The following are a few of the stories that inspired Oak Tree Project (there are many more)…
1. One boy who grew up in the home managed to get into college and majored in social welfare. His desire was to become a social worker at an orphanage. His studies required that he do field work as an internship, so he had to work at a community center everyday from about 9am – 5pm. He then took all his university classes at night. But then he had to pay the bills and survive. The only way he could do this was by taking the night shift at a well known market area in Seoul (Namdaemun) and working from midnight to 6am each morning, loading and unloading boxes and crates from trucks. He would only get an hour or two of sleep here and there (mainly in his classes) and then would crash on the weekends sleeping almost the entire weekend away. He failed most of his classes due to not being able to do the homework or study, but then would go to the professors and beg for mercy. Many of them would then give him a passing grade, just barely. He now works as a social worker for the orphanage he grew up in. He would be an example of a “success story” for an orphan after graduating high school. But sadly his “success story” led to his body breaking down (multiple hospitalizations for his bad back and a sleep schedule that has never fully been corrected) and left him emotionally empty by the time he graduated. While his former director welcomed him to work in the home he grew up in, he struggled with anger outbursts and would often try to escape life by getting drunk on his off time. He is a great guy and was always admired while growing up, but the hard years took a toll on his personality.
2. There are too many stories about sex trafficking. I recently met someone who works for a well known NGO in Seoul. He told me that one of his female staff grew up in an orphanage. She told him that she meets up with some of the women she grew up with in the orphanage from time to time. She said that half of the women she grew up with now work in prostitution, and the other half are all dead. She was the only one to get a healthy job. The only one. For many girls who get into college and have to work ridiculous hours on top of their studying to get by, prostitution is what they often end up turning to for desperate money. The lack of emotional connection from working so much and from being an orphan without family can also cause girls to be lured into doing sex work.
3. There are also too many stories about suicide. For many they simply give up. After working and working to get by along with studying and competing with other classmates who are well fed and who have family, the emptiness of life can gnaw deeper and deeper into their soul. Rarely do the children struggle with suicide while living in the orphanages because they are fed, looked after, and have the other kids to connect with. But after leaving the orphanages and living on their own, the void in their soul can become too deep for them to handle, especially without having any mentors or healthy relationships.
4. Oak Tree Project was inspired the most through the young woman in the following video. While she did not receive any scholarships and had a hard time throughout college, thanks to her mentor she was able to receive the emotional support she needed and the confidence to not just get by but to do well. Her GPA went from one of the lowest in her class to nearly the top of her class. While she is still a bit timid in this video (filmed a couple years ago), she has continued to grow and became the leader of the young adult ministry at her church while also working at a good job.
5. Oak Tree Project has grown from 4 students in 2013 to 9 students in 2014 to 16 students in 2015. Thanks to the scholarship fund the students have been able to focus more on their studies and also connect more relationally at their schools. And each student also has a mentor who calls them each week and meets with them each month. Thanks to the mentor, like the young woman in the previous video, each student has been growing in confidence, character, and hope. Here is a video of two of our students. The life and maturity these two have exuded through just a short time in the program has given us the encouragement to keep growing the program. Everything they share in this video is genuine and unscripted.
If you have been inspired or even just intrigued by this blog post, I want to encourage you to e-mail email@example.com to receive Oak Tree Project’s monthly e-mail update. If you would like to show support for the program, we have an event coming up called Oak Tree Run. It will be held on October 15th, 2016, at Jamsil Han River Park in Seoul, Korea. You can register for it here: bit.do/otr2017. Please see the News tab on our website: www.oaktreeproject.com for more information or go on Facebook and search “Oak Tree Run” to find the event there. Or e-mail us for more info. Please share about this event with anyone you know living in or around Seoul. 100% of the registration fee will go to the scholarship fund for the orphans. You can also financially support the program by going to this webpage: http://give.oaktreeproject.com/en/otr2017.
Oak Tree Project hopes to continue to grow and our current goal is to have 27 students in the program next year. That means we need to raise about $170,000 and we need another 14 mentors to commit to mentoring a student until he or she graduates. Mentors must be fluent in Korean and living in Korea until the student graduates (2 – 4 year commitment). Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in becoming a mentor.
Last, here is a video that briefly explains Oak Tree Project. Please feel free to share it.