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By heatherlgilbert

Last weekend I had the opportunity to join a group, known as the Peace Makers, on a trip to the DMZ. This volunteer group is a coalition of international students who dedicate time to peace discussion and local service activism. It was fascinating to hear the perspectives of students from around the world: Sweeden, Japan, France, Australia and more.

The experience of looking over at North Korea was surreal. So close to South Korea and yet so different. The juxtaposition of the flourishing South and the impoverished North is shocking. This border is not just the manifestation of separate governments, it also remains a reminder of the division of family and friends.

As the semester comes to an end, I am thankful for everything that I have seen and done and the wonderfully diverse people that I have met.  I will conclude my blog with this last post a reminder that there is so much that can be changed in the world and that everyone can make a difference. Thank you.

By heatherlgilbert

 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.