Posts Tagged With: KUMSN

Organizational sustainability and the problem of funding

I actually finished the “birth mother syndrome” project last month at the same time that the study group was finishing their study on Family Ties by Lee Jun-Il.  The author who is also a professor, actually came to the last study group meeting to discuss his book and members were able to ask questions and give feedback.  I attended and was able to follow the discussion thanks to the help of another adoptee, who was nice enough to provide me with the basic translations throughout the meeting.

My field educator, Han Seo Seung-hee (who was sadly leaving KUMSN to advance her studies), gave me the opportunity to choose what kind of project or work I would like to do next with my interests in mind. Because KUMSN is a new organization, my initial interests were in developing more formal tools or processes that would help the organization with future funding and enable them to collect concrete data on their effectiveness or to demonstrate the need for tangible and societal support to unwed mothers.  My ideas included creating an intake process, creating and conducting a needs assessment, and either begin to think about or develop measures for program evaluation.  However, KUMSN is almost too new as an NGO and the main priority is to secure long-term funding or fiscal partnership in order to continue operating and be able to sustain in Korea.

However, the donor and community giving atmosphere in Korea is very different than it is currently in the U.S.  While there seems to be a shift in the business and corporate world to community giving and its impact on social and environmental issues (as well as greater tax incentives), there is little pressure on leaders in the Korean corporate world to give back. Most financial opportunities and grants that are available in Korea are through the federal government, institutions for higher education, foundations, and private opportunities.

Also, there is a much greater level of involvement for donors and grantors in the organization’s operations and activities than what is common in the U.S.  That is, financial contributors have greater power and influence as a stakeholder in NGO’s which often do not align with the organization’s value system or mission.  There is also the problem in Korea and for KUMSN especially, with an unwillingness to fund or donate to an organization because the cause or mission is seen as controversial or radical.  Since there is still such a strong stigma on unwed mothers who are pregnant or choose to raise their children, many companies and organizations are not interested in supporting or are concerned about their image if they became affiliated.

From what I have heard from others, the topic of unwed mothers is a hot issue currently and support (or opposition) may change in the future as a result of a popular Korean drama called “Childless Comfort” or 무자식 상팔자 in Korean.

Childless Comfort or 무자식 상팔자

Childless Comfort or 무자식 상팔자

As many of us know, the depiction of a social issue in the media can have a significant impact on the attitudes and beliefs of the general public which may help or hinder the efforts of organizations like KUMSN and KUMFA.

Since the current funding source for KUMSN has only agreed to a two-year contract in which this will mark their final year, there is a significant amount of pressure for KUMSN to become self-sustaining or to locate other sources of funding in order to continue with their activities and advocacy for unwed mothers in Korea. Recently, they received a donation of 1,220,000 KWN ($1112 USD) from Nuffic Neso Korea which will go towards the education of the general public about the issue of unwed mothers and raising awareness.  KUMSN also receives in-kind donations such as baby clothing and other items from other voluntary groups through the “cafe network” in Korea, which seems to be similar to “Meetup.com”.

Because of the lack of domestic support on the issue of unwed mothers and the poor environment for charitable giving in South Korea, KUMSN is seeking international opportunities for funding, grants, and fiscal partnerships or sponsors. It is an area that I am not very familiar with but I have had a desire to learn more about writing grant proposals since securing funding is not limited to the interests of South Korean NGO’s but is in demand worldwide. I have located a few opportunities including the Global Fund for Women at www.globalfundforwomen.org, Mama Cash at www.mamacash.org, as well as other international women’s and human right’s funding websites and will begin drafting a prelimary proposal or application to the ones I have located.

If you or someone you know is interested in supporting KUMSN or has information about international funding and grant opportunities, please contact me or the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network directly: kumsn@kumsn.org

Information about the organization’s activities, achievements, impact, and how you can help can be found on the “About Field Organization: KUMSN” page linked above or visit their website Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network

 

 

Unwed mothers in Korean media:

‘Childless Comfort’ looks like TV game-changer

Speedy Scandal (2008)

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Categories: Family issues, Field Experience, Human Rights issues, Korean Culture, Other Social Welfare Issues, Social Work, Women's Issues | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summary of the 1st Week

It has been about a week since I started field and things have been pretty difficult with the language barrier and cultural differences. I feel as though I may have had a rocky start with KUMSN because I was unaware of some of the cultural norms regarding greetings, giving gifts, and even meal times.

Greetings and farewells are much more formal compared to my experience in the U.S. and is essential in the Korean work culture. In jobs that I’ve worked in the past, saying “hello” and “goodbye” to my co-workers and supervisors were not something that I normally would of as important or that I would spend time doing. At my current job as a case manager, employees arrive and leave the office on different schedules depending on their own agendas, so It has never been a priority for me to greet or say goodbye to everyone.

Despite these struggles, I have been learning so much more about the social environment that has led to the unwed mother’s perception of not having any other choice than to give their child up for adoption. I also am beginning to identify and better explain how the discrimination and struggles that unwed mothers experience are related to several other dynamics in Korean society which I hope to go more into later.

Family Ties by Lee Jun-il

Family Ties by Lee Jun-Il

On my second day of field, I stayed afterwards to attend a study group that KUMSN holds at their office once every other week. The participants are all KUMSN members and are in various professional and academic fields. There is a lawyer, an accountant, two in PhD programs for women’s/feminine studies (including one male), an international tourism professor, an unwed mother, as well as other KUMSN employees including my field educator, Seunghee.

The group’s focus is to study and learn more about unwed mothers and their experiences to gain a better understanding since most study group members are not unwed mothers. Currently, the study group is reading Family Ties: According to the change in the concept of family: the rights of unwed mothers and adoptees by Lee, Jun-il.  Click on the book for more info.

Although my understanding of Korean language is very limited, I can understand the conversation topic and can somewhat gather the position and some thoughts of the speaker during discussion. They also distribute handouts or an outline of the discussion as a guide, however it is also in Korean.  In the past the study group has also reviewed research and academic journal articles about other relevant issues such as the status of women in Korea and international adoption.

Shinhan Bank book

so cute!

With the help of KUMSN, I also established a Korean bank account with Shinhan Bank so that I could transfer money more easily between my bank in the U.S. and Korea since the foreign exchange and ATM fees are very high. It is also more convenient to add money to my mobile SIM card and my T-money card. Even before coming to Korea, I have always liked their cute stationary and office products. I was even more excited to find that even their bank books are cute!

Categories: Field Experience, Korean Culture, Other Social Welfare Issues, Social Work | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Meeting KUMSN

It has been only three days since I started my field placement with KUMSN and so far I’ve found it to be energizing and exciting, but also difficult and at times frustrating.

The KUMSN office is actually located in an apartment building rather than a formal office building, so it is a very home-like environment. Based on the stigma on unwed mothers and those that openly support them, finding affordable office space may have been difficult for KUMSN. Their sole office is located in a district called Mapo-gu (which is not too far from where I am staying in Seodaemun-gu). There are three full-time office staff including the Executive Director, the Project Public Relations Chief Manager, and my field educator, Han Seo, Seung-hee (family name, given name), who is the Research & Education Chief Manager. The board chairperson, Angela Kang, also has her office here but only comes once or twice a week.

KUMSN cute sticky notes that say  "All the mothers of the world have the right to raise their own children,"

Translation: “All the mothers of the world have the right to raise their own children,”

After getting lost on the bus system and walking in the freezing cold, I finally arrived (an hour late) on my first day. I met with Seung-hee and learned about KUMSN’s current activities. She provided me with brochures in Korean and English, as well as some cute post-it notes with their information on them.

Although KUMSN was founded in 2007, they were registered as an organization in the U.S. Very recently in 2011, KUMSN became a registered organization with the Korean government although they do not receive any government funding or support. Through the foundation that Dr. Boas established in the U.S., KUMSN will have a funding source for its first two years in Korea with the goal of becoming self-supporting by June 2014. Additional funding is obtained through donations (both monetary and in-kind), sponsoring members, and memberships for their budget. However, because of the stigma on unwed mothers, it is difficult to gain the support of businesses and organizations who do not want to be affiliated with KUMSN.

This month, they have been very busy preparing for their U.S. tax audit that they must complete since they receive funding through Dr. Boas’ foundation. At this time, I have been helping by doing miscellaneous office tasks such as copying, filing, organizing, etc. Although these tasks are not directly related to our roles as social workers, I have come to accept that paperwork and organization are important and will always be part of the job, especially in an administrative or management position.

My other responsibilities will include reviewing and proofreading the English website as well as the news and academic articles after they have been translated by KUMSN volunteers from Korean to English. I also search for academic research and news articles (in English) related to unwed mothers, intercountry adoption, birthmothers, and families in Korea and other areas of the world.

It is also a reflection of cultural differences in that Korea has a very different work environment than what I am used to working in the U.S. It is common for the newest person to the company or organization to do these kinds of activities such as copying, getting coffee, and filing. Working beyond the designated work hours is also common and a regular occurrence, but is not reflected in their salary or wages. For example, a friend of mine who is a Korean National, started working for KT Telecom and has been working from 9 am until 11 pm most days although he’s only paid until 6 pm.

I am very excited to work with KUMSN because of my own thoughts and feelings about the issues unwed mothers face in Korea and I do believe that woman have the right to become mothers and to keep and raise their children. It is also important to me because it is this stigma that has really fueled the Korean international adoption industry.

KUMSN's banner on adopted children

As a woman, it is also important to me because of the traditional Korean beliefs and norms that historically and continues to place greater value on men: not only in families which are the private and domestic sector, but also in employment, owning property, politically, economically, educationally, and even in everyday public and social interactions. I hope to go into greater detail with my thoughts and understanding of these aspects throughout the time that I am here, but I think that I have written enough for tonight.

 

Categories: Child welfare, Field Experience, Korean Culture, Social Work, Women's Issues | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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