If a guy somewhere in Asia makes a blog and no one reads it, does it really exist?

Sunday, December 12

The kids are not alright

According to a recent UNICEF report, "More than a billion children--over half the children in the world--suffer extreme deprivation because of war, HIV/AIDS or poverty..."

"...nearly half the estimated 3.6 million people killed in wars since 1990 were children..."

"There is rarely a justification for war that mitigates the suffering and loss of war..." (Carol Bellamy--Executive Director, UNICEF)

One in six (90m) children are severely hungry.
One in seven (270m) have no healthcare at all.
One in five have no access to safe water.
One in three have no toilet at home.
More than 29,000 children die every day of preventable causes.

Sorry to keep harping on this kind of stuff. It's just sometimes difficult to believe that the world is so crap. Here I am, sipping calcium fortified orange juice in a room with a heated floor, watching the Tokyo Jazz Festival on cable TV. (TOTO is on stage now. Japan: where aging rockers go to die.) For lunch, I stuffed my face with bibimbap and kimchi. I've got it good.

Speaking of children, I've been volunteering at the Jecheon Children's Home for the past several weeks. The orphanage, which currently houses about 90 children, is run by an American woman named Jane White. She came to Jecheon in 1962, opened the orphanage the year after and has been here ever since. A disproportionately large number of orphans used to turn up in Jecheon because the city was once a major rail center, which made it easy for parents to get off one train, drop off their unwanted child at the station, and make their escape on another.

Ms. White has never been married, but told me that she has raised over 1000 children. All her children have "Baek" as their last name, which is Korean for "white." (You can't just choose any old last name. It has to be properly registered.) Imagine if I were the director. All the kids would be named "So" (cow), or maybe "Mokdong" (牧童/cowboy).

There are eight middle school kids living at the orphanage--four girls and four boys. They are all in the 1st grade, and I was surprised to find that they all attend one of my schools! They were pretty darn surprised to see me, too. Now, when I go to that school, it's like we share a little secret.

Last Friday, Ms. White was distributing their monthly allowance of 5000 won. That's about $5.

It's sad that I'll only be here for three more weeks. I wish, for so many reasons, that things hadn't turned out this way with Yoonsung.


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