Volunteers offer drinks to family members of the missing passengers from the sunken ferry Sewol at a gymnasium on Jindo Island, Monday. The island has drawn streams of volunteers from all over the country. / Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
Over 5,000 volunteers here to help
By Yoon Sung-won
JINDO — This southwestern island is the scene of an enormous human tragedy.
The missing passengers on the capsized ferry Sewol, mostly high school sophomores, remained unaccounted for as of Monday.
Thousands of their family members and relatives are here spending their sixth day after the Wednesday accident, being drained physically and emotionally, while fighting not to give up the hope of seeing their loved ones alive again.
A large number of people have come here without being asked, with their self-endowed mission of helping, in whatever way they can, other human beings in extreme distress.
It is confirmation of human camaraderie that makes a person realize, "I am not alone," when they feel down and out.
"Put those boxes on these tables and unpack them," a man yelled at Paengmok Port.
A dozen men wearing the same uniform hurried to prepare boxes of bread and drinks.
There are women who wash dishes, men who stir big soup cauldrons and hand out trays of meals.
They were among over 5,000 volunteers from 240 charity groups who have flocked from all over the country, according to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters. Many of them are Jindo residents.
"I cannot even imagine how it would be, if it were my own child," said a middle-aged female volunteer at a gym, where many of the families are taking shelter. "So we work harder."
At the harbor, charity groups such as the Korea National Red Cross, the Korea Church Relief Team, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, the Volunteer Fire Corp and the Salvation Army built a camp and provided meals and drinks, as well as daily necessities such as toiletries and underwear.
Pastor Lee Gyu-seon from a church on Jindo was one of those who joined the Korea Church Relief Team.
Lee said it was "very encouraging" to witness many people with goodwill from all around the country sending relief goods and money or coming to visit and work at the camp.
"Most of the workers here and another camp in front of the gym came from the island and several others came from other parts of the country," Lee said to this reporter without stopping his work.
"With our humble efforts, we hope to help relieve the pain that families are suffering, at least in little way, and recover the energy to stand," he said.
Lee added that they are short of some necessities including underwear and sanitary pads because they have not received these items from supporters.
Alongside the charity groups, organizations and companies including the Korean Pharmaceutical Association, National Health Insurance Corporation, Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries, Kookmin Bank, and Nonghyup also joined in.
Kim Seong-jin, a pharmacist of the Yeosu Pharmaceutical Association, halted work for a while to visit the harbor and volunteer for the families and workers.
"Pharmacists are taking turns to provide services here," he said. "Cheongsimhwan is the most-sought after medicine since it helps relieve families and divers of anxiety and shock."