Char­ity event sees im­pres­sive crowd

Pro­ceeds from bazaar, hosted by siwa, to go to the dis­ad­van­taged

Korea JoongAng Daily - - National - BY LEE SUNG-EUN se­[email protected]

More than 4,000 lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors at­tended a char­ity bazaar sell­ing home­made food, an­tiques, hand­made crafts and cloth­ing from coun­tries world­wide on Mon­day at the 63 Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Yeouido, western Seoul.

The an­nual bazaar, hosted by the Seoul In­ter­na­tional Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion (SIWA), Seoul’s largest in­ter­na­tional women’s or­ga­ni­za­tion, has raised more than 2 bil­lion won ($1.9 mil­lion) since 1970, with all pro­ceeds go­ing to support the un­der­priv­i­leged.

Pro­ceeds from this year’s bazaar have yet to be cal­cu­lated, the host said yes­ter­day.

This year’s SIWA and Diplo­matic Com­mu­nity Bazaar, one of the largest in­ter­na­tional fund-rais­ing events in Korea, was sup­ported by 43 em­bassies, char­ity groups, women’s clubs, ven­dors, spon­sors and more than 100 vol­un­teers.

SIWA mem­bers — many of them spouses of em­bassy of­fi­cials — sold prod­ucts rep­re­sen­ta­tive of their home coun­tries. At one ta­ble in the food court sec­tion rep­re­sent­ing the South Asian coun­try of Sri Lanka, tra­di­tional tea and curry were the most popular menu items. Vis­i­tors ea­gerly waited in line, hold­ing out their plates for another bite.

For Sumedha Wi­jer­atne, the wife of the Sri Lankan am­bas­sador to Seoul, who was at the booth sell­ing prod­ucts rep­re­sen­ta­tive of her na­tive coun­try, par­tic­i­pat­ing in the bazaar was a “won­der­ful chance to pro­mote Sri Lanka and learn dif­fer­ent cul­tures.”

“At the end of the day, I feel very proud of my coun­try, my­self and my ladies at the em­bassy for help­ing me run this event and earn char­ity funds,” she said, adding that it was her fourth time par­tic­i­pat­ing in the an­nual bazaar.

At the Girl Scouts booth, girls who in­tro­duced them­selves as mem­bers of Troop No. 12, sold home­made snacks in­clud­ing cook­ies, bis­cuits and cho­co­lates.

The most popular baked good was their Oreo brown­ies, said 13-year-old Maria Lentine, adding that they sold out in the first hour.

Anna Grace Roberts, 13, em­pha­sized their ta­ble’s orig­i­nal­ity. “Ev­ery­thing is home­made and hand­made,” she said.

When asked what they en­joyed the most about the day­long event, both girls, who at­tend Seoul For­eign School, an­swered in uni­son with wide grins on their faces, “No school!”

Anna Grace added that she liked “walk­ing around and see­ing dif­fer­ent things from many coun­tries.”

Ute Camp, 53, a Ger­man na­tional liv­ing in Han­nam-dong, cen­tral Seoul, agreed with Anna Grace, ac­knowl­edg­ing that the cos­mopoli­tan vibe was in­trigu­ing.

Her per­sonal fa­vorite item was a cal­lig­ra­phy draw­ing of her name writ­ten in Korean char­ac­ters, which came with a book­mark dec­o­rated with tra­di­tional Korean pat­terns.

“It’s re­ally spe­cial for me, and I can’t wait to show my kids,” she said. “The Korean lan­guage is to­tally for­eign for me, so when I look at the al­pha­bet, it’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing.”

At the Hall of Na­tions zone, lo­cated just a few steps away from the food court, vol­un­teers sold an ar­ray of tra­di­tional crafts, knit­ted clothes, ac­ces­sories and paint­ings.

Shin Sun-young, 40, from Seo­dae­mun Dis­trict, north­west­ern Seoul, said she paid 30,000 won for two wooden gi­raffe sculp­tures from Kenya’s booth to dec­o­rate her house.

For Shin, the bazaar was com­pelling be­cause her do­na­tion went to­ward char­ity and of­fered her a chance to “learn what tra­di­tional items other coun­tries have to of­fer.”

Lee Bock-hee, the vice pres­i­dent of SIWA, went fur­ther to un­der­score the key roles played by the am­bas­sadors’ wives in the event, stat­ing that it was im­por­tant that they be “daz­zled” by Korean cul­ture upon ar­rival in the coun­try.

“They’re only here for two to three years,” Lee said about the women. But once they get in­volved in lo­cal ac­tiv­i­ties and grow fond of the coun­try, the diplo­matic roles they play later glob­ally are “beyond words,” be­cause they share their anec­dotes with high-pro­file fig­ures in the in­ter­na­tional arena.

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