If you aren’t familiar with the name Dan Nabben then you might be familiar with some of his projects; Jeju Furey Beach Volleyball, the Jeju Furey Bowling and Frisbee Tournaments. Either way, what you might not know is that each event is coordinated for charity. Nabben arrived in Jeju 7 years ago intending to take a break, yet here he is planning events most foreigners on the island look forward to year round. Nabben doesn’t take all the credit. He said he has a team that helps him with each event, and the team keeps growing. Now ladies, if your weren’t interested in this man before, you will be now. Unfortunately, as of New Year’s he is taken. His engagement to Kim Su Yeon has landed Nabben on the island “indefinitely,” which is good news. The Jeju Weekly recently sat with the Windsor, Ontario native while he told his Jeju story.
▲ Dan Nabben. Photo by Alpha Newberry
Where did your philanthropy projects here begin? It all happened so fast, literally I was playing Frisbee with my friend Nathan on a Saturday and the next day I got a call from my cousin saying Nathan is missing … They later found him in the women’s bathroom at the clinic he checked himself into that Sunday morning because he wasn’t feeling well ... On Monday or Tuesday they had called his parents to fly in … On Wednesday when the parents landed it sort of clicked in my head that no matter what, they are going to have ridiculous hospital bills … I had been giving updates about what was going on at the hospital and then in one email I said that the hospital bills are going to be pretty big, so let’s start raising money now. So, Jesse Dishaw, Anj Schroader and Naomi Stanko got on it …
Nathan Furey’s death left behind his wife and two children. The Furey Foundation, created in remembrance of Nathan, set a goal to raise 20 million won for the post-secondary education of the two boys before moving on to the next needy family. Nabben said they have around 4 million to go. Well, our first goal was 16 million and we raised that within three months. But then Jessie Dishaw said that 20 million looked better than 16 so we kept going. But then we had to buy a lot of equipment and we made investments … so that last four million has taken a while. Originally I had no intention of finding another family after we raised the 20 million. That hadn’t even occurred to me. That only came about when it was clear people were having too much fun at these events to stop doing them but since we had raised enough money for the Furey boys it was time to help out someone else.
Who was the biggest contributor ? No’hyeong Catholic Church. 1.5 million won came from the church directly and then another 2.5 million through their parishioners and a couple of T-shirt sales.
How did the other tournaments springboard off of the volleyball idea? I think it was just a matter of the volleyball tourneys becoming so much fun. You had people asking, how can we do this more often? But since there were already two for volleyball, the thought was, why not do one for another sport.
I understand you are religious. Yes, Catholic.
How large a role has that played in the decisions that led you to start the charity projects? Initially, when I put out the message to Nathan’s friends saying we needed to take some action, that was from a sense of duty, not of being a ‘good Christian’. And I would have gotten that sense of duty from my parents. Catholicism’s role would have come in later on. When I would consider calling it quits, it would give me reasons to keep going.
How did you go about selecting the new family? I can’t remember who suggested it … but they said why you don’t ask the Catholic Church that sponsored all that money to help you find a new a family ... So I did, and they got in touch with the St. Vincent de Paul Society … They found this family in Iho … a grandmother taking care of her two grandsons who had lost their parents surviving on 200,000 won a month from the government. The other fact I know is that all their heating is provided by a single heating blanket …
How did the bowling tournament go? Very successfully. The tournament had 20 teams show up and raised 500,000 won.
What have you learned through each event? I learned how to streamline the work. At first I counted on a very small group of people to do a whole lot of work but now I’ve figured how to get more people involved... I learned that there are people who want to put on some events themselves. They come to you and say that they want to do this or that. Those events would be under the Jeju Furey banner but I wouldn’t be doing all the work ...
So what is it like when people come to you? It’s awesome. I almost wanna cry … it’s just so cool.
How much Korean did you speak before arriving in Korea? None. Basically what happened was I was here for a year and I was having so much fun, but a lot of that was because my cousin had studied Korean, and he could speak really well … So everywhere we went, it was just so easy. There are all these perks that you get when you can speak Korean … I thought okay, I gotta do it too.
How have you changed since you arrived in 2003? I was the opposite in a lot of ways. When I got to Korea I stayed out of the community. I had my two friends and we’d go hiking together all the time and I DJ’d on weekends in my first year, but that was about the extent of it ... But now I’m very involved.
You have traveled all over, played soccer in Finland. You say you loved Southeast Asia. Besides your recent engagement, why make Jeju your last stop? It’s everything. One of the bigger things is culture and religion. It’s much easier here to be catholic than it is at home. The culture and their focus on family is much more conducive to what I believe in ... I love … everything.
What is your vision for the future of all of this? What do you hope it becomes? I would love for the beach volleyball tournament to be a feature on the calendar of the whole peninsula; I want it to be like Mudfest. Every time I get to Iho I keep looking to the other part of the beach and I say, we can do that. We can fill this whole beach up.
For upcoming events, check our Community Calendar, pg 20.
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