International Day for Street Kids – They need YOU!

9 Apr

This Saturday, April 12th, is International Day for Street Kids. It is, to be honest, a day not a lot of people know about, but one in which the Consortium for Street Children has been promoting and celebrating for a few years now will continue to do so until it is fully recognized by the United Nations. You can help this process by signing their petition HERE.

Living in South Korea, where there is almost no poverty and the idea of kids living on the streets of Seoul is almost, I said *almost*, laughable thanks to the extremely high standard of living experienced by the majority of the population and some of the most advanced technology in the world to help progress the nations needs, it is hard to identify with the plight of street kids around the world.

Kids in Korea have more money than they know what to do with, go to school for more hours than any other children on the planet (and probably more that they actually should), and have phones that are so smart and so expensive that children in other pockets of Asia can only dream of.

This time last year, I was a far cry from this life of excessive spending, smart phones and private tutoring. I was working for The Hope Foundation, a not-for-profit International Development Organization that works with street and slum children in Calcutta, India. After almost a year working as their PR and Media Coordinator, I had the chance to visit their amazing projects in Calcutta and to witness first hand the incredible work they have being doing in the areas of health, education and protection mainly for young kids who have been living on the streets or in the slums.

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Smiles all around: 2 Kids that HOPE had been working with

Upon returning to Ireland after one short week in Calcutta, my goals for the future, my outlook on life and even my career choices had all been altered. I realize it is difficult to believe, but 1 week really can change your life. So much so that I wrote all about it HERE.

Two events that will stick with me forever, and had a profound effect in me, happened a few days after arriving in Kolkata. The first was walking through the slums. I had never been in a slum before and everything about it was just awful. The lack of space, the rubbish, pigs running around and sniffing their way through dirty, black water, the overcrowding, the smell, the lack of access to adequate sanitation ( you could see small children squatting to go to the toilet on the side of the road, or grown men just leaning against a wall or railing in broad daylight) and the general feeling of helplessness.

The second experience that shocked me to the bone was going on Night Watch. The HOPE Night Watch team is a team of 3 people (a driver and 2 ‘watchers’) that patrol the streets of Kolkata in a make shift ambulance each night looking for abandoned or sick children or adults that may need urgent medical help.

Driving through the streets of Kolkata at night was nothing short of eye-opening. Suddenly, as if they had come out of nowhere, I could see that there were people sitting and lying on thin sheets of plastic everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. I literally couldn’t believe my eyes. I don’t think I could ever imagined there would be so many people living and sleeping on the streets. Or maybe I thought it was just individuals rather than WHOLE FAMILIES. It was devastating to see young children and even babies curled up next to their mother with nothing to protect them. We even saw a new-born baby, probably only a few weeks old, lying on the cold ground next to his mother, who was fast asleep outside a train station. Anyone could have taken this baby. It was frightening to see, to witness, to know that people must live like this just to survive.

street kid calcutta

Life on the streets in Calcutta is now place for a child.

Even though I am now in Korea, and living a very different life to the one I was living last year (and to tell you the truth, still not the life for me…the search continues….) I still follow the great work that The Hope Foundation does and the stories of the children they help and the lives they save. In fact, that is why I am writing this post!

This Saturday, in order to raise awareness for International Day for Street Kids, HOPE has launched a twitter campaign called #selfies4streetkids. It is a fun and engaging way to get people around the world to snap a fun photo wherever they are and to show their support for street children worldwide. So what are you waiting for?! Grab your phone, and get whoever is around you to jump in for a fun selfie and upload it to twitter with the hashtag #selfies4streetkids.

Also, make sure to follow @HOPE_UK or @hopefoundation on twitter to stay updated with their work.

Spring has Sprung

8 Apr

A small taste of the photographs I took last weekend at the Gyeong-Ju Cherry Blossom Festival. No words can fully describe how beautiful spring is in South Korea…even if it only lasts a few weeks!

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Making An Impossible Challenge Possible

2 Apr

I have been so lazy with my blog so far this year and for that I truly apologize. Usually I write about the big goals I have set for myself then post regular updates on whether those goals have been successful or not.

For Lent this year, I vowed to give up my two biggest vices; Facebook and Alcohol. I decided not to post about this because I was sure, like every other year, that it would most likely be an epic fail and would be a bit embarrassing to admit defeat!

For anyone who knows me in person, you know how much of a party animal I can be. For the sake of my liver, my general health and maybe even my sanity, this needed to stop! As for Facebook, I realised I was totally addicted. I think most people I know are pretty addicted to Facebook, but I discovered that I really do post an obscene amount of times each day and it was wasting so much of my time. I de-activated my profile, un-installed the Facebook App from my phone and vowed to everyone who would listen that I would be staying off Facebook for the grand total of 47 days (None of that cheating on Sunday’s nonsense….I know my Dad would not let me get away with that!!)

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As you may or may not have guessed, this particular challenge was nigh on impossible for me. I could list a million excuses as to why I could not stay away, many of them genuine and a few made up, but I will not go into details and instead will admit total defeat. In fact within 6 short days I had logged back on and posted the “Pharrell Williams – HAPPY – I am from Seoul” video which I filmed and edited. It seemed nothing could keep me from sharing the good stuff in life with friends and family. I was told off by some close friends and soon deactivated for another few days but FOMO (fear of missing out) settled in pretty bad and soon I found myself logging in again and decided this was one battle that, for the moment, I was not up for fighting. Facebook, for the time being, was staying out.

As for the other half of my lenten fast, I am delighted to say that I have, miraculously, stayed off alcohol for over 1 month now and have even decided to EXTEND this no-drinking extravaganza for another month. The hardest day of all was St Patrick’s Day, but once that hurdle was complete, the rest of the month was a breeze.

So what makes an impossible challenge (for me!) suddenly possible? How is this, Lent 2014, the first time in a decade that I have successfully managed to give up drinking? The answer to this question is one small little word. One word which changes everything. And that one word is….Running.

For the first time in about a decade I have seriously committed to getting in shape and am doing this by running. Every morning and every evening. Sometimes in the gym, sometimes around town. Up hills, along tracks, over bridges. Up stairs, down stairs, in stadiums, down motorways. For the past month I have committed 100% to running and it has been an incredible experience and one which I hope I will keep up for the foreseeable future. As part of this new found love, some friends and I signed up to a variety of 10km races all over Korea which have been great fun and these shorter races even led me to signing up to and completing my very first Half Marathon, an experience which I will write all about in my next post.

Here’s to another month of alcohol-free weekends full of fitness and fun!

 

 

St Patrick’s Day Festival Seoul in Photos

18 Mar

Sadly I was too busy on the day to take lots of photos like I usually do, but I thought I would share the few I did take anyway. For a full review of the day, check out THIS POST.

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A fusion of cultures – St Patrick’s Day in South Korea

18 Mar

Listening to an American Military Brass band open an Irish Festival in South Korea by singing Ireland’s call on a day that many will remember for Ireland’s Six Nations victory, was not something I will easily forget.

Speaking on stage at the 14th Annual Seoul St. Patrick’s Day Festival, The United States Army 2nd Infantry Division band said they were delighted to be there and saw the festival as an excellent opportunity to strengthen the partnership between America, Korea and Ireland.

The US Army 2nd Infantry Division Brass Band. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

The US Army 2nd Infantry Division Brass Band. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

A sea of green and smiles and laughter. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

A sea of green and smiles and laughter. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

The event, which took place at D Cube City in Sindorim last Saturday, was an incredible fusion of Irish and Korean music and culture and while there are over 1,000 Irish living in Korea, many of whom were no doubt present on the day, it was the presence and participation of so many non-Irish residents that made the festival so unique.

To watch an Irishman on stage speak fluent English, Irish and Korean to an equally stunned and impressed audience, was a true example of what the festival is all about. It is not simply about showcasing and promoting Irish culture abroad, but it’s about being excellent representatives of how welcoming, friendly and adaptable the Irish people are and how open we are to other cultures.

It was great to see so many Korean kids enjoying the festival. Photo by Michelle Marie Jenkins

It was great to see so many Korean kids enjoying the festival. Photo by Michelle Marie Jenkins

Some of the finalists in the Costume Competition. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

Some of the finalists in the Costume Competition. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

While Ireland and Irish musicians were well represented on the day, there were also musicians and dancers from Korea, the United States and even China. Listening to Bard, a group of Koreans who play traditional Irish music, play some classic Irish tunes while young kids danced in circles in front of the stage and 1,000’s more soaked up the atmosphere and basked in the first of the spring sunshine really encapsulated the theme of the day.

Other highlights included; watching the crowd look on in awe as Tap Pung, a Korean Irish Dancing troupe, took to the stage and gave Riverdance a run for their money; watching hundreds of waygooks (foreigners) form a human train in front of the main stage while Sweet Murphys Fancy belted out some drinking songs; watching professional photographers click furiously with the knowledge they were getting incredible shots as the finalists of the costume competition lined up near the stage and danced around in a last-minute bid to impress judges and lastly seeing big groups of Korean school children sitting in the audience, delighted with the green balloons and the hilarious Jameson branded “leprechaun” hats which had been given to them for free, smiling and laughing despite not having a clue what was going on!

A beautiful Korean-Irish Fusion dance directed by Nannah McGlennon. Photo by Stephanie Anglmyer

A beautiful Korean-Irish Fusion dance directed by Nannah McGlennon. Photo by Stephanie Anglmyer

Tap Pung, Korean Irish Dancers on the main stage. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

Tap Pung, Korean Irish Dancers on the main stage. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

St Patrick’s Day has always been my favourite holiday of the year, even surpassing Christmas and Halloween in my personal popularity chart, and this year was no different. I have always been a very proud Irish citizen, and this pride seems to multiply whenever I’m actually outside of Ireland.

Celebrating St Patrick’s Day in Korea this year, however, felt extra special and yet I can’t exactly pinpoint why that is. It could be  that it was my first time being involved in the behind-the-scenes organization of the festival, which took 6 months of hard work and dedication by a team of volunteers who were delighted to see their hard work pay off on the day. It could have been the fact that I was volunteering on the day so had a different perspective from the rest of the crowd.

Finally, and this could be the real answer, it could be because it was my first time in celebrating St Patrick’s Day sober in over a decade. Whatever the reason, pride and joy was simply flowing through me like a fast-flowing river on Saturday and no amount of negativity or difficult situations was going to dampen my spirits on my favourite day of the year!

A snapsot of the colorful crowd. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

A snapsot of the colorful crowd.

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Myself and Michelle taking a short break from our volunteering duties!

Myself and Michelle taking a short break from our volunteering duties!

Big shout out to the Irish Association of Korea for organizing such a  memorable festival and to all the incredible volunteers who helped out on the day. It was the perfect way to welcome the spring to South Korea and another excellent showcase of why everyone loves the Irish!

To see more photos from the day, check out Stephanie Anglemyer’s photography website at: http://www.anklebiterphotos.com/

Generation Emigration – St Patrick’s Day in South Korea

11 Mar

st patricks day seoul korea

Each day this week on the Irish Times website, members of Irish communities around the world will be sharing plans for St Patrick’s Day where they live. Today, I had the opportunity to share my experiences in South Korea and to write about Seoul’s 14th St Patrick’s Day festival, taking place this weekend.

To read the article on the Irish Times website, click here.

Back home in Ireland, preparation for St Patrick’s Day does not involve too much planning, aside from stocking up the fridge, planning crazy green outfits with friends and deciding how early is too early to start the festivities. This year, all that changed for me.

On arrival in South Korea last July, I was asked to join the Irish Association of Korea (IAK), a not-for-profit organisation which promotes Irish culture in Korea. As well as hosting events for the Irish community, it also provides the opportunity for Koreans and other expats to experience and learn more about Irish life. The main event of the year is the St Patrick’s Day Festival in Seoul, now in its 14th year, with up to 10,000 spectators showing up on the day.

Being a part of this active and engaging organisation has given me incredible behind-the-scenes experience of what it takes to plan a St Patricks’s Day Festival abroad. It takes months of hard work by an extremely dedicated team of people. Over the last few months, much of the committee members’ free time has been tied up at meetings, fundraising events and sponsorship talks. I could never have imagined how much time and effort goes into organising one day of craic agus ceoil until I was involved myself.

Now that all the ground work has been done – sponsorship secured, a perfect venue located, great musicians, experienced Irish dancers, story-tellers and local volunteers recruited – we are all very excited for the event to begin.

The festival here Seoul is known for the keen participation from members of both the Irish and Korean community, and this year will not disappoint with traditional folk dancers and musicians playing Irish music, both traditional and popular rock, coming from all over Korea to perform.

Musicians from Ireland will also feature heavily on the bill and the festival will offer an opportunity for the public to get involved, with traditional ceili-dancing, which has grown in popularity every year, taking place at the main stage. There will be face painting and story telling for children.

No festival promoting Ireland and Irish culture would be complete without the GAA present and thus a display of Gaelic football will be hosted by the one of the most successful teams in Asia, the Seoul Gaels Gaelic football team. The Seoul Gaels will also be using this opportunity to seek new recruits for their upcoming season, which starts in April.

The Seoul St Patrick’s Day Festival is the perfect opportunity for people living in Korea to experience Irish culture and get a feel for the wonderful array of Irish talent living here. March 17th is a day when we all think of Ireland and its rich history. To be able to celebrate that here in South Korea shows the extraordinary power of the Irish abroad and I am very proud to be a part of such a great expat community.

Pharrell Williams – Seoul is also HAPPY!

9 Mar

PharrellWilliams_Happy

With the help of my amazing friends, and quite a few total strangers, I just finished filming, editing and uploading a Seoul remake of the Pharrell Williams HAPPY music video. Considering all filming was done on smart phones and the entire video was edited in a few hours, I think we did a pretty good job. Let me know what you think! :)

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