If I told you that for 10 weeks, 15 college-aged people would be traveling across North America in vans, sleeping on strangers’ couches, and sustaining on a combination of coffee, passion, and gas station snacks, would you believe that they were doing it because of their belief that the North Korean people will achieve their liberty in our lifetime?
Well, thats exactly what’s happening and it’s been happening for the last six years!
When Liberty in North Korea relaunched in the spring of 2009, we refocused our efforts on working alongside the North Korean people through grassroots support, which meant it was time to mobilize people around this issue. So, after some last-minute recruiting, a couple weeks of training, and the acquisition of a few minivans, we launched our first national tour.
Our national tour program works to change the narrative on North Korea by mobilizing individuals to get involved and raising support for the North Korean people. Every spring and fall, we send out five teams of traveling representatives, who we call Nomads. They host events at colleges, high schools, places of worship, businesses, coffee shops, living rooms—they will go anywhere where there is a group of people ready to learn about the incredible changes the North Korean people are making in their country.
Now we’re on our 15th tour and things have changed quite a bit over the years. We’ve upgraded from rented mini vans to a fleet of seven LiNK vans! Also, for the first 12 tours, we focused on a documentary being the main portion of the event. But in the spring of 2014, we switched our presentation style to one modeled after TED.
Our tour program has proven to play an important role in our work at LiNK. Over the years, we’ve presented at over 4,000 venues and reached over 300,000 people! All of our tours to date have brought in close to one million dollars in revenue, money that has then gone to fund our programs to rescue North Korean refugees, provide resettlement support, and to change the narrative on North Korea. Tour has also sparked Rescue Teams across North America, inspired individuals to become monthly donors, and activated students to join us at HQ as interns and Nomads for future terms.
But tour isn’t only about the big numbers. Yes, we are so grateful to have the chance to speak to thousands of people, but the really amazing stories are those that come from one-on-one interactions.
A story that has always stuck with me is one that happened when I was a Nomad back in the summer of 2010 (yep, we used to do summer tours but don’t anymore). My team and I had just finished presenting at a church in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. After a great event, there were dozens of people lining up to buy merchandise and discuss ways to get involved when, in the sea of others, a little girl no more than 10 years old walked up with a wooden box covered in stickers. She proceeded to tell me and my teammates that in this box was all the money she had collected through her whole life—birthday money, coins from the tooth fairy, her life savings. She explained that she had been waiting for a special occasion to spend it and after hearing about the plight of the North Korean people, she knew she wanted to donate all of it to LiNK.
At the end of the day, that is why we tour. That is why nomads give up 10+ weeks of their lives to travel around the United States and Canada, often skipping meals and showers. We do it to inspire people from various backgrounds to stand with and support the North Korean people because we believe the North Korean people deserve the best.