“KSSC is supporting immigrants to enable them to go through a smoother settlement process in Canada.” (Young In Kim, President of KSSC)
The Korean Social Services Centre was founded to support immigrants residing in the Calgary area (with a focus on the Korean community) by improving their quality of life.
KSSC started with 7 founding Directors in October of last year on the journey to fulfill its vision: ‘A community where everyone has easy access to social resources, mental health resources, and education without language barriers or prejudice’. KSSC had its first Annual General Meeting in March of this year, we are making connections and working closely with the Canadian government, other local organizations, as well as post-secondary institutions in Korea and Canada for better and broader support to be provided.
President Kim attended the 2022 Future Leaders’ Conference (FLC) at Yeoui-do Conrad Hotel in Korea to introduce KSSC’s purpose and activities leading to a better and healthier Korean community.
The interview with Young In Kim, President of the Korean Social Services Centre (KSSC), was facilitated at a cafe in Seocho-dong, Seoul. While the titles she holds (President and founding Executive Director) sound colossal, her presence was very different than expected, as she was energetic and sparkling. Her first impression was that of a friendly and familiar person, despite being the first in-person meeting between the reporter and Young In. She has struck the reporter as being a warm-hearted person who enjoys helping others in a professional manner. She displayed her energy and passion throughout the entire interview.
President Kim said “we focus on communicating settlement-related information to Korean immigrants who may need assistance in Korean to understand the different services available around the city. Also, we have been offering emotional support, especially during and after the pandemic, to provide an anonymous safe space where users can freely take things off their chest.” She added that KSSC is doing its best to provide educational sessions on mental health and related topics, so that the community can learn and grow into a better future.
▷ Social work and welfare is such a broad field. Has ‘social worker’ been your dream?
I am working as a social worker and program facilitator at the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS) while also working as the President of the Korean Social Services Centre and co-founder/mental health counselor at the Mind Lab in Calgary. At CCIS, I am mainly working with refugees to get connected with Canadian-established residents in Calgary so that they can learn from each other about different cultures and about Canadian life. The purpose is to support families to have a smoother transition into their new life and environment. As an immigrant myself, I have witnessed my parents going through hardships in all aspects of life in Canada. As I started working at CCIS, the job reminded me of what I witnessed in the past through the hardships immigrants are going through, and reached to the conclusion that I should help out our community to enhance their life in Canada.
I majored in psychology (BA in science) and it was interesting to me. However, as I wanted direct interaction with people and to get dynamic experiences, social work was offered to me as an option. I know I am a person who likes to advocate for those who are in need of support and driven to work with people and for people. I went to New York University (MA in Social Work) to learn more about the field and upgrade the skills I need in order to pursue what I would like to do. During my studies, I had many chances to stand against discrimination and gain experience, and then I finally became a social worker. The practicum placement gave me beneficial experience in different settings with different people in different situations and circumstances. It was exhausting and daunting but worthwhile and uplifting. Learning about the White-dominated system and Euro-centric society has widened my views of the world we are living in and has allowed me to reflect differently on the tools the school has taught me. Finally, in order to have a structured body of like-minded people that will stand against all forms of discrimination, KSSC was founded.
▷ You have attended the 24th Future Leaders’ Conference (FLC) and you were chosen to give a presentation about yourself and your work at KSSC during the Insight Forum. Is there any special reason that you did this presentation at such a meaningful event?
At KSSC, there is a member who was also volunteering as the Executive Director of the Calgary Korean School. She was the one who recommended FLC to me. For the Insight Forum presentation, my father was the one who cheered me up to submit my story as it may be appealing. I thought this could be a great opportunity to share what I and KSSC members have been putting our collective efforts into to support our community abroad.
▷ So, you have opened the first ever social services centre for Koreans in Calgary, Canada.
The first in Calgary and in Alberta, yes. While there are many social services agencies for those who are anglophone or francophone, it is difficult to find a Korean-speaking interpreter or staff. I am sure that there are so many great social workers in the City, but it is regrettable that there are very few and limited services to be understood and used by Korean-speakers due to the cultural and language barriers. Now, as we are trying to build up information on entitlements and benefits, and other services in Korean, we hope that more and more of our community members can benefit from them.
▷ Last year, you participated in ‘Building Bridges Against Racism’ in Calgary and made a speech, “After the pandemic, there has been a spike of anti-Asian hate crimes. Lets not belittle that fact and speak up against discrimination in Canada.” This has inspired other participants to reflect. When did you start to get interested in the issue of inequity and inequality against racialized groups and minorities?
Like most non-English-speaking immigrants, my family also had difficulties adjusting to the new culture, customs and language. As we were not fluent in English, there were (and still are) times when White people dismiss us or just plainly ignore us. During my school years, I recognized that even though acceptance and inclusion in our society and the world has been spreading, and our lives has been improving overall, discrimination against minority groups still exists. According to my experience and research, Canada and the USA cannot be compared and still have a lot to work on.
▷ After this long journey in Korea, do you have anything specific you like to work on when you go back to Calgary?
Until now, KSSC and I have been focusing on providing and promoting information on basic living that is necessary for Koreans. While I have been networking with a lot of people at the conference and learned a lot on how to provide good information and come up with impactful programs, I also got a lot of ideas for developing community resources. When I go back, I want to look for more human resources and local resources that can support KSSC’s vision and mission in a better way. I learned a lot during the FLC and realized that the Korean government’s enthusiastic support is also very important for Koreans abroad.
▷ How would you define your job in one phrase?
If I wanted to name my job, I would have to list so many titles. Just for myself, I have been using ‘registered social worker’, ‘program facilitator’, ‘mental health counselor’, and ‘president of KSSC’. In the field of social work, everyone works toward one goal that is to empower people to live the enriched life that they envision for themselves, without poverty, or struggle, or strife. All the social workers are working with titles such as ‘social worker’, ‘therapist’, ‘counselor’, ‘activist’, and so on, just to provide appropriate support to their specific clients. So, as you can tell, there is not one phrase I can use to fully describe the breadth and width of all that I do.
▷ When you feel exhausted and burnt out, what makes you move on?
Cheering words and encouragement from my family, friends, and people who are actively supporting me. I am always thankful to have my support network.
I still do have a lot to learn and a lot of things to improve in myself, but I will continue to do my best not to forget about my intended purpose and keep moving forward towards a better world. **