Celebrate Best Buddies Korea
Best Buddies Korea was established on February 14th, 2010 under the management of Ai Corea. The volunteers from Ai Corea Hankuk YukYoung School and Daewon Foreign Language High School form the first pilot chapter of Best Buddies Korea. They focus on activities that provide opportunities for volunteers, with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities, to have everyday experiences with a friend that they would not have met had it not been for Best Buddies. From this first chapter, Best Buddies Korea plans to extend programs to middle schools and high schools all over Korea.
Ga Yung Suh, a peer buddy, shares her experience with her Buddy and her recent trip to the Best Buddies International Leadership Conference in Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A.
My buddy, Seong Hyuck, is a senior boy one-year older than I. When I first met him last March, I felt little bit afraid because he didn’t make eye contact, ignored my questions, kept looking for food, and even took my cell phone that was in my pocket. Also, when I tried to make contact with him by text messages and phone calls, he gave me no answer.
Since then, we have come a long way. We’ve become closer friends, doing lots of different things together: making ceramics and cakes, going to the movies and playing soccer, to name a few. Whenever we get together, I can see changes in Seong Hyuck. Now he often makes eye contact when I’m talking, says hello to me, and remembers my name. The last time we went out, we went to see Toy Story 3. When we met at the first floor at the theater, he came to me and shook my hand with a smile. His changes are really small that only I can recognize, but I feel really thankful and want to be his Best Buddy.
Because of the experiences I had with Seong Hyuck, I was eager to learn more about Best Buddies, so the opportunity to go to the Best Buddies Leadership Conference in the U.S. was something that I was very excited about. It turned out, unfortunately to be a really long and harsh trip to Indianapolis with multiple unexpected delays. However, once we finally arrived and shared three unforgettable days with lots of new friends from all over the world, I knew I had been greatly influenced and that through me, the rest of the members of Best Buddies Korea would be influenced and inspired as well. Since Best Buddies Korea is very small and has only one chapter and 8 pairs, I felt a great responsibility to learn from other chapters and countries. General and international sessions were really helpful and essential for Best Buddies Korea, but some cultural differences weren’t negligible. My director, Mrs. Suh, and I realized that as a new program we need to continue to work with the Best Buddies International staff to further develop our strategy of running the Best Buddies in a way that is compatible with the culture of Korea.
At the conference, I was surprised by the popularity of Best Buddies program in the U.S. We plan to one day grow and extend the Best Buddies program all over Korea. I wish other members of Best Buddies Korea could have had the opportunity to feel the energetic atmosphere of the conference and learn lots of things to improve our program. Thank you to Best Buddies for giving me this great experience.