Next summer, a few lucky Rescues Teams will get the opportunity to see our work in action and meet the people you have helped reach safety and freedom. This month we are giving away the first spot!
For every $500 that your Rescue Team raises during the month of December, you’ll earn a chance to win! On this all-expenses-paid trip, you’ll get an inside look at our refugee programs and meet resettled North Koreans that we work with. The more you raise, the greater your chance of winning! All you have to do is make sure that funds are donated or sent in before December 31, 2015.
Throughout December, we’ll keep you updated on how many chances your Rescue Team has earned. The winning team will be announced in January.
Curious about what the trip will be like? Check out what we did on the last one.
The trip started off with a visit to the LiNK office in Seoul where we talked about LiNK’s history and programs, shared stories of refugee journeys and experiences, and explained the resettlement process. We also had a Q & A session about changes happening in North Korea on a grassroots level.
Once we finished orientation, we went to the Gangnam district where we met up with one of our South Korean Rescue Teams and had dinner at Mr. Pizza. Together, we discussed our motivations, challenges, and victories, while brainstorming ways to increase our impact in our local communities.
For many of the Rescue Team members, one of the highlights of the trip was meeting the refugees they funded rescues for.
On the second day we took a train to the refugees’ homes outside of Seoul, where we shared meals and spent some time with them. Annie, LiNK’s Director of Field Operations, noted that the refugees were really inspired by this rare opportunity to meet some of the people who had helped them. In turn, the Rescue Team members were humbled by the appreciation and kindness they were shown.
“Suji insisted that I try all the side dishes and explained how everything was made,” said Jessica, Rescue Team president at Glen A. Wilson High School.
Hae Jung, who resettled to South Korea with her daughter Sue, expressed how grateful she was for all that she had in her new home. For some time, Sue had been in need of a backpack, but the family had always had to pay for other necessities first. When some of the Rescue Team members presented a backpack as gift, Hae Jung was very touched.
On day three we met with Sun Mu, a former propaganda artist for the North Korean regime. Sun Mu escaped North Korea in 1998 and since then has been creating artwork that reveals the truth about the country.
When our taxi pulled up to our meeting place, we saw him standing there in a fedora and a black t-shirt that he had designed for LiNK. He escorted us to his rooftop studio where he talked about the symbolism present in much of his artwork and shared the meaning behind certain specific pieces. While visiting we were able to ask him several questions about his motivations, his life in North Korea, and his life now.
Another highlight of the trip was our visit on day four to the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which divides North and South Korea (above right).
It was crazy being able to go inside a joint conference room because we were able to go beyond the South Korea side of the concrete barrier that divides the two countries, into North Korea. It was a surreal moment crossing back to the other side, because we knew that the next time we’d be in North Korea would be when the North Korean people were free.
That evening we joined Shin Dong-hyuk (above left), whose story is recounted in the biography “Escape from Camp 14”, and John, a seventeen-year-old refugee, for dinner at a Thai restaurant. Dong-hyuk shared about a weekly webcast that he hosts which includes interviews of refugees who have resettled in South Korea, while John spoke about what life was like for him as a high school student.
On day five we visited a school for North Korean refugees who were orphans or whose families could not afford to support them.
Kyung, another refugee whose rescue was funded by Rescue Teams, warmed our hearts when she hugged Annie as if she were an older sister. She spoke English well and her bubbly personality was infectious. We could tell that she was really bonding with her teachers and fellow students. “Meeting a North Korean refugee was an event I never expected to experience,” said Joan of the Glen A. Wilson HS Rescue Team, “but I’m glad that I had the opportunity to do so. This trip made me realize that my Rescue Team back at school is making a difference in people’s lives, one by one.”
As our trip came to a close, we gathered for dinner at a Korean barbeque restaurant to say good-bye to everyone and were pleasantly joined by some LiNK Alumni who were living in and visiting Seoul.
That evening, some of the participants shared the things that they took away from the experience. Stephen shared with us how he thought the trip “gave us a well-rounded picture of many aspects of resettled life: from the home-visit, to a night on the town, to a school visit. We were able to see the clients in ordinary settings as real people.”