The YWCA provides a surprising array of services for women and children on Jeju Island.
At its helm is Shin Kyung In, the organization’s newly elected president. Shin was the vice president prior to now and has been involved with the Jeju YWCA for a total of 9 years.
As president, she must oversee six divisions: the headquarters, center for women’s labor force, daycare center, consulting / counseling center, shelter (for victims of domestic violence), and the after-school program. Her goal is to create a cohesive environment among these sub-organizations.
Her studies at Ewha Womans University in the field of education in addition to problems with her own child in adolescence and “many other aspects of [her] background” have led her to this work.
Shin’s passion at YWCA is the consulting program for victims of sexual violence and rape prevention education. She has been in charge of this program for several years and intends for it to remain a priority.
“Education is vital in this area,” she expressed, “beginning as young as the age of 4, because children are often victims.”
Her team of specially trained consultants uses play therapy with dolls to educate children about these issues in a way that doesn’t distort or taint their own body image. For adolescent and young adult women, role-play is the method of choice. No such program is available at present for adult women, though Shin intends to see that such programs are developed.
“I want to teach them as a mother would,” she explained.
Citing the high incidence of divorce on Jeju, she envisions a marriage preparation program as well as a course in communication skills. She suggests that an “inferiority complex” among Jeju men might contribute to the prevalence of domestic violence.
The after-school program, which is for low-income families, is another project about which Shin is quite pleased. “The children are often very shy and inhibited when they first arrive,” she said of the program’s attendees, “but they blossom over time.”
In addition to receiving assistance with schoolwork, the students participate in activities such as dance, music and art, and go to Seoul for an English camp.
▲ Local children have fun in one of the YWCA’s various after school programs. Photos courtesy Jeju YWCA
According to Shin, Jeju has more dual-income households than ever, and the children are often sent to private academies after school as a means of providing care for them. This isn’t an option for low-income families, so the YWCA program fills the gap.
The center for the women’s labor force assists women who are re-entering the workforce after a lengthy absence. Consultants provide training for entry-level occupations like babysitter, housemaid, and home care worker. They also assist with job placement.
Other programs currently on offer at the facility include fusion and healthy cooking classes and an exceptionally popular cooking class for fathers.
When asked about services specifically for multicultural families, Shin described a “Big Mother” program modeled after global “Big Brother / Big Sister” programs. In this program, older local women are paired with new wives from diverse cultural backgrounds. Acting as mentors, they teach the new wives skills and general cultural awareness to help them integrate more fully into Jeju society.
As of May, a new program for migrant workers will begin. Shin would also like to revive an earlier program, now defunct, called “Y-Teen” for adolescents. She plans to meet with school principals and ask for their endorsement in order to build participation.
Future goals for Shin and the YWCA include a greater contribution to local politics, in part to help insure more jobs for young adults. Shin also expressed a desire to find ways by which women can work into old age if they choose rather than being forced into retirement.
As to the women’s culture of Jeju, Shin had this to say: “When Jeju’s women are happy ... Jeju is happy.” She expressed a wish for Jeju’s women to “discover and nurture their talents, their potential.”
“They are diligent and hard-working,” she added, “but they must build confidence.”
Shin Kyung In is a shining example for Jeju women.
(Interpretation by Song Jung Hee)
Dr. Hilty is a cultural health psychologist living on Jeju Island.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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