House of Grace helps the disabled
RI President Dong Kurn Lee plants trees with members of the Rotary Club of Ankang-Bihwa in Gyeongju, Korea as part of a project at a home for the mentally and physically disabled. Photo by Alyce Henson/Rotary Images
When the eldest child of Rotarian Ho-Ik Son was born with mental disabilities more than three decades ago, the family had few places to turn for help.
"We suffered during this time," says Son, a member of the Rotary Club of Gyeongju East in Gyeongju, Korea. "I thought, when I made money, I would create something."
Son, who owns a chain of youth hostels in Korea, made good on his promise in 2006 when he opened the House of Grace, for which he'd donated the US$2 million construction cost. The center, a modern facility set on a hill and surrounded by trees, is primarily funded through grants from the Korean government.
Son's 38-year-old son, Tae-Ho, lives at the center, with about 50 other residents with varying degrees of mental and physical disabilities. The residents range in age from 8 to 57.
Once a month, members of the Rotary Club of Ankang-Bihwa visit the House of Grace to help with residents' basic needs, such as bathing, and to donate small items including towels, soap, and toothpaste. Sometimes they bring treats like Korean rice cakes, or dduk, and throw birthday parties for the residents.
RI President Dong Kurn Lee visited the center last spring when 45 women of the club joined with residents to plant gingko, plum, and apple trees on the hill behind the center. Lee and his wife, Young, also planted trees with tags bearing their names in the center’s front yard.
Each club member is partnered with a resident to care for a particular tree. They will harvest fruit from the fruit trees in several years.
"It gives [the residents] a sense of accomplishment and responsibility," says past club president Kyung Bae Lee. "It helps increase their mental abilities and develop coordination."
Son is pleased that Rotarians are showing an interest in the center and in people with disabilities.
"My dream is to make this place the best," he says.