Rachel Bryson-Brockman

A “Family” Mission

“We are not known to the mainstream disabled communities. We’ve been here for 20 years.”

By Rachel Bryson-Brockman and Elly W. Yu
October 17, 2013 | , , , , , ,

Kevin and Minkyu share a room on the top floor of Milal Mission, a religious group home for Korean-Americans with disabilities in Flushing, Queens. But, the two are more like brothers than roommates. Kevin, 19, has a speech impediment that makes his words unclear, and Minkyu, 31, is the only person in the home able to translate and give Kevin a voice.

This strong family-like environment is at the core of Milal’s services, which includes long term care, an after school program, and a weekly recreational program at a nearby church. Nestled on a tree lined street, it is a much needed resource for Korean-American youth and adults with disabilities in this neighborhood.

Kyle Hwang, a volunteer manager at Milal, explained that  because of both cultural and language issues, many Korean immigrants don’t know about government services for the disabled or how to access them.

Nestled on a tree-lined street, it is a much needed resource for Korean-American youth and adults with disabilities in this neighborhood.

Milal is a faith-based organization (evangelical services are a part of the weekly routine) that is eligible for government funding because of the social work it provides. However, it relies solely on donations from churches and individuals. According to Hwang, receiving federal money would mean the nonprofit could not provide its important services to undocumented immigrants.

“When a parent has a special needs child, there is a loss because of everything that child could have been,” said Edd Lee, a program director at Milal.

Lee’s colleague, Esther Kwak pointed out that the organization’s emphasis is different: “We stress here that it’s not about teaching them or trying to better them or have them meet a certain expectation…It’s really about community and social relationships, which they don’t get at other academic-based programs.”

Milal is part of a larger network of such homes in South Korea. The location in Flushing is one of Milal’s few US sites.

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Rachel Bryson-Brockman and Elly W. Yu are master's candidates at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

Rachel Bryson-Brockmann is a freelance writer and photographer. Her work has appeared in the New York Daily News, Long Island’s Newsday, and UK’s Health & Fitness Magazine.

Elly W. Yu is a multimedia journalist in New York City. Her work has appeared in the New York Daily News, City Limits and on WNYC.org.

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