Relationships are the most important things in life. Individuals have various relations with others around them, and most people know that the world is comprised of diverse people. Nevertheless, when a person feels someone is different from him/her, distance is kept. There is a unique club that has no bias against all peoples and endeavours to have good relationships with physically and mentally challenged people. The Sookmyung Times (SMT) met with Jang Taesan (JANG), representative of the bathing club, “Happy Bubble,” to hear what he had to say about the club.
SMT Seoul has numerous volunteer clubs, but bathing others is indeed special compared to other clubs. How did your club start?
JANG When the club was first started, it was a huge controversial issue for volunteers to bath physically-challenged people regardless of sex. Many considered this behavior as infringing upon physically-challenged people’s rights. Many physically-challenged people felt shame, but most volunteers thought they didn’t bear the same amount of shame as the volunteers. However, they don’t differ from the rest of society. These people just have an extra challenge in life. It is unfair to ignore their thinking because of a disability. Therefore, we make the bathing volunteer club to help them bath—women bath with women and men bath with men.
SMT Bathing others is very hard work. Especially, bathing with a physically-challenged person is even harder work. Have you ever encountered such hardships?
JANG Our club meets every other weekend, and we act as a team. There are 4-5 people for each physically-challenged person. When I was a junior, I had a prior engagement, so I went to the volunteer work on my own. At that time, I thought I could do the task alone. After the bath, I went to hold his arm to aid him out of the bath and to dry him when my hand slipped off his arm, which made him fell to the floor. He was hurt, so he was rushed to the hospital, where he received stitches for an injury. I was very embarrassed, but he comforted me. I realized it was not just me giving help, but I was also helped too. He helped me to understand that people with special needs do not different from the rest of society. Although it was bad experience, one that I hope never repeats, I learned lots of things from him. After the incident, I am more caution than before, and I have erased the bias in my head.
SMT What is the biggest thing participants learn through the club’s activities and do you have any advice for other people?
JANG Members learn that relationships are essential to life. By being a bathing volunteering, club members develop friendships with special needs people. These people help when club volunteers have difficulty volunteering, and sometimes it is much needed advice. In addition, through volunteering, one’s sense of teamwork also grows. I think that good relationships make people’s lives better. One of our high school student volunteers has brightened her outlook after volunteering. It is the club’s belief that good relationships can change society, so it is my hope that society becomes more flexible. I mean, Happy Bubble hopes society stops seeing physically-challenged people as special needs but as equals in society. Once society recognizes these people as equals, discrimination would come to an end in our society.