of the residents and handed me a list of proposals with more than 20 “we ask the new director” complaints to improve their conditions. On March 9, 2009, she left a line on the website of Ae Ran Won and we met again. She says she has suffered a tough and difficult life but she thinks her difficulties were never in vain. Her son has grown up well and now is a junior in college. She also graduated from a university and is in graduate school. She valued Ae Ran Won for giving her a foundation, and she wanted to share her stories with the mothers at Ae Ran Won. She said she made a promise to herself that she would return the love she has received, and this was the first step.
What both of them have in common is that they had spent the same years as unwed mothers. One chose to raise her baby and the other chose adoption as most of unmarried mothers at that time would do. It seemed the latter could get back to her former life sooner after her child's birth. However, she had to live the rest of her life with a sense of guilt and great loss, which had developed into a serious mental disease in her case. On the other hand, the former decided to raise her baby. After finishing a vocational training course and finding a job as a Korean dress maker she was discharged from Ae Ran Won. But it was extremely hard to raise a child as a single mother at that time. The strong prejudice of society was much worse back then and support didn’t exist at all. Her son had to go though thirteen operations to survive and she also had to undergo a major operation. With all these hard circumstances, what was the mainspring of her strength? She says it was her son. Her son was the only reason to keep her alive and not to give up. Her son was what made her what she is today.
On February 26, 2009, “A Workshop for Success Case Studies in Support of Unmarried Single Mothers and Their Babies in U.S. Communities" was held under the joint sponsorship of Ae Ran Won and The Korean Network to Support Unmarried Single Mothers. (The representative: Dr. Richard Boas) We learned several valuable lessons from the presentation by Dr. Cheryl Mitchell (former Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Service in Vermont, current professor at Vermont University). One of the issues was about the social misunderstandings of unmarried mothers in Korea, such as “The support policy for unmarried mothers causes the issues and increases the number of unwed mothers” and “Child rearing by an unmarried mother makes the baby unhappier.”
According to Dr. Mitchell, unmarried mothers and their babies have received intensive supports in Vermont through the Mother-Child Center, established in the state to support unmarried mothers and babies in local communities. They came up with some useful results and one is that the rate of pregnancy and repeat-pregnancy by teenagers has decreased. They verified it is not true that children of unmarried mothers would become unhappier. The important thing is that babies need appropriate resources and surroundings like everybody else. What matters is not whether the mothers are unmarried or married..
I hope that we will be able to hold “A Workshop for Success Case Studies in Support of Unmarried Mothers and Their Babies in Korea" in one year. I believe it is feasible because you support us, pray for us, the staff at Ae Ran Won truly devotes ourselves, and the mothers in Ae Ran Won have strong will of life.
I would like to extend my gratitude to you again and hope all of you stay healthy at this time of changing of season. Thank you.
Sang Soon Han
Director Ae Ran Won
It's getting warm. Due to the winter drought, Kangwon Province declared its Emergency. That makes us be concerned about water usage at home. The other day, I read an article on my husband's high school alumni homepage. It talked about one of the differences between mothers and wives, saying that "mothers wash the dishes in a water-filled bucket, but on the other hand, wives wash the dishes directly under the faucet." It had a good point there, and I started to wash the dishes in a water-filled bucket.
The exterior wall for Ae Ran Won has been under construction, and it will be done by the end of February. The exterior wall project has been one of our utmost works, but because of its high cost it has been on the must-be-done list for a long time. Fortunately, at the end of last year, Government and Seoul City decided to support the project providing 221 million won, splitting the cost 50:50. The construction began on January 12th. If you visit Ae Ran Won in March, you will find our building changed its appearance from the old, gloomy, gray wall to a very bright, beautiful one. Right now, however, it is quite uncomfortable to be around the building because of the noise and the construction dust. But we are all looking forward to seeing our beautiful Ae Ran Won. There are sixteen babies at present at Ae Ran Won, who have been taken to either the nearby Bongwon Church or Ae Ran Mother and Baby's Home because of the noise and dust. Their meals have been brought to them by our staff and volunteers. Luckily, those mothers who came into our facility before they delivered a baby can get great help from "Bichumee Maternal Volunteers Association" sponsored by Sam Sung Life Insurance. Volunteers specialized in taking care of mothers-to-be and new-born babies come to help mothers who delivered a baby within two weeks.
As for the counselling statistics of 2008, teenagers, twenties, and thirties and older made up 34%, 55%, and 11% respectively. And middle and high school drop-outs formed 42%, while high school and college graduates formed 58%. 72% of those single mothers who gave birth at Ae Ran Won decided to bring up their babies instead of placing them for adoption. The number decreased compared to 81% of the women in the year of 2007. That's because there were several young mothers who had tremendous difficulties to raise her child and they all decided to give up their babies for adoption. There also was one young mother who had the inevitable medical abortion at Seoul National University Hospital.
As those who are mentally disabled or depressed mothers came to our facility in a rush, social workers had great difficulties in dealing with them. Most of those mothers over-reacted to the social workers' love and attention, clinging to them all the time and being jealous of others who took social workers' attention. From time to time, these four or five young mothers attacked each other and did childish temper-tantrums, sitting on the office floor. It is very hard to take care of them, because they have neither any proper education to be hired nor a place to go after leaving our facility. This situation reminds me of Japanese child welfare facilities that I experienced last year. And I was told Japanese facilities gradually became more or less a shelter for the disabled because they had no other place to go. We are almost in the same boat these days. Even though we did our best to encourage them to stand on their own feet, providing the necessary education and care, they frequently came back to Ae Ran Won begging to stay here longer. Those mentally disadvantaged mothers have difficulties in controlling and expressing their feelings. When their babies were taken away to adoption, they cried a lot, hitting their chest and saying it's aching.
In 2008, there have been many incidents causing a lot of trouble for our staff. One of the cases was about a sixteen-year-old pregnant girl who had stayed at a motel by herself for several months. Without having nutritious, healthy food for a long time, she became very weak. When it was about time to deliver her baby, she went to a nearby police station to get some help. The police tried in vain to find a facility that could take care of her. They finally called us. And even though it was very hard for us to take her in because of the on-going construction, we decided to take her in because it was a matter of two lives. She was in such bad shape that hospitals refused to accept her. It was Sung Ae Hospital that finally took her in and help her give birth there. But the medical condition of the young mother and her child was so critical that we had to transfer them to the intensive care unit at Kangnam Sungshim Hospital in an ambulance in the middle of the night. The young mother had to stay at the unit for 15 days and her baby stayed there for a whole month before they could be transferred to a regular room at the hospital. Being at Ae Ran Won right now, they still need a lot of care.
Our staff at Ae Ran Won is having such a hard time taking care of all the mothers and their babies. There are so many things to do. And I can't lift much of their burden because of financial difficulties. Nevertheless, our staff is full of spirit and pride. That's because they have very high self-esteem, believing their time, talent, and capabilities are being used at the right time and right place. I am so proud of my staff, thanking them profoundly for their endless effort. At the same time, I am so sorry to my staff that I can't provide them with more benefits.
I'll let you get a glimpse of our newly changed Ae Ran Won next month. To tell you the truth, my heart is full of appreciation whenever I examine our accounting books. Thanks to your continuous support, we can do our various projects for unwed mothers and their children. You are so sensitive to the poor and needy without any prejudice. I thank you for your generosity from the bottom of my heart. Please be happy and healthy!
Sang Soon Han,
Director of Ae Ran Won
It's 2009, New Year! I wish you all the best! You have been supporting our unwed mothers and their children with sincere concern and warm love so that they can live in good health psychologically as well as physically.
At this very beginning of the New Year, I have been thinking about the future and the role of Ae Ran Won. As I mentioned last December, quoting the poem of Guillaume Apollinaire, getting rid of inner fear is the first step to success, and an appropriate education is the key to do it.
One of the Ae Ran Won's roles is to help single mothers overcome their inner fear and lead their lives with new hope, achieving their independence. The other is to stop the biased prejudice of single mothers in our society. Even though mothers try so hard getting the necessary education, finishing the vocational training courses and getting the certificates, if they cannot get a job or they cannot keep their jobs because of the strong social prejudice that single mothers are bad women, then their frustration, despair, and poverty will continue.
According to the January 5th issue of a newspaper, the poverty rate of a home in Korea whose head is a woman is over 40%, the highest rate among the 18 OECD nations. They say it is beyond comparison, in the degree of the size of absolute poverty, and the relative poverty between male and female heads of household as well. Due to the continuing economic crisis, an increase of poverty households, especially the woman head of household, is foreseeable. That is why we are in need of more effective government policies to protect those woman head of households from falling into poverty.
However, the Government still does not seriously lay out the best policy and a system for the needy, rather dealing with the issues as political ones. All the budget, energy, and other expenses put into the wrong policies could be wasted. If mothers have no other way but to continue to depend on national welfare, they could not secure their independence even though the national budget supports the same project year after year. And that would be a huge, tremendous waste for not only the individuals but the nation.
Ae Ran Won's purpose for this year is to collect the success stories that mothers achieve their independence safe and sound, to suggest more plausible welfare policies to the government based on the case studies, and to signify a change of mind or attitude on single mothers in the society.
And there is one more. There are so many organizations, so-called unwed mothers' support center, in this society these days. Ae Ran Won will show them how the best support center should be managed by running the Me.You.Us Family Center opened last November as soundly as possible. Without a good role model, people would have difficulty recognizing the most promising system that can help single mothers best.
Ae Ran Won, Seumter, Mother & Baby's Home, Self supporting Home, and Me.You.Us Family Center are all run by your support. I will do my best to bring your valuable support to a beautiful fruition, letting our single moms and their children be precious human resources in our future low-birth, aging society.
I earnestly ask your favor to continue your support with warm concerns on Ae Ran Won, Seumter, and Center. Of the total budget, 35%, 90%, and 10% is coming from your support for Ae Ran Won, Seumter, and Mother & Baby's Home respectively. And the Me.You.Us Family Center and Self Supporting Home are running out of your support 100% of the total budget. As always, the entire budget will be executed clearly and genuinely only to help the single mothers and their children to accomplish their independence in good health. I thank you again for your continuing support in these economically difficult times and wish you all the best one more time. Thank you!
Sang Soon Han
Director of Ae Ran Won