The Shirt of the Month for March focuses on our Resettlement Assistance Program, which helps North Korean refugees fulfill their potential in freedom once they start their new lives in South Korea or the United States.
The funds collected from this shirt will go toward financial assistance related to our resettlement work. This year, we will award over $65,000 in direct financial assistance to the North Korean refugees we work with.
One of the things that many resettled North Koreans want to do is go to school to learn new skills and be more competitive in their new society.
Our resettlement coordinators help resettled North Koreans seek out alternative funding sources and scholarships for school, but if they’ve exhausted other alternatives, we offer financial help for qualified applicants for things like textbooks, work uniforms for students in vocational/trade schools, laptops, and dorm fees. When we receive requests for assistance, we go through a checklist before we make a determination:
If they can prove a need for financial assistance, we strongly consider the request.
Kyung was in her early teens when we first met her in Southeast Asia. We’ve been with her as she moved through different life stages in South Korea. As a young person in poor health and no parents to support her, we initially provided her with vitamin supplements at the request of her doctors and supplemented her government health benefits to help her get medical check ups. We also helped her buy warm clothing and blankets to help her through her first winter after resettling.
When Kyung started at her alternative high school for resettled North Koreans, we provided financial assistance for several months to help pay for tuition and dorm fees. Thankfully, she met great friends and teachers there who helped build up her confidence and courage. She’s now a freshman in university and is excited to finally enter into this new period of life.
Ji Sun’s low-income benefits from the government were not enough to buy textbooks to study for the GED and pay for application fees. We helped her cover the costs so she could focus on studying for her test, which she passed! As a result of her hard work along with our support, she was accepted to a two-year private college as an accounting major and started in 2014.
Although there are many scholarship opportunities from foundations and other private sources, students must often be at least sophomores in college to qualify. If they attend a two-year college, their options become further limited since many foundations give out to scholarships only to students of four-year colleges.
Half of Ji Sun’s tuition fees were exempted by the South Korean government and the other half were exempted by her university, but it was still hard for her to pay her bills and support her living expenses with her monthly low-income benefits. With the financial assistance we provided during her first semester, she was able to fully focus on her studies instead of having to work to make extra money. She received great scores in her first year of college and is now much more confident as a sophomore.
We’ve helped numerous North Koreans like Ji Sun and Kyung attend university through our scholarship program. In fact, five of the resettled North Koreans we work with have started university this year alone.
When you buy this month’s shirt, 100% of your purchase will go toward our Resettlement Assistance Program to fund educational support, personal and professional development, translation services, and more.