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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Life changing orphanage visit...

Jess, Kristen and I have been talking about visiting this orhpange for about a month now, but every time we tried to go, something stood in the way, and we had to postpone our visit. Although, this Saturday, we finally made the trek and were shocked by the overwhelming emotions we all encountered while we were there. We were completely moved by the experience and feel a burden in our hearts to love these abandoned children during our time in Korea. How could we not?

This is the orphanage...

These are the dorms...

When we arrived, we walked into the office and saw this board. I've seen classified adds for puppies, TV's, and old furniture, but never for children... Each orphan's picture was on this board, their date of birth, age, and how long they had been at the orphanage...

We each signed in and were told to stay on the 2nd floor (the toddlers floor) and the 3rd floor (the 4 and 5 yr olds floor) because the baby's, who live on the 1st floor were sick. We were shocked at how easy it was to get inside and play with the kids.

When we walked up the stairs to the 2nd floor, we all took a deep breath and walked down this cheerfully colored, yet tauntingly depressing hallway, knowing that our lives would be forever affected by what we were about to experience.

Each door was decorated with a picture of the children who lived/slept in that particular room.

When we opened the door to the 1st room, we saw 1 lady who worked there, another older Korean woman who was volunteering, and about 15 toddlers between the ages of 1 and 2 playing around on the floor. When the babies saw us walk in, they stared at us with huge smiles and inquiring eyes! I quickly plopped down and began playing with a little boy who was sitting alone. He immediately climbed onto my lap and faced me with his legs wrapped around my waist. We just sat smiling at each other while I tickled his belly and feet!

The orphanage was incredibly hot and the rooms were not equipped with air conditioners, so we moved the toddlers out into the hallway where there was a single fan to circulate the air.

Jess is holding the little boy who jumped in my lap when we first arrived there. She was reading him a book. :)


This little girl was crying when we first arrived, so the woman who worked there handed her to me to hold her. As soon as she was placed in my arms, she clung to me for dear life and buried her head into my chest. I could feel her tear drops on my skin... I began to repeat, "Genchuna, Genuncha," which means "It's okay" and she began to settle down at the sound of my voice. It was a really powerful moment I won't soon forget.

We stayed with the toddlers for about 30 minutes, and then went upstairs to the 3rd floor to play with the 4 and 5 years olds. On our way, we spotted the bathroom, equipped with 4 simple toilets and 1 sink. 40+ orphans between the ages of 4 and 5 share these 4 toilets.

When we got upstairs, we walked into the boys room, where there was 1 little boy, watching a small TV. I was relieved, thinking there were less orphans than I imagined... Although, one by one, they came piling into the room from the shower room down the hallway. Within 20 minutes, Jess, Kristen and I were surrounded by 20+ wet and rowdy 4 and 5 year old boys, who climbed all over us, lifted our shirts, tried to unzip our pants, and ran around laughing and playing with us. There were very awkward moments, and times when we were completely overwhelmed by their excitement and desire for attention from us... Overall though, it was really special to see a room full of orphans filled with so much joy and laughter!

This was the 1st little one who stole my heart! For so many years, I've seen moms and dads flipping their toddlers over their shoulders and upside down, while they laughed uncontrollably... so, for the 1st time in my life, I grabbed this little one and threw him over my shoulder and tickled him! He was giggling and screaming, "wwwaaaa..." and it brought such joy to my heart to hear his laugh. For the next 15 minutes, I had a line of boys waiting for me to throw them around and flip them upside down! Talk about a workout!!

The boys loved Jess's sunglasses!

And this one loved sitting on my lap...

This little one was completely intrigued by the display on my camera, so we would take pictures of ourselves and then laugh together at how funny we looked!

Kristen had all of the boys playing hide and seek with her. In an empty room, the size of my tiny apartment, the only good place to hide was behind the door...

... and at the end of this cabinet. :)

Towards the end of the visiting hours, I walked into the hallway to get some air, and saw a few little naked 4 year old girls at the end of the hallway who had finished their shower time. I walked down the hallway to the girl room, opened the door, and saw about 10 little naked girls, with 1 employee, who was trying to help each of them put on their pajamas. I walked in, plopped down, and within seconds, the little girls came to me, holding their pajamas up for me to help them. After I pulled their shirts over their heads and helped them put each leg into their pants, I would hold my hands up for a high five. The smiles on their faces were priceless!
I think what blew me away the most was the fact that there were only 2 employees per floor, and the 4 and 5 year old floor had at least 40 orphans. How can 2 people take care of all of these children? It's impossible...

When visiting hours were over, we walked down to the street to catch a taxi and we each talked about how the experience affected our lives. We have all agreed that it's a priority in our lives to come and love on these children as often as we possibly can...
Who knows, maybe one day we'll bring one home. :)


  1. How beautiful you are! I've not been any orphanages since I came back to Korea last 2008. When I will be done my examination then back to Busan, I definitely want to go with you girls.

  2. Oh, I am so captivated by this story!! I would SO take one. Ship one to me Air Mail. I'm not even kidding you.

  3. I live in Busan now with my own family (we're from Texas), and I was wondering if you remembered the name of this orphanage so I could possibly look it up and visit. Thanks so much!

    1. Hey Kristie, the orphanage is a short taxi ride from Oncheonjang subway station on line 1, and it's called 성애원. Their website is Hope that helps! :)