Keeping Children in Mind
According to Unicef, about 250 million children around the world are working as laborers. India has roughly one million children in their labor force. They are called "bonded labor." In many cases these children are working as slave laborers. Although the situation in India is a good example, sadly violations of children's rights do not only occur in India, it is an almost universal problem. Abuse of children's rights is not a recent problem either. This situation is something that many YU students consider a problem, that's why they volunteered in a program to promote children's rights. Through their volunteer work they were able to promote children's rights and offer some economic opportunities to a few people living in the Global South who are poor and often disenfranchised.
There are many harsh realities to face concerning children's rights. India's child labor market caused the Indian government to pass a law in prohibition of child labor. However, in spite of the law many children in India work in quarries for up to 14 hours a day. In Africa 6 million children suffer from malnutrition, and hundreds of millions are exposed to some kind of domestic violence. There is also a 20% infant mortality rate. 20% to 60% of the children who die could live with simple treatments for ailments like malaria, pneumonia, and dysentery.
In Nepal more than 15 thousand children work in the carpet industry that is called the notoriety industry. In the Ivory Coast over 15 million children between the ages of 9 and 12 age work on cacao plantations for more than 10 hours a day for practically slave wages.
Because of sobering statistics like these, five YU students, including myself, volunteered at the Beautiful Store to help promote children's rights and try to create more economic opportunities for people in the Global South. Although our volunteer work indirectly helped, our main goal was that our activities might give them hope. I hope that many university students become concerned about children's rights and spend some time doing this kind of volunteer work.
The Beautiful Store is a civic group that changes discarded things into useful ones. They also give refurbished things to needy people. It is not simply a store that sells and buys things. Their method is distribution through donations. They also have a contract for global trade negotiations with Oxfam in England. The Beautiful Store provides immediate assistance projects in order to help poor and oppressed people in places like India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
We volunteered at the Daegu Beautiful Store in March, 2009. We cleaned the Beautiful Store's car and classified their tapes and books. We also cleaned out recycled items and attached price tags. The next time we volunteer we would like to try selling some of the merchandise. My only regret is that we could not volunteer more time because our schedules would not allow it.
We interviewed Young-Hee Yun, the manager of the Daegu Beautiful Store.
Q|How did you get your start as a volunteer in the Beautiful Store?
A|I graduated with a degree in Self-Governing Administration from Daegu University, so I was concerned about finding ways to get residents to participate in their communities. After a while I found the Beautiful Store, and I became the manager of the Chilgok Beautiful Store for one year. I have been working as a manager for the Beautiful Store for 5 years now.
Q|How do you feel about volunteering in the Beautiful Store?
A|Working at the Beautiful Store has made me realize the importance of donations. I hope that more people will participate in volunteer work and make more donations for poor people. When I finished my volunteer work, I felt a sense of regret because I wish I could have done more.
Q|What do you think of children's rights in the Global South?
A|Violations of children's rights are not only about child exploitation. It also shows the indifference of governments in putting a stop to it. Organizations like the Beautiful Store are not in a position to do much, but we have made the Beautiful Coffee that is sold as a fair trade coffee that is produced with no child labor.
Q|How do you sell volunteer work to university students?
A|I tell them that volunteer work is not for credit. Volunteer work can be whatever you want to make of it.
There are other things we can do to support children's rights such as participating in specific campaigns. The Good Neighbors program promotes a Yellow Ribbon Campaign online which informs people about children's rights abuses.
This campaign is coordinated by an international NGO. They also have the Wish tree, 2009 campaign online. The purpose of this campaign is to help poor people realize their wishes for basic necessities. We also can help by participating in signature-seeking campaigns by organizations like Save the Children which is an NGO that helps needy children throughout the Global South. They conduct online signature-seeking campaigns to inform people about children's rights and report child abuse.
A volunteer group of university students in Daegu who are affiliated with the Good Neighbors helps poor and abused children. They teach needy children through special education, tutoring, life lessons, and meal service education.
We can also donate Happy Beans on Naver to support children. "Happy beans" are contributed items and one item is worth 100 won. You can use these items to donate to the campaign. This effort has coordinated over 3500 netizens, public corporations and donation partners. This is a new online donation culture and it provides netizens with access to volunteer work they did not have until recently. We also try to help children by promoting the use and consumption of fair trade coffee. "The Beautiful Office Campaign" urges companies to buy fair trade goods from underdeveloped countries. It tries to broker the sale of fair trade coffee to coffee agents, cafes, and markets. The problem of children's rights is a universal issue. In modern times many children suffer from poverty, war, and violence. Our small services give them indirect help, but our activities can give them hope and courage. I hope many more people will become more concerned about these problems and be moved to volunteer.
Eun-Ji Seong (Junior, International Economics & Business)
My major is International Economics & Business so I am concerned about fair trade. This is one of the reasons I participated as a volunteer at the Beautiful Store. I visited the Beautiful Store in Daegu. This place restores unused goods, and restores recycled items for sale. The Beautiful Store has had many volunteers throughout its history. Although it is indirect assistance, I believe that promoting fair trade practices will provide real help in the future.
Jung-Soo Kim (Senior, Landscape Architecture)
Before this experience I never volunteered anywhere. For that reason I participated as a volunteer at the Beautiful Store. This experience gave me energy. I didn't know what the Beautiful Store was so I had no idea what I was going to do. I found out what the Beautiful Store is about, and what they hope to accomplish. I felt really good about my volunteer time. They need donations in order to continue and spread their work. I hope everyone will make a small donation or try to buy something useful from their store. It is really easy to donate things you don't use anymore, and they will even pick up from your home.
Da-Hyang Mun (Junior, International Economics & Business)
I had seen the Beautiful Store on TV, but this was the first time I actually went there. I volunteered to clean sale items and attach the price tags. The idea of donating unwanted items was very new to me. Through this work I realized that making donations is not difficult. I now regret that I have thrown away so many unused goods instead of restoring them because I didn't know how to restore them. I hope that many people will come to know the Beautiful Store, and contribute their unused goods. This volunteer work is a good experience and the store has a fitting name.