Saturday, May 5, 2012

Giving the Refugees a Chance to Dream

 The Peace Weekly  has an article about a young man, Mr. Kim, 36 years old, unmarried, who is the head of a family of 10 middle and high-school students. It all started when he met a grammar school student while working as a volunteer helping refugees from North Korea. The student, Ha Ryong, left North Korea with his mother because of the difficulties of life there and made it to South Korea. Seeing the boy living with his mother, who was  without work, with not enough to eat, Mr. Kim found a  job for the mother and took the boy to live with him. That was the beginning of the family of displaced North Koreans.

Working with a group of religious brothers, who were preparing a camp experience in 2005 for 30 young men who had left North Korea for the South, he was moved by seeing their service to the young men, and decided to devote himself to helping the displaced North Koreans.

At that time, he was not a Catholic and asked the Sisters what was a religious brother and the answer he got, he told the journalist, laughing, was "a male sister." He was impressed by the way the brothers reacted with the young men. He was working as a volunteer with the Perpetual Help Sisters, who were responsible for the "Becoming One Group." Not once during the years as a volunteer did the sisters ask him to come out to the church or become a Catholic.  They saw his willingness to serve and gave him responsibility; he even became the group's leader. Eventually, moved by what he experienced, he became a Catholic.

It was this experience that prompted him to start the group home for 10 displaced North Korean children. Official approval was necessary and is the reason it became a  group home. The first boy, Ha Ryong, introduced him to other young boys with similar difficulties, who had left North Korea because of hunger, swimming the Tumen river between North Korea and China. They were among the fortunate ones, for there were many who drowned because of the swift currents or were shot by the border patrol.

Mr. Kim finally gave up his job and devoted himself full-time to the group house. He majored in art while in college, and in an effort to have the children search for their dream he began teaching  art and music. He wants each child to have a specialty. The fruit of the effort was an exhibition of the works of the students in 2010; last year, he had a concert. He also  takes an interest in their religious life.

His own future work and marriage are important but right now his first mission is to raise these children well. Living with the children, and seeing the new opportunities that are now available to them, he has come to a new understanding of the preciousness of life, and takes satisfaction in sharing the joy which the boys in the home are now able to experience.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

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