Monday night, I received shocking news that So-Youn Kim, a YD volunteer who arrived with my staaj (training group), passed away unexpectedly. I only briefly knew her. She had a fiery spirit, that was both polarizing and admirable. This past month, she organized two well-received pottery workshops. My heart ached not being able to attend. My heart aches for her passing, her community (both in Morocco, Peace Corps and the States) and her family.
The following is a letter written by Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams:
I am deeply saddened to report a respected member of our Peace Corps family in Morocco, Volunteer So-Youn Kim, unexpectedly passed away today after an illness.
So-Youn, 23, a native of San Francisco and a 2007 graduate of Stanford University, had been serving for one year as a Youth Development Volunteer in Tamagourte. Her primary assignment was in a youth center where she was involved in a wide range of activities in her dual role as English teacher and youth development worker.
Her secondary activities focused on helping the village of Tamagourte’s pottery cooperative and developing an apprenticeship program. She got her hands dirty both literally and figuratively with the lives, pottery and culture of her community. She loved to teach children, support the cooperative and respect the historic craft that is so firmly rooted in that region of Morocco.
So-Youn was a remarkable writer, a voracious reader, a tireless advocate and talented in many languages. Thoughtful and hopeful would be the best way to describe her Peace Corps Aspiration Statement and other communications she has shared.
In September 2008, she wrote: “Youth development work is effective when young people are taught to become educated, empowered, and responsible members of their communities while being given space to explore and share the challenges of their own individual identities.”
This is an ethos and passion So-Youn brought with her to Morocco. I am sharing the news of this tragedy with the hope that all of you will honor her commitment to service by providing the best support, comfort and opportunities to our dedicated Volunteers and staff around the world.
So-Youn wrote recently, “I believe in the power of the day to day, the simple yet otherwise impossible conversations, the truths that I speak and live that affect the people around me as I learn from the truths around me in turn.”
I couldn’t agree with her more.
Please join me in keeping So-Youn’s family and friends in your thoughts.