Volunteering was always something I wanted to do since coming to Korea. It is a good way to get closer to the community and contribute to society. However, because of the pandemic and my Korean language skills, I was a bit hesitant. It took two years, but I finally joined a volunteer group and it was a great experience!
Although I wanted to volunteer soon after arriving in Korea, I waited until last month to join a group, after living in Korea for over two years. Honestly, during the past two years, I didn’t meet new people in Korea despite being a student.
University classes were online due to the pandemic, so I never had the chance to meet my classmates and make friends. So, when the opportunity came to join her for a beach cleaning event, I readily agreed despite being a bit nervous. This was the beginning of my volunteer activities in Korea.
Although there are a lot of organizations out there, today I will mainly focus on Volunteer Korea. It is mainly targeted toward foreigners and you can join them easily even if you don’t speak Korean.
The NGO Volunteer Korea (주한외국인자원봉사센터) was founded by Tony Medina (CEO of Seoul Guide Medical) and Julian Quintart. The organization’s purpose is to bring foreigners and locals together while volunteering for different causes.
The organization regularly organizes gatherings for people from all over the world to participate in different volunteer activities. Furthermore, Volunteer Korea has connections to other NGOs, local governments, embassies, and businesses. Also, Volunteer Korea is officially recognized by the Korean Government. As a result, volunteer activities with this organization can be registered for points when applying for certain visas.
Volunteer Korea is involved in a range of activities such as environmental clean-ups, animal shelters, and soup kitchens. Recently they had beach clean-ups, plogging at the Hangang, and food delivery for the needy. Most activities are on weekends, but occasionally there are some during the week. Different partners, like businesses or other NGOs, also join the events. Some partners sponsor equipment or provide information for foreigners in Korea.
One time the participants got a plogging set for volunteering. This included tongs, a bag made out of recycled material, and a tumbler.
You can check their homepage for more information by Clicking Here. However, in my opinion, if you want to participate, it is better to follow their Instagram. It is updated and checked more regularily. It is easy to join, as you just have to send them your information in a DM. Then, they will add you to a group chat, where you will get further information. However, some volunteering events, such as the ones at animal shelters fill up really fast, so if you want to join you also have to be quick.
Another way to check upcoming events is by joining their open group chat on Kakaotalk. You can find the link to it on their linktree (Click Here).
Depending on which event you join you will have to bring different stuff. However, in general, wear clothes that can get dirty and bring something to drink. When joining a plogging event you should bring your own gloves and tongs. Usually, there are some extras, but it is always good to have your own, especially if you plan on doing it regularily.
I went to two Volunteer Korea plogging events at the Han river. The first time it was on a Friday afternoon with a smaller group. However, the one on Saturday had almost a hundred participants. In general, the volunteers will be separated into groups and to clean different areas. In the end, all the trash will be collected at the starting point.
I have been plogging by myself or with a friend, but joining a bigger group felt nice. I was able to engage with new people from all over the world, who had the same interest as me. So while picking up trash, I was learning new things and having fun.
Volunteer Korea gives you the opportunity to meet new people and give back to the community. You don’t have to worry about your Korean skills, so it is easy to join. It also sets a good example for other people that see you. It will make them aware to not leave trash behind and maybe even pick up some extra trash themselves.
For me, I am always surprised with how much trash you can find in a single area, that looks clean at first glance. With all volunteer activities, the impact you can have is bigger than most people expect. Plus, you can meet amazing people!
Interested in learning about more volunteer activities in Korea? Click Here to learn more about the North Korean refugee community in Korea and ways you can help them.