This past week, November 3-9, was the annual “Discovery Week” (DW) at Seoul Foreign School (SFS). During this week, SFS high school students are sent all over the world to participate in activities to serve local and international communities while discovering the cultural backgrounds of those communities. As a freshman, it was my first time visiting Jeju Island, a small island located close to Korea’s southern coast. I was part of last year’s service trip, to ChiangMai, but this year I was headed to a completely different environment.
Through the trip to Jeju Island, I came to truly understand what it means to “help my community.” Prior to the trip, our school had an assembly that explained the purpose of DW service trips. The principal told us that it was important to first help our own community before extending our help to others something that I only began to understand after picking tangerines with locals of Jeju, even if there was no prize at the end of the day.
|[Me picking tangerines at the tangerine farm. Photo Courtesy of Ms. Sung]|
At first, I was curious about what types of service could be done on a trip entitled “Jeju Cultural Explorations”. As it turned out, the trip consisted of activities that enabled us to get to know the local flavor of the island such as trying new foods and visiting historical landmarks, but the activity we considered to be the highlight of the week was picking tangerines, a popular fruit that is native to Jeju Island. Every tangerine we picked was firstly food to be purchased by consumers throughout Korea, but also money for a foster shelter in Jeju that wished to remain unnamed. It did not take long for me to realize how different this trip is from the DW experiences being taken by my friends. The community service we participated in had two purposes: 1) serving the needs of tangerine farmers and 2) helping an organization to find homes for orphans under the age of 15.
Once we arrived at the farm in Seogwipo, the farmers told us about hours of exhaustion from picking tangerines, which resulted in chronic back and neck problems. This motivated us to work as hard as possible to be of help to the farmers At first, I had trouble understanding how back injuries could occur from picking tangerines, but after a couple of hours, I understood completely. The process of picking tangerines did not actually take very long, but the process of choosing the riper tangerines to be packaged was more difficult than I expected. First, I had to look for a tangerine that was bright orange and a little soft. Then, using clippers, I had to cut right at the end of the root and not cut the root off in order for the root to grow new tangerines. A lot of the riper oranges were drooping down which resulted in me having to crouch even lower to pick them. Doing this just for one day, left my back sore, yet I felt good that we were helping the workers for a day by putting myself in their shoes.
|[ The Jeju Cultural Explorations group. Photo Courtesy of a worker at the Light Art Festival (LAF). ]|
We all agreed that the tangerine picking experience was something that we definitely wanted to do again. I am very satisfied with the work accomplished this year through Discovery Week, as we were a part of helping orphans find a new home through our tangerine picking. I am curious to find out what new acts of service are to come in the future Discovery Week ahead and look forward to serving both international and local communities.
Seoul Foreign School
Clare Sohn firstname.lastname@example.org
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