As a field coordinator, I’ve seen many refugees as they brave the journey through treacherous terrain all in the hopes of a life that is bright, fulfilling, and free. But when our time with them comes to an end, I always feel a sense of sadness. It is not often that field coordinators are able to reunite with refugees post-resettlement, so it is with a heavy heart that we wish them the best in the future and reassure them that LiNK will be there with hands outstretched once they arrive at their new home. Recently, I was lucky enough to get a unique opportunity to reunite with some of the refugees I had directly assisted in the field.
The gathering took place in a kitschy cool cafe but I had a hard time taking in the ambiance because my heart was pounding in my ears—I was so happy to see them again, but also nervous. What if South Korea wasn’t everything they thought it would be? Would they even recognize me? But as soon as the participants started filing in, the sight of them and rounds of hugs and greetings filled me with relief. They made it. They are truly safe.
We all sat down to have a meal together. Meal time in the field is always a special time for us because it’s gives time to relax and be together, like a family of sorts, and just talk. They talked about their homes, their lives in North Korea, their concerns for the future, and the dreams they had for a different life. Now, on the other side of resettlement, getting to hear the types of conversations that went around the table made my chest swell with emotion. It wasn’t even the content of the conversation that got me so emotional. It was how relaxed and comfortable they seemed, so free. I think this was the scene I had envisioned for so long—what I had hoped my work in the field would amount to. People gathering together in a community, laughing, talking, swapping stories, sharing concerns, and doing so without fear of repercussion. Now finally being able to witness what I had dreamed of for so long made the work I do in the field so much more real than being in the field, itself. Facilitating a way for refugees to get to the door, and watching them walk through it are two very different feelings. I feel so blessed to have been able to experience both.