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Miriam Center Presented at UN Program
Maryknoll Sisters Patricia Norton and Norie Mojado

Maryknoll, NY—The Miriam Center for Migrant Women in South Korea was recently selected as one of the best practices of Social Integration in Action by the UN NGO Committee on Social Development. On February 3, 2010, Maryknoll Sisters Norie Mojado and Patricia Norton presented the project as one of three stories from the grass roots at the Church Center Building, UN Nations Plaza in NYC.

Miriam Center was started in 2004 to help immigrant women from the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries who work in Korea or who have married into Korean families. It began as an offshoot of the Korean Catholic Women’s Community for the New World (KCWC). Sisters Norie and Pat and some leaders of KCWC were its founding members.

The migrant women who work mainly in the entertainment and factory industries or as domestic workers often suffer sexual exploitation, physical violence and unhealthy living conditions in the environment in which they live and work. Sr. Norie as a Filipino and a counselor was easily able to talk with the women in their own language and find out their specific needs and how best to help them. She and the team determined the services and opportunities the women need to lead a fully human life during their time in Korea. In addition, women who marry Korean men often do not know the language, culture or expectations of women or wives in the society.

The services offered to the women at the Center are direct intervention and translation, counseling, language instruction, on-site and/or home visiting. Educational and mentoring services as well as cultural experiences are also provided. Women who have been long-time clients also serve as mentors to newer migrants. Another group that has emerged from the voluntary leadership that developed among the Filipino women is FILAKOR, which was created to support Philippine migrants married to Korean men. The Center collaborates with many different NGOs and government agencies in Korea to coordinate the programs. Their success depends on a host of volunteers, mostly Korean, who provide teachers, mentors and financial aid for the programs.

The work of Miriam Center has also benefited the larger Korean society. It has enabled the Korean volunteers to understand people of other cultures. The guidance and support given to multicultural families helps ensure healthy family and better neighborhood relationships. Also the language and cultural studies taken by the migrant women workers promotes amiable working relationships with their supervisors and co-workers. The greatest success of Miriam Center is the empowerment of migrant women for self-reliance. Having achieved concrete successes through the programs they have taken there, the women in turn promote the Center and contribute their leadership in reaching out to its new members.

Sr. Norie and Sr. Patricia, having administered Miriam Center for four years turned it over to their Korean colleagues in 2007. Since its beginning it has helped more than 750 migrant women.