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Tapestry tells tales of local immigrants

New show to air on Riderwood TV

Created date

February 19th, 2018
Claire Kim, originally from South Korea, has launched a program on Riderwood's in-house TV station that will explore the lives of immigrants in the U.S.

Claire Kim, originally from South Korea, has launched a program on Riderwood's in-house TV station that will explore the lives of immigrants in the U.S.


Riderwood’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee recently decided to tap into the community’s rich culture by showcasing the many immigrants who live and work there by launching a new show called Tapestry of Tales, which will air on Riderwood’s in-house television station. 

Each episode will feature a different community member or employee who immigrated to the U.S. In recorded conversations with a moderator, immigrants will talk about their lives, how they came to America, what they like best about living here, and how Americans can better understand their native countries. 

Tales to tell

“We have so many immigrants who came from another country—both residents and staff—who contribute so much to this country and to Riderwood,” says resident Claire Kim, project leader. 

“I heard about one of the dining room managers who came here from Africa. She started as a server, went to college, and became manager of this dining room. She said, ‘I am not the only one.’ Later on I found out about some other people, so I thought people should know about this,” Claire says.

To unveil the Tapestry of Tales program, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee hosted a kick-off event in November. Erickson Living Vice President for Organizational Development Ian Lee Brown, a native Jamaican, spoke at the event about his journey of immigrating to America.

After his talk, a panel of three resident immigrants shared their own stories. 

Claire says the live event definitely piqued residents’ interest in hearing more from the immigrants on Riderwood’s campus. In the fall, Claire was in the process of identifying people to feature on episodes of Tapestry of Tales. She expects to begin filming in early 2018.

“I thought that these stories should be told,” she says. “We have to really know what these people have done, and what they have been through.”

Life’s twists and turns

Born and raised in South Korea, Claire has an interesting tale of her own. As a young girl, she was an avid reader and, through books, learned that women in other countries had more rights and liberties than women in South Korea. 

At a young age, Claire decided she wanted to do something about the inequality in her native country. 

“After college, I was supposed to be married, but I refused,” Claire says. “I wanted to come to the United States, and I wanted to strengthen myself. At that time, I didn’t even know there was such thing as the women’s movement.”

Claire came to the U.S. to attend graduate school at the University of Iowa. Her plan was to return to South Korea and work on advancing women’s rights there. But, as it often does, life had other plans for her. 

She met a chemical engineer named Bernard, who would eventually become her husband. They married and started a family, and Claire didn’t make it back to South Korea as she planned—at least not immediately.

While her three daughters were young, Claire became interested in Montessori education. When the girls were older, Claire returned to the workforce and eventually became the director of a Montessori teacher training program. 

While she was leading a training session in Chicago, Claire was approached by a Korean professor who asked if she’d go to South Korea and conduct Montessori training for teachers there. Claire agreed, and her training was so successful that she returned every year for 25 years, positively impacting the lives of thousands of South Korean women and children in the process. 

So while Claire didn’t immediately return to South Korea after graduate school, she did ultimately achieve her goal of helping women in her native country.

She also raised three very successful Korean-American women here in the States. Two of them graduated from Harvard and the third went to Vassar. One became a doctor, one is a lawyer, and the other is an IT executive. 

“My daughters are grateful we didn’t go back to Korea,” Claire says. “They did very well, and I told them how Korean society works and why I came here. I am proud of my daughters, and I hope they are proud of me.”

Closer to family

In 2016, Claire and Bernard decided to move from St. Louis, Mo., to Riderwood. They wanted to be closer to their family, which now includes eight grandchildren. 

“I am very happy here, and I am very active,” she says. “I am taking college courses, and I’m involved with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the Unitarian Church. The people here are so nice.”