Making Korean connection

Volunteers: A hot line links residents to legal, medical and educational services in the county.

December 09, 2003|By Caitlin O'Grady | Caitlin O'Grady,SUN STAFF

Recognizing that language and culture can be intimidating barriers to getting help in a crisis, a Howard County Korean community group has launched Care Line to refer callers to the appropriate professionals.

Sue Song, president of the Korean American Community Association of Howard County, said Care Line "can be helpful for when someone is in a crisis and needs to talk to someone with their problems or concerns." Care Line phone calls will be screened, and callers will be sent to professionals, such as lawyers, health care workers, doctors or psychologists. If possible, callers will be referred to Korean professionals.

"The first goal of the Care Line is to provide information and referral services Koreans could not obtain because of language and culture barriers," said operations coordinator Silvia Kim. "The second goal is to provide crisis intervention for Koreans who could not easily obtain help."

FOR THE RECORD - Because of an editing error in an article in Tuesday's Howard County edition of The Sun about Care Line, a referral service run by the Korean American Community Association of Howard County, the first name of Syliva Kim, operations coordinator for the hot line, was misspelled. The Sun regrets the error.

Care Line provides assistance in education, health care, interpretation and translation, senior issues and job referral. It is staffed by volunteers who have a minimum of 20 hours of training in screening phone calls. Bilingual volunteers are available to aid callers who need help with interpretation.

"We need a lot of people to be involved. We have limited human resources at the moment," said Kim. She said second-generation Koreans are encouraged to volunteer.

Song thought it would be a good idea to create Care Line because "oftentimes the Korean population doesn't have the information as to what the county government does or how retirement works. They have no understanding of how the system works."

Song said many Koreans are afraid to ask questions because of cultural barriers and therefore do not have anyone with whom to share concerns. "Koreans cannot really talk to anyone outside of their profession because it isn't seen as proper manner. They want to take care of the situation in their family, and they fail," Song said.

Previously, those seeking help have contacted the Korean American Community Association. The greatest number of requests concern senior issues, according to Song. In addressing those issues, Care Line volunteers provide housing information, help seniors find transportation and share data about senior center activities. Song said help with health care is needed because many Koreans "don't know where to go and what to do without insurance."

Many people believe Care Line should have been created a long time ago to ease the adjustment of Koreans to American society. Because Howard County is the only local jurisdiction to have Care Line, Song said, she expects some calls to come from outside the county.

Care Line staff members will talk to the Board of Education, school psychologists and teachers if there are educational issues. In addition, the volunteers will refer callers seeking jobs to potential employers, specifically with Korean businesses or with the county government.

Care Line volunteers answer phones from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 410-461-1088.

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