I am back in South Korea where there is a growing effort to aid North Korean refugees. Refugees have been escaping North Korea since the height of North Korea’s famine in the 1990s. In 2013, US State Department estimated that 30,000 to 50,000 North Koreans have crossed the North Korean border to China, while other non-governmental organizations estimate the number is closer to 300,000. Escaping the North, however, is only one step in their process to freedom. Once the refugees have successfully crossed the border they must adopt to their new and vastly different environments. Working with these courageous survivors is an unforgettable opportunity.
In South Korea, there are several efforts to help North Korean refugees. One of these efforts includes the development of a school for North Korean child refugees. Appropriately named, Mulmangcho, or forget me not in Korean, this school takes in children to teach and care for during their difficult transition to life in South Korea. Education is particularly important for these kids who lag behind their South Korean counterparts in their studies.
Most of the children, living and studying at the school, are orphans. The lucky ones have one parent but rarely both. Nevertheless, as the name of the school indicates, the children are not forgotten and on every Saturday, volunteers come to teach English.