ALAMOSA — German, Belgian, French and AmeriCorps affiliated volunteers from all over the United States have spent one-year time periods as staff at Milagros Coffee Shop and Rainbow’s End discount outlet for everything from used furniture and clothing to electronics equipment and old vinyl records for a long era on Main Street, U.S. Hwy 160, near the State Avenue intersection.
In the first few days of September, the nature of the volunteer crew from La Puente Home took a new twist. Jimin Park, a 21-year-old South Korean woman, became the first of her nationality to begin service at the Rainbow’s End Thrift Store three days a week, one day per week at Milagros, and one day per week working with PALS, a children’s education program of La Puente.
The last segment of her duties is particularly relevant and appropriate. She is taking her volunteer stretch as a “gap year” as she explains, from her studies at Chinju National University of Education. Her senior year at the school will begin after her return to her homeland after August of 2018.
Her major area of study is to step towards a career in teaching, specializing in younger-age students.
In a friendly, frank manner, she declared the exact school resumption date is difficult to explain because of differences in how Korean universities structure their semesters, commenting one, for example will start in March 2019. Late August or mid-January will be during terms, not starts or ends.
What brought about her interest in volunteer work in the United States? An agency of United Church of Christ, or “UCC” brought opportunities here to her interest when she looked into the idea, she related. Awe at the size and nature of the surrounding areas to opportunities in America struck her, especially noting she has already visited the Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Penitente Canyon area, and exclaimed the U.S. “is so big” relative to her country of origin.
Another deciding factor was her excellent command of English, which she noted, begins for most South Koreans at around age 10 in school. Although not a deciding factor, regarding tastes, she commented that coffee is a strong favorite in her land’s offices and schools, “especially near test times.”
In comments about her duties so far as a volunteer at the thrift store and coffee shop, she said that prior to her arrival, she had thought her work would expressly focus on the homeless, and added a little surprised-sounding, “They are not my guests, they are customers.”
Rainbow’s End also has an outlet in Monte Vista, but for now she is not assigned to work there. So far she has not come across a speaker of her native language. That is something volunteers from Germany, Belgium or France probably have not experienced in the many years’ experience of foreign-born La Puente staff.
Caption: Jimin Park, a 21-year-old woman from the metropolitan area of Busan, South Korea recently started as volunteer help at La Puente’s affiliates Rainbow’s End Thrift store and the Milagros coffee shop in downtown Alamosa. Busan is a large city, with an area population of approximately 3.5 million, while the school she is attending, Chinju National University of Education, is based in a smaller city, Chinju. She sits during the interview inside the Rainbow’s End Store, describing her impressions so far of the United States and the San Luis Valley. Photo by Stan Moyer