By CourtesySeptember 10, 2012
UIJEONGBU, South Korea - The Camp Red Cloud Community Activity Center was recently visited by a small group of Korean women. Young and still basking in the vitality of their early 20s, most of them could easily pass for students. But, for these young women, not all is as it appears.
Each is unmarried and pregnant, a status that still carries a stigma in Korean society. Driven from their homes and families in one way or another, they've found shelter in Uijeongbu at Evergreen House, which is dedicated to the care of unmarried pregnant women.
Evergreen House offers a one-year stay, providing protection, room and board. For fear of being recognized, the young women cannot leave the premises without permission.
When Camp Red Cloud opened its doors to them recently, it did so as part of the 2nd Infantry Division Good Neighbor Program, which fosters good relations between the 2nd Infantry Division and Korea. They visited the post under an agreement worked out several years ago between Evergreen House and the chaplain for the 2nd Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion.
Under that agreement, Camp Red Cloud makes its facilities available to the women of Evergreen House once a week. It gives them a much-needed opportunity to get out and interact with others, and helps ease the strains of their situation - pregnant while estranged from family and friends.
At Camp Red Cloud, the women play board games, visit the 2nd Infantry Division Museum and take walks. But they also get to spend time with volunteers from the Red Cloud community, who talk about their own experiences with pregnancy, and answer questions the visiting women may have.
While the program has been in place for a few years, the latest visits have taken on a new tone, said Cpl. Lee Jae-heon, a chaplain's assistant with Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion.
Recently, the volunteers came up with a number of ways to help the program reach its full potential, including inviting the young women to unit events - such as Warrior Friendship Week - and providing them with donated baby clothes.
"I want to help these ladies in any way we can," said Tina Chu, a civilian volunteer. "I'm hoping that there will be more activities, more structure."
As the division strives to be a good neighbor, those wanting to volunteer their time with the young women are encouraged to get involved.
For more information, call 732-6428.