Stepping Stone of Hope, a collaborative effort between Samsung and Community Chest of Korea, was launched with ideas and donations from Samsung employees. Adolescents living in children’s care facilities or foster homes are obliged to leave child protective services upon turning 18, regardless of their will. Since 2015, Samsung has been supporting these young people who are forced to leave protective services and make their way on their own, helping them prepare for an independent life in a safe environment by offering shelter and practical help in everyday matters. We “stand together” alongside them so that vulnerable young people with nowhere to go may learn to stand on their own as fully fledged adults.
Every year, about 2,400 children leave care facilities and take their first steps into society without any support. These young adults are without legal guardians, therefore unable even to purchase a mobile phone or sign a real estate lease. In their aid, Samsung is establishing Stepping Stone of Hope Centers in 10 localities across the country.Source: [June 2021, Ministry of Health and Welfare] Status of Child Welfare Facilities in 2020
When you’re on your own at 18, you need more help than you think in order to survive. Samsung prevents young people from falling through the cracks by establishing self-reliance programs that offer integrated support for everyday tasks and emotional aspects, with a focus on essential and practical needs.
Even for adolescents from ordinary families, living on one’s own is not so simple. The Stepping Stone of Hope Program provides young people with individual studio housing, and helps them transition into independence by teaching them how to cook, look after their health, and look for jobs. We are now witnessing successful cases of independence through the Stepping Stone of Hope Program. Here are some heartwarming stories of those youth, and their mentors in life who accompanied them on their journeys.
The Stepping Stone of Hope Centers offer residents
a fine living space, with bright, clean
surroundings and staff ready to offer help
when difficulties arise.
As the Korean saying goes, “People build homes, and homes complete people”. At the Stepping Stone of Hope Centers, young adults preparing for life as adults are provided with a stable environment in a first home they can call their own.
We hope that young folks who come to the Centers will regard their stay as an opportunity and a gift, and hope to see them become good role models for those who will be gifted the space in the future.
Young people go through a lot of educational and training programs before protective services end, but I think educating them afterward is actually more important. Because that’s the point when the vague notion of working life becomes a reality. On top of offering housing support, Stepping Stone of Hope offers well-established educational programs on personal finance and work that are necessary for everyday life. One-on-one counseling with a career expert allows young people to discover their aptitude and make concrete plans, while actively thinking about prospective careers. During this process, I witnessed many kids opening up about themselves, and becoming stronger emotionally. For example, there was a young man who was not able to adjust well when he first came to the Center, but he became noticeably brighter and more positive after receiving psychological counseling and going through floriculture internships. Witnessing his transformation reminded me once again of the importance of professional counseling.
When I was 20, I went away to college and started living on my own. I was so inept. Since I didn’t check my mailbox, my utility bills went unpaid, and because I put off doing the laundry for so long, I had to spread some out on the floor after I ran out of space on the drying rack. Also, since I didn’t bother ventilating the room, I developed fungal infections on my skin, and had to receive treatment for it. From time to time my parents would check up on me, and stock up my refrigerator with food and check whether my room was clean. The only reason I am now functioning as an adult, responsible for managing my own health and my own space, is because I had other grownups around me who kindly reassured me that no 20-year-old could be good at independent living. I don’t think the difficulties faced by the young people preparing for an independent life now are all that different from what I went through. I hope that Stepping Stone of Hope can take on the role of a protector for them and help them accumulate the wisdom they need in life, knowing that they are not incompetent, but that they are just young and need help figuring things out.
At the preliminary interview, the first question they asked me was what I thought independence was. I answered that it meant I had to do everything on my own, without the protection guardianship afforded me. However, the burden of managing on my own weighed on me, and I wished I had some grownups around me that I could trust. At the interview conducted before leaving the care home, they asked me where I would be staying, and I told them I would definitely be going to the Stepping Stone of Hope Center. During the final interview, I started out by saying, “I want to live a good life,” at which point I burst into tears. I was so desperate. After I passed the interview and entered the Center, I found that I could manage quite well on my own thanks to the space I had to myself and the staff who treated me like family, although it was hard cooking and cleaning by myself. I am so thankful.
I was in desperate need of money to settle down, and a place to stay where I could feel safe. I was able to solve the issues of money and housing, which were my biggest concerns, through Samsung's Stepping Stone of Hope. Seeing how my life, which had always seemed so daunting, has been transformed with someone’s help, I now dream of someday being able to help the children living in the care home I used to live in.
When I first became self-supporting, being financially independent was my biggest worry. Due to my circumstances I couldn’t get good housing, and I was uneasy all the time having to buy school supplies and daily necessities and eating my meals outside all the time. One day, I received a text message informing me of the independent-living dormitory, and that’s how I came here. First of all, the financial support and support for daily necessities improved my life considerably. Since it’s newly built, the dormitory is comfortable, secure, and quiet, so I can focus on my studies. Also, the various self-reliance programs run by the staff were of great help. I am eternally grateful for this, because I think that such support is only possible if those providing it are interested in our welfare over the long term.
Although government support is available for young adults leaving child protection services, it is not without its blind spots. The Samsung Stepping Stone of Hope Program is the most well-known private support program of its kind, and aims to address shortfalls in social services. In the first phase, five centers were built in Busan, Daegu, Gangwon (Wonju), Gwangju, and Gyeongbuk (Gumi). In the second phase, additional centers were built in Gyeongnam (Changwon/Jinju), Chungnam (Asan), Jeonbuk (Jeonju), and Gyeonggi (Hwaseong/Goyang). Our 10th center is scheduled to open in Jeonnam (Mokpo/Suncheon) on January 2023. We are expecting to open additional centers in the localities to help young people stand on their own.