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T-HOPE Fundraising for a Great Cause

Last Friday, I had a chance to sit down with Dan Gauthier, a founder of the group T-HOPE (Teachers Helping Other People Everywhere), to talk about some of their ongoing and upcoming projects.

As you may be aware, T-HOPE has been running a volunteer program with the Ulsan Orphanage since 2006; one Sunday each month, teachers (and others) head out to the orphanage in Eonyang to play games, do crafts, and otherwise have fun with the kids. The orphanage is well supported, financially, by the government and private donations, so T-HOPE has focused more on English-language interaction for the kids, and, more imporantly, on having fun. Each year, they throw a huge Christmas Party, too.

A lot of the fundraising done by the group goes to the Dong Gu Welfare Center, which supports 25 families in need. Most of these families are the children of divorced parents who live with their grandparents, and need help with life’s basic necessities; food, clothes, school supplies, etc. Many of the clothing donations Dan collects are taken to this Center.

They’ve also recently started a volunteer program with the Lotus Center for Autistic Children in Ulsan, which I will be writing an article on in the near future, and will be starting programs with mute and deaf children, and blind children.  All of these programs will be looking for volunteers to work with the kids once a month, and we’ll soon have information available on how to get involved.

But what I really wanted to talk to Dan about this time is his large scale fundraising project that is currently underway.

Through his work on the Community Leaders Committee in Ulsan, Dan has become familiar with the domestic violence issues facing women in Korea. There is a particular need for help for the women who immigrate here from South East Asia or China to marry Korean men, especially those in poorer, rural areas. Dan has heard many stories of abuse and death, where the women have had no family of their own in Korea to turn to for help. These stories are rarely covered in the national media. “We have to do something,” says Dan.

So this year, T-HOPE is undertaking fundraising for a Women’s Shelter. “As you know,” Dan explains, “Domestic violence is an issue faced by many people all over the world. So what we’re hoping to do is provide a shelter for these women and their children.”

The T-HOPE Women’s Shelter will provide protection, housing, food, basic necessities, and assistance and counselling to the women. The shelter will be built with private rooms, kitchens and bathrooms, and with indoor and outdoor play areas for the children. As Dan says, “Who’s affected most is the kids. That’s my focus, it’s on the children.”

The goal is to provide a safe environment so the mothers can get the help they need. “If we can help the mother, then she can focus on her kids.”

The shelter will be completed in three phases. First, they’ll need to acquire the land in the Ulsan area to build the shelter. The location will not be widely known, in order to ensure the women’s safety. The police have agreed to provide security for the property. Only the police and members of local community groups who assist abused women will know it’s exact whereabouts. Dan’s brother in Canada works with abusive husbands, and has given Dan a lot of advice on what is needed to help protect the women and keep them and their children safe.

Once the land is acquired, the shelter will be architecturally designed and planned, and then finally, it will be built and opened for use. It’s currently scheduled to be open and ready for operation in 2014.

This may seem like a huge undertaking, but Dan and T-HOPE are not afraid of the challenge. There are a number of fundraising events planned in the near future, as well as sponsorship deals being worked out.

The first of these fundraisers will be the Whale Boat Race at the Ulsan Whale Festival, held at the Taehwa River Park in late April. Dan is hoping to recruit 50 teams of paddlers to participate in the day-long event, Saturday, April 27th. Last year, spots went quickly, so if you’re not yet involved, contact Dan right away. This year, there are three categories to compete in: Men’s, Women’s and Mixed. Each team will paddle in at least 3 races, with the top times moving forward to the semi and final races. This is probably the biggest foreign-community event in Ulsan each year. Check out their website, T-HOPE Asia, for more information, or to sign up.

Due to the past popularity of the Whale Boat Race, this year, T-HOPE is introducing the Rock & Row Dragon Boat Race, over the Buddha Birthday long weekend in May (17th-19th). One hundred teams of participants from all over Korea will be gathering together for a fun filled day beside the Taehwa. They’ve already recruited several teams from the US Military bases, and are planning for 2000 participants to decend on Ulsan. Stay tuned for more information on this event, and how you can get involved.

The funds raised at these two events, through sponsors, team registration, food and beverage purchases, and event merchandise will all go towards the T-HOPE Women’s Shelter project.

There are more fundraisers in the works for future dates, also. UlsanOnline has joined with T-HOPE as an official partner, and will be bringing all the information on these projects, which include a beach volleyball tournament (end of June), a 2nd Poker Run bar-hopping event, and a rugby tournament, among others. So watch our front page for banner ads and articles, or visit the T-HOPE site.  You can also email fundshelter@thopeasia.org for more information, or to help organize an event.

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