April is a month of festivity and euphoria, in which the flowers are in full bloom and the days warm. Many universities are holding festivals too. The festival programs include a number of artistic activities, such as singing and dancing, as well as exhibiting artworks created by students. However, it is not easy to find programs that students with disabilities can enjoy together. One group of people helps visually-impaired students exhibit works of art and the hearing-impaired students to dance. It is an incorporated association, “Dong-eui-nan-dal.” The Argus meets them to find out about their activities, goals and values.
The Argus: Please introduce about yourself and “Dong-eui-nan-dal.”
Kim Rae-soo (Kim): Hello, I am Kim Rae-soo, the secretary general of the Dong-eui-nan-dal. Dong-eui-nan-dal is a service organization. Since 1982, we have looked to practice love through volunteering. Our work focuses on supporting students with disabilities, as well as senior citizens, multicultural families, and migrants.
The Argus: Why does Dong-eui-nan-dal support the art activities of the youth with disabilities?
Kim: Students with visual or hearing impairments are often unable to fulfill their dreams and use their talents after finishing their institutional education. They are forced to perform limited social activities, and their activities are not continuous. Therefore, we started to support students with disabilities from elementary school to high school and college. Through scholarships and mentoring programs, these students can develop skills in the arts and expand their future dreams.
The Argus: How are the art exhibitions of visually impaired students being planned and carried out?
Kim: The name of the art exhibition of students with visual impairments is “Please look in the mind.” It is held annually, with the eleventh exhibition this year. It is open to all students of the visually impaired school. Every year, various works such as painting, sculpture, and ceramic are exhibited. There are 50-60 participants who have seriously impaired vision or are blind. We identify students who volunteered to participate in the beginning of each year and fund the scholarship and provide art materials. Then, artworks are displayed at Seoul Citizen Gallery for a week. Although the eyes cannot be seen, the works of the students who show good works with their hearts in their senses gradually become popular among ordinary citizens.
The Argus: How is the dance competition for students with hearing impairment planned and conducted?
Kim: The name of the event is “National Hearing Impaired Student’s Dance Competition.” This year marks the fifth anniversary of its launch. The competition is held for a week in May every year, at Hoam Art Museum in Chung-ju, a city in the western part of North Chungcheong Province. Beginning of the year, we support the participating students who need to prepare for the competition. It does not mean that hearing-impaired students could not have dreams and talents because they cannot hear. Deaf students express their much more sensitive and touching emotions in a beautiful rhythm by using the sense of their whole body. After the competition, we give scholarships to the winners. In addition, we are also involved in the quest for students entering university.
The Argus: What are the most memorable moments from your supporting activities?
Kim: When we first opened the exhibition “Please look in the mind,” the students who submitted their works were not sure whether people would like to see their work, and we who planned the exhibition were nervous, too. However, from the very first exhibition, it was bustling with visitors. People looked impressed when viewing the blind student’s drawings and pieces of art. While receiving encouraging comments from ordinary citizens, we all felt rewarded. We translated the comments into braille and made a booklet. Then, we sent them to students who had participated so that they could feel the accolades of the spectators directly.
In addition, when children who cannot hear dance uninhibited on stage, the audience responds with cheers and encouragement with simple sign language. These are very touching moments to me. Once the competition is over, the students who stood on stage and the audience are more connected.
The Argus: What were the difficulties in organizing the projects?
Kim: It is not easy to meet students with visual or hearing impairments. Because the schools have to protect students, they are reluctant to send their students out into the world. It is true that extracurricular activities are difficult because the students have disabilities. Moreover, even the day when the art exhibition or the dancing competition is held, all staff and teachers should keep watching students more than ever to check whether they are nervous or feel sick. Also, before the program, we go to school and spend time together in the classroom several times to increase students’ confidence.
The Argus: What is the ultimate goal of Dong-eui-nan-dal through the projects?
Kim: We pursue love, and our slogan is “All for One, One for All.” This means we all are very special. Therefore, we should respect other people equally. Even if there is a handicap, we hope that many students will find their own talents and achieve a happy life with self-confidence. Also, we hope that these students can help other people and live together. Then I believe that the world will be happy together.
The Argus: What would you like to say to The Argus readers?
Kim: We are truly beautiful when we are happy together. When you look around, there are people who can stand up by holding your hand. Also, sometimes you may want support from the hands of others. Therefore, we have to live together.
Having a physical disability does not mean that the person’s life itself is limited. No one should give up on their dreams just because of the prejudice against the disabled. We need support and encouragement so that everyone can use their talents and shoot for their dreams. I hope that the readers grab the hands of people with disabilities with a big heart.
Helen Keller, a famous American writer and social activist, said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart.” To feel true beauty, we must open our hearts and see others without any prejudice.
By Kim Tae-young
Associate Editor of Global & National Section