Sunday, May 15, 2011

Taking the Option for the Poor Seriously

Kangwha Island is the 5th largest island in Korea with a long history in defending its freedom. The island borders North Korea, and over the years has suffered much at the hands of outside forces. Today the island is connected to the mainland by two bridges.

The article in the Kyeongyang Magazine tells us of the service to the poor provided by the Kangwha parish, with its mobile laundry truck, a program started in 2005. The parish has from the beginning been very active with its concern for the poor. They had a hospital in the parish in the early years before the country could supply the medical care it does today. They started a credit union and distributed animals to farmers at half price, they are one  of the first Catholic communities to work for the betterment of the life of the workers and the  protection of their rights. During the difficult days of help from the International  Monetary Fund, they helped unemployed families, they have a center for foreign born brides married to Koreans, and a program where those living alone are helped. On  their 50th anniversary, they started a program to help North Korean children.  

The parish drew up the  plans for a 1.4 ton truck to clean clothes and large bed coverlets. The cleaning apparatus can take 30 kilograms of clothes at one time. It takes about 40 minutes for one cleaning. The plans for the cleaning  and drier were drawn up and put together by the parish. The money was raised with the help of many and is operated on a budget of about 16 thousand dollars a year, half raised by the parish and half by the Gun Office.

The laundry truck routine begins by opening the doors of the truck to expose the washing and drying machines. They then find an electrical outlet and get the water and lay the mat down. Each one of the volunteers does their assigned task. And at the end of the cleaning procedure, soft and fluffy coverlets are returned to the grandmothers. The washing and drying  of these winter coverlets is a difficult job, and the grandmothers are very thankful for the service.

The team works at times from early in the morning to evening, depending on how much there is to wash. During the summer months the machines get overheated and break down often. Because of the water pressure and electrical problems, the machines have given them trouble. At times they would like to keep the truck at the parish and have the people come to them, but they continue fixing the machines and going out to  the different areas of Kangwha.

This type of service is welcomed by those living alone, the handicapped, grandparents living with grandchildren, and by parents who both have to work. The Church has made clear its option for the poor, and this team has decided to be part of that outreach. And have done so wonderfully.