Honorary Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah Emphasizes, “Let Go of Selfishness and Be Selfless,” Along with Environmental and Global Citizenship Education

Just as the taller the building rises, the longer the shadow, behind the cutting-edge artificial intelligence [AI] era that has been greeted by industrialization, human alienation, loss of humanity, and environmental problems are serious. The Intl. WeLoveU Foundation (hereinafter referred to as the “WeLoveU”) strives to change people’s characters, perceptions, and behaviors through education, so that they can overcome the negative outcomes of industrialization and make a healthy society where everyone is happy.

On August 14, “WeLoveU School Special Lecture on Character for Teenagers 2023” was held at the recently opened WeLoveU Education Center in Gogeung-dong, Seongnam-si, Korea. Under the theme, “The Importance of Character of Teenagers and the Role of Global Citizenship in the Age of AI,” WeLoveU held this event to give teenagers, future leaders, the heart of a mother who cares of her children. Moreover, it was to help them have a broader understanding of our society and the earth, and to develop a good character. About 50 middle and high school students from Seongnam-si, who wanted to wrap up their summer vacation meaningfully before a new school semester starts, participated in the character education, which was resumed after the pandemic ended.

The education started at 10 a.m. for about five and a half hours. It was well-organized with a special lecture on character by Honorary Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah, and education on the environment and global citizenship by experts. During the ice-breaking session before the education, the students loosened up and became close to each other by playing a balance game and expressing their first impression with stickers. During the lunch break, various programs to promote empathy, team work, and sustainability were prepared as side events for students to have fun and learn at the same time.

In the special lecture held in the morning, Honorary Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah said, “Teenagers are spending the most beautiful, lively, and energetic period of their lives, and they can grow to be dignified and righteous by learning how to speak, act, and feel correctly. By doing so, they can become future leaders who make the world more peaceful, joyful, and better.” Giving various examples such as a story from the Korean War, an anecdote about Alexander the Great, and the parable of the Good Samaritan, Chairwoman Zahng emphasized the virtue of altruism–considering others better than myself. “Altruism is the greatest teaching and the spirit of Christ, which includes being filial to parents, loving brothers and sisters, respecting teachers, and being harmonized with classmates.” She encouraged students to make efforts to be beneficial to others and make this world peaceful by being positive, cheerful, and cooperative.

In the afternoon, environmental education was given on “Climate Action and Effects of Teenagers in Era of Climate Crisis” by Kang Jung-won, an advisor at the Continuing Education Center of Seoul Social Welfare Graduate University. Professor Kang explained the causes of climate crisis and the actual situation of catastrophic natural disasters worldwide, and said, “The current generation should preserve the environment well and pass it down to the next generations. Otherwise, the future generation will suffer several times more than the current generation.” He urged the teenagers to be mindful of that and take even small steps in daily life such as zero waste and saving water to overcome the climate crisis.

The last lecture was the global citizenship education by Yi Bae-Keun, the President of Korea Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. He emphasized the importance of citizens’ courage, sharing, and consideration by using the references from “The Burghers of Calais,” “The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea,” “The Family Precepts of a Rich Man in Gyeongju,” and “The Man Who Planted Trees.” He concluded the lecture by expressing his gratitude to the students who paid attention to the education and said, “I hope that you will lead the future of Korea and the world to the right path with your creativity by living a good and upright life.”

The students listened attentively, taking good notes. They said, “It was a great opportunity to think about altruism,” “It was beneficial to learn various subjects in depth and to know in detail what I should do for the environment and for others.” Many students were already practicing good deeds, volunteer services, and environmental activities in their daily lives to benefit others. Yang Kyung-wha, a sophomore in high school, said, “I usually clean up on campus with my classmates. I want to major in environmental engineering to help mankind.” Kwon A-rim, a freshman in high school, said that she helped her friends who were physically or academically challenged. She also said, “I would like to work in the field that I love while helping many people.” Jeon Hyo-eun, a sophomore in high school, said, “I participated in the Tancheon Stream cleanup held by WeLoveU, and it was a fulfilling experience because I helped the earth stay healthy.” Through this education, I learned the true meaning of civic awareness–making efforts to help others and the earth even though you yourself wouldn’t get benefits from it.

The students who participated in the character education showed their willingness to put what they learned from the education into practice. Park Hee-jin, a third grade student in middle school, said, “I realized that the person I’ve been the least considerate of so far is my mom. I will be considerate of her from now on.” Kim Jae-won, a third grade student in middle school, said he was greatly moved by how the soldiers were considerate of others in the story from the Korean War shared in the education. He said, “I will be considerate of my friends and help with chores at home from now on.” Jeon Hye-rin, a sophomore in high school, said, “I gained confidence that I, too, can become a student environmentalist like Greta Thunberg if I start with small practices such as recycling and saving energy.”

Since 2011, WeLoveU has provided the character education about ten times before the pandemic. Starting with the opening of the Education Center this year, WeLoveU plans to spread the value of living together and to bring about meaningful changes in the world by carrying out character education, parent education, environmental education, and global citizenship education for teenagers.