Common experience brings two together

Common experience brings two together

By Elizabeth zinchuk

University President Glenn Poshard was just an 18-year-old U.S. Army soldier when he volunteered to visit an orphanage in Korea where 11-year-old Jini Roby lived.

The two were reunited Wednesday morning. Poshard has become a University president, and Roby a distinguished global researcher of issues connected to children at risk and professor at Brigham Young University.

Roby’s lecture Wednesday at the Carbondale Civic Center, titled “Issues in Child Welfare-Here and Around the Globe,” addressed issues such as protection from abuse, neglect and exploitation.


As a child in an orphanage, she used her experience to research global issues of children at risk. Roby also works to promote new national policies and procedures for providing child protection and welfare services.

“My experiences growing up and in the orphanage really guide me,” she said.

Poshard said he saw mention of Roby in a BYU publication. When he realized she said she was an orphan at the same orphanage he once volunteered at while serving in the Army, he emailed her.

Roby said the email fell out of the blue, but it persuaded her to meet one of the volunteers who helped out at the orphanage.

“I was so thrilled, I have such fond memories of the volunteers who came and showed us they cared and just treated us like we were important,” Roby said.

Poshard said when the opportunity to visit the orphanage came up in Korea it seemed natural to help out. He said he was raised to care about children’s wellbeing.

“They really were about the only ones who made us feel that way because being an orphan and living in an orphanage is a very second-or third-class experience in Korea.”


Roby and Poshard met for the first time in decades Wednesday.

Poshard said he was happy to meet Roby and reflect on an experience which made a huge impact on his life.

“It was a wonderful experience for me, I got a lot more out of it than I gave, and you always do in those situations,” Poshard said.

When Poshard helped out at the orphanage and played with the children he said he felt like he was giving back in times of conflict.

“The kids gave us a sense of ‘Hey this is something worthwhile to be doing,'” he said. “This kind of humanized the experience. I loved going there and visiting with the children.”

Roby still keeps in contact with many people from the orphanage. She said many of them have multiple difficulties with relationships or forming careers, and a few have committed suicide.

“They’ve all done fairly well but not without great challenges,” Roby said.

Attachment is one thing orphans have a difficult time receiving because of their circumstances, she said.

“Attachment is much more important than people realize now,” Roby said. “Children who have grown up in situations where they did not receive personal attention from individual caregivers have a very difficult time.”

Roby said she was lucky because her grandmother was a role model in her life until she was 11 years old. She said her grandmother, Yi Gye Sang, only gave her to the orphanage because she was at an age where it was getting difficult to take care of her.

“I had a very different foundation than many of the other orphans,” Roby said. “I attribute my attachment to her.”

At the time of her upbringing, her grandmother was not offered a formal education because of her gender, Roby said. Despite this, Roby said her grandmother was tenacious and valued education.

She would listen at the door during her brothers’ lessons in her home and at night, would steal her brothers’ books and study them, Roby said.

Her grandmother’s respect for learning helped influence her character, Roby said.

“My motto is to do whatever it takes, so that has something to do with that,” Roby said.

Roby also said her adoptive family, Americans who brought her to the United States, gave her opportunities which led her to live a better life.

The love and attachment she experienced with them led her to become secure and courageous enough to stand up for herself in any situations, she said.

“That kind of confidence, judgment came from the fact that I was loved and was given that sense of strength,” Roby said.

Roby said she was not surprised when Poshard, as a previous volunteer at the orphanage, contacted her.

“People who choose to use their personal time in that way, they already have certain values that have been bred into them,” Roby said. “I’m not at all surprised people like that become very successful in life.”