Bridging the gap between multiple generations will make our communities more accessible and equal — this sentiment is fully espoused by the Korean American Women’s Association (KAWA). Since this past spring, KAWA has partnered with KYCC’s Elementary Tutorial Program (ETP) to provide intergenerational education through a series of youth workshops. KAWA’s collaboration with ETP was funded by the Eisner Foundation, the only U.S. foundation that invests exclusively in programs connecting older adults and youth.
Founded in 2004, KAWA is a membership-driven organization committed to serving Korean communities by developing leadership skills and empowering women. KAWA is comprised of 216 members—mainly first-generation Korean American women ranging in age from 55 to 70 years old and located in Orange County, San Fernando Valley and the Greater Los Angeles area.
The organization recognizes the importance of providing children with enriching activities. “When I raised my children, the school did not provide classes like painting, cooking or opera-singing,” Elizabeth Park, the president of KAWA, said. “When KYCC contacted us and explained their afterschool programs, we loved it because children need these types of extracurricular activities.”
In the past, KAWA has supported KYCC by co-sponsoring our Annual Benefit Concert and hosting a booth giving away school supplies and snacks to low-income families at our Holiday Carnivals every December. Now, thanks to the Eisner Foundation’s patronage, the women of KAWA lead workshops teaching elementary-aged kids creative skills and practical knowledge such as cooking, soapmaking, folk painting and Western art history—adaptations of classes the organization previously offered only for adults.
“[The KAWA volunteers] were really able to enrich our special activity times,” Lead Elementary Instructor Heather Jun said. “I usually plan the activities and my skills are limited, but KAWA brought in activities that I don’t know much about, like Korean traditional painting.”
The Eisner Foundation firmly believes that combining the strengths of all generations will result in the greatest positive impact on society. This year, with Eisner’s generous support, we began to shift our focus from seeking individual senior volunteers to working with local, senior community service organizations, and to develop deeper and more meaningful relationships. KYCC was able to evaluate and implement a volunteer engagement strategy for 2016-17, resulting in a total of 1,355 volunteers providing 20,603 hours of service across groups like KAWA and The Downtown Lions Club.
Already, the partnership with KAWA has made great strides toward Eisner’s mission of intergenerational integration. “The teachers have shared with me that they really like coming out to meet our kids and share their energy,” Jun said. “The energy flows both ways—we receive it from our teachers and the teachers receive it for our kids. One time, we had a fan-making session that was supposed to last an hour but the teachers stayed 90 minutes just to be with the kids.”