By Curtis File
SEOUL, Oct. 28 (Yonhap) — When Tom Traubert replied to a Facebook ad for the Daegu branch of Mannam Volunteer Association in the fall of 2011, he was looking to give back to the Korean community.
“I have a long history of volunteerism and work with non-profit organizations,” said the 31-year-old English teacher, who asked to use his Internet pseudonym. “I thought this would be a good opportunity to continue with that while I live in Korea.” But it didn’t take long before he started to feel that something was amiss.
Though Mannam bills itself as the embodying the “spirit of pure volunteerism” according to its official web site, Traubert says that just three of the many events organized by the Daegu branch in his year-long stint with the organization qualified as volunteering. The rest, he said, were promotional events in the hopes of recruiting more foreign residents.
“As time went by, I became more and more aware of how the only skill or resource they wanted from me was that I was a foreigner, willing to wear a Mannam T-shirt and interested in bringing in more foreigners to the organization,” he said.
A blog post by Laura Oxenreiter, another former Mannam organizer from Daegu, echoed these sentiments.
“Probably the beginning of my real doubts was when Mannam organized a ‘Natural Disaster Walk’ in Daegu. The non-Korean organizers gave some input, but then weren’t actually involved in the preparations,” she wrote. “In the end, the attendees just walked around a park while being filmed most of the day. A lot of people who’d attended left in the middle of the day, because they were so frustrated by the obsession with pictures and the lack of any constructive work.”