Established in 2012, the University of Minnesota Rescue Team has been an essential force for change in their community, shifting the narrative on North Korea (both on campus and at cultural and church events nearby) from politics to the people. They have funded two rescues for North Korean refugees and are expanding their efforts for the North Korean people every year. We wanted to give you the opportunity to get to know this amazing team and have chosen them as our Rescue Team of the Month for March 2016. Get to know them below!
What’s your team’s story?
Grace: Our Rescue Team was started by a group of international Korean students who were interested in North Korean human rights. As they discussed more about what type of group they wanted to be, they met a UMN alum, Michelle Sham, that had worked at LiNK as a Nomad. Through her contacts at LiNK they hosted a group of Nomads in fall of 2011, becoming a registered student group at UMN in 2012 and changing their name to LiNK UMN.
Since the first few Nomad events, interest in the North Korean issue has grown on campus, and with it so has our Rescue Team. No longer a part of only the Korean community, we are proudly a diverse and inclusive group of students interested in helping the North Korean people achieve their freedom. We believe that everyone has the potential to help one another, and our diverse and growing membership reaffirms that belief.
In the past few years we’ve been lucky to form relationships and partnerships with other student groups, the Korean department, and local businesses that have helped us find our footing as a relatively new student group on a campus of 30,000 people. People are beginning to recognize us for the work we’ve done to develop our group and change the narrative on North Korea, and we look forward to continuing to grow and make bigger impacts in the future!
What was your most successful fundraising event?
Andy: The most successful fundraising event was actually done not long ago on Valentine’s Day. Last year, we simply made some chocolates and sold them, but this time we changed the product and decided to make flowers to sell.
First, we searched for student groups holding events around that time and we found that ASU (Asian American Students Union) was holding a Gala on the day before the Valentine’s Day, so we asked them if it’s possible to set a booth at the entrance and sell flowers, and thankfully they let us do that. Second, we reached out to off-campus communities and particularly Korean church communities. There are three big Korean churches around this area, and two of them allowed us to come to their worship or mass, give a brief speech about LiNK, and sell flowers and ask for donations!
The result of the whole event was awesome! We made $700 after deducting the cost of flowers.
What’s your favorite part about being a part of a Rescue Team?
Amanda: It’s very rewarding to see minds and perceptions change about North Korea. When we share stories about refugees and people find those stories as inspiring as we do, it’s an indicator that we are successfully changing the narrative. On a lighter note, its a great experience to get close with all of your fellow Rescue Team members and grow a tight bond with each other through this amazing cause.
Why did you join a Rescue Team?
Rachel: I had some information about LiNK before I came to the University of Minnesota since many of my friends joined Rescue Teams at other universities. I heard about their activities and really liked their events and how actively they are engaged in such an important human rights issue. But I didn’t know until the spring semester of my freshman year that our school actually had a Rescue Team. So when they had a documentary screening event few months later, I went there and got to know more about the organization and how they think about the issue. As a journalism major at the time, I thought it was important to spread not the politics, but the human rights issue in North Korea. Since then, I participated in many of the events to get a sense of how the team works, and I really liked both the events and the members. That’s why I decided to join the team.
If another Rescue Team were to visit you, where would you take them in your city/country and why?
Chris: If another Rescue Team visited Minneapolis we would take them to the Mississippi River and Minnehaha Falls to show off the natural beauty of our city. After that we could go get some Juicy Lucies (our most famous food) at Matt’s Bar and Grill, or get some vegetarian food at Hard Times Café. We might also take them to one of our art museums or see a play at the Guthrie to show off how cultured we are. These are the places that I feel are most representative of Minneapolis and that is what I would want to show people who were visiting the city.