Why we should help others or should we? What does it mean to human condition? These were the questions occurred to me when I encountered care givers at hospital while developing a long term project about semiconductor workers in critical disease a few years ago. Being impressed by their commitment rationally, I couldn’t fully understand their will to sacrifice. When I found the news that first generation of Korean immigrants are facing several troubles due to aging, caregiving service for elderly immigrants issue attracted my attention more than enough. This curiosity, who are these caregivers, what are their motivations and commitments and etc., gave me an opportunity to receive a great grant and led me to meet a immigrant caregiver, Maria Woo.
When I asked Maria about her motivation, her answer looked simple. Maria Woo, born in 1957 in South Korea, immigrated to the States in 2010 by her sister’s invitation, then she visited her friend in New York and found her was a caregiver. Becoming a caregiver could be natural step for Maria who majored moral theology at Catholic University in South Korea and got PhD for same major in Rome.
However, her duty as a caregiver doesn’t look simple. She visits five patients twice a week, working from 11am to 6pm normally. Sometimes being treated as a nurse, sometimes as a friend, as a daughter and even as a house keeper, she performs her roles every moments. For my surprise, she has to deal with a sort of discrimination being treated as a maidservant not as a helpful caretaker quite often.
What I understood Korean immigrants society during this project is that the society is pretty much closed and hierarchal than that of mother land. This tendency might be owing to struggles and survivals among immigrants who left their home to pursue American Dream but had to confront nothing but challenges and frustrations. However, against all prejudice, discrimination and challenge, Maria Woo, being an immigrant as well and more educated, has never failed to keep devotion, sacrifice and commitment for others. She said “My act might be disguised act of love, but I learn the essence of life from my patients by sharing and sympathizing our loneliness, struggle and sadness. Helping people to me means embodying human dignity and sublime.”