Thanks to your help, our newest toddler has started preschool this March, and he is doing very well! Jinyoung is just 19 months old, but he is a quick walker (runner) and has a huge appetite. We were worried that the preschool would ask us for additional money to support his lunch expenses -- but so far, they've just laughed it off. :-D
At first, the staff members at both the orphanage and the preschool were a little worried about his adjustment because of his young age. They decided to start him off on half days for the first month to let him get used to preschool. After the first week, everyone -- including Jinyoung himself -- had determined that he was well adjusted, playing with the older kids and following along to the teacher's instruction.
Jinyoung's house mom (pictured with Jinyoung on his first day of preschool) says, "I am so thankful to KKOOM for their support and for sending Jinyoung to preschool. He is a very curious and smart little guy, and I have huge hopes for him to do well. He'll get to experience so many new things in preschool that he wouldn't be able to do at (the orphanage) home." When asked about his strengths, Jinyoung's house mom says that he has good motor skills. He likes to stack blocks and play (or pound on, as the case may be) the piano; he also seems to have an interest in soccer, kicking and chasing after the ball with great enthusiasm.
If KKOOM did not send Jinyoung to preschool, Jinyoung would probably be bored at the orphanage home without proper education or stimulation. Volunteers might come in to play with him one-on-one or teach him at the home, but he would not be surrounded by other children his age. This is because all of the 4 year olds and up go to preschool and regular schools, so he would be left, essentially, home alone with his house mom. Houses parents at orphanages are not generally trained in early childhood education, rather having degrees in children's social welfare, so it is especially important that toddlers like Jinyoung get to go to preschool like the rest of Korean children their age.
Hence, we're glad to be able to give Jinyoung and his energy a new outlet by being able to send him to preschool with your support. We are sure that he is building a solid foundation for his future educational success.
As always, if you have any questions about our work, please feel free to contact me personally. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you again sincerely for your help.
Many of you know that we've been able to send Korean orphan toddlers to preschool starting in the year they turn 24 months old, which is when most Korean children begin. The Korean government, however, only pays for toddlers living in orphanage homes to go when they turn 4, which is 2 years later than all of the other kids. Common sense tells us (and our intuition has been verified by our child development expert friends and volumes of unrelated studies) that the earlier children get access to education, the better off they are in the future.
We started this program about 3 years ago, and so far, we've been able to send 6 (18-month-old to 3-year-old) toddlers to preschool. Through a partnership with a local Gumi preschool, we're able to get a 50% discounted tuition rate, and it costs us about $200 per month per child for all-day preschool (8:30 am - 3:30 pm).
One of first 6 children is starting 1st grade next year in March, when the Korean school year begins. He's already shown early signs of learning disabilities, so he's also been able to receive extra help learning to read and write his alphabet. We'd like to think that, by helping go to preschool earlier than he would've otherwise been able to, some of his learning challenges may have been detected early as well.
Right now, there are two children in Gumi, South Korea attending preschool with KKOOM's support. Jisu and Suzy are both doing very well in their respective classes. Jisu, however, doesn't really like strangers. Recently, he asked his house mom to call the preschool and ask Santa not to come the next day! Santa was due to make an appearance to pass out presents. When asked if he didn't want to receive a present then, he said, "Yes, I don't want a present. Just don't let Santa come!" Suzy, on the other hand, is outgoing and likes interacting with others. She even let an international volunteer paint her face at the Christmas party last Saturday!
KKOOM also supports one toddler living in a special needs orphanage home in Daegu, South Korea and helps him receive special therapy. Minho was born with renal dysplasia (small kidneys) and has experienced stunted development. For 2.5 years, Minho lived at Samsungwon in Gumi and then was transferred to the home in Daegu earlier this year, because the Daegu facility is better equipped to support his special needs. KKOOM's financial aid helps Minho receive one-on-one sessions with occupational and educational therapists to help him on his way.
Next year, Jinyoung, now 16 months old, will start preschool in Gumi in March. He's an active little guy, and when the preschool van comes to pick up his older brothers and sisters every day, he goes out to watch. Sometimes he tries to climb in with everyone else. Soon it will be his turn too.
To ensure the long-term sustainability and success of this program, and so we can help even more Korean orphan toddlers go to preschool, please consider an additional year-end gift to support this program. Thank you for all of your generous support to-date!
Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and prosperous New Year!
This year, KKOOM is able to send four Korean orphan toddlers, ages 2 and 3, to early education preschool thanks to your help. The Korean government provides funding for orphans to attend preschool starting at age 4, but most regular Korean families send their children to preschool starting at age 2. Korean orphans who don't get to attend preschool from an early age are left at a social and educational disadvantage when they join their peers in the classroom later in life.
The teachers of the four toddlers, pictured herein, say that they are making good progress, on par with their fellow classmates. Suzy and NJS have shown themselves to be exceptionally bright and really enjoy learning.
In addition to preschool, JSH is also receiving individual speech therapy after school so he can improve his speaking skills. The children's home mother who is raising him believes that he is developmentally delayed due to the lack of parenting he experienced in the first 2 years of his life (he came to the children's home last year).
Minho, who we've written about in another progress report, is also doing well. Due to developmental deficiencies and other special needs, Minho was moved from the children's home in Gumi to a nearby home for children with special needs. There, he is receiving individual physical therapy in addition to early access to education.
As always, KKOOM sincerely appreciates your support, and if you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Very truly yours,
Suzy* came to Samsungwon when she was 14 months old along with her 2-year-old brother. Up until that point, her father had been "raising" them in his one-room apartment. The social welfare workers who brought Suzy and her brother to the children's home believed that the father would leave the children home alone for several hours at a time while he went away to work. When they arrived, they had a lot of bruises and looked under-nourished. They had only the clothes they were wearing.
At the time, KKOOM provided some funding so that Suzy and her brother could get some new clothing, and we also purchased strollers for both of them, since they were both so young.
Fast forward another year, and Suzy is now in preschool, thanks to your help -- and so is her brother. Here's a brief write-up from Suzy's "house mom," Ms. Kim.
*"Suzy" is a pseudonym.
Thanks to your support, Minho is about to enter his second year of preschool. He'll turn 3 this winter. This is the story of how we met and how he's doing. ~ Aimee, KKOOM President and Co-founder
I first met Minho when he was just a few months old. He was born with special needs to a single mother who was already struggling to raise other children, so I met him when he arrived at the orphanage where I had been living and volunteering in South Korea.
He was extremely small for his age. There was another baby boy the same age as Minho at the same orphanage, and that other boy grew more than twice as fast. That other boy, although also an orphan, is "normal," whereas Minho is "special."
I found out just how special he is when I spent a week with him in the hospital over the long Korean Thanksgiving holiday in the fall of 2011. He was hospitalized with a virus/cold, which most babies could've fought off at home. However, for this then 10-month-old, it was a near-death battle, complete with his peeling skin, non-existent appetite and constant crying.I myself lost 5 pounds that week -- mostly due to the fact that Korean hospital food is as horrible as the American kind.
Anyway, it was during this time that I found that Minho has a rare birth defect which left him born with abnormally small kidneys, which are unable to process out toxins. This is why his body wasn't able to fight off the cold virus and why the doctors warned that growing up in an orphanage would be even more difficult for this little baby.
Fast forward now two years, and Minho is nearly 3 years old. He learned to stand by himself earlier this year, and he's just now beginning to walk with the help of a guiding adult hand. This might not sound like much progress, but having listened to doctors tell us that the slightest infection could rehospitalize and potentially endanger his life at any given moment, each small step for this little guy is a victory.
Minho's been learning to walk and develop his motor skills with the help of his teachers at a special needs preschool he attends five days a week, from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm. His teachers are trained in special education, social work, and physical therapy. KKOOM began sending him there, with the orphanage's consent, in March.
We learned that most Korean children with special needs can get these educational and therapeutic services for free with vouchers from the government. However, we were dumbfounded to discover that since Minho is an orphan, and receives government support to be raised in an orphanage, he is in eligible for government support for his special needs preschool. Hence, KKOOM supports his educational and developmental expenses at approximately $300 USD per month, which is still cheap by American standards.
Once Minho's body grows stronger, he will be able to attend a regular preschool but probably with children one or two years younger than himself. Still, it will be a significant day for him and all of us to see him growing up "normally."
Your generous support of KKOOM has helped us help Minho and other little ones. The educational and developmental opportunties you've helped create for these Korean orphan toddlers are truly life-changing.
If you'd like to continue to help Minho and other orphans, please consider making an additional donation of any amount to support this important work. Thank you for your ongoing support! Happy New Year!
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you!
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