My name is Andrea Escobedo and from the months of February to April of 2017, I had the incredible opportunity to intern at the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR).
Being a recent graduate with a Master’s in International Relations, I had been looking for an opportunity that would lead me to challenge myself all the while allowing me to contribute – in whatever way possible – to a cause as important as that of North Korean Human Rights. When I received the NKHR’s acceptance letter, then, I packed my bag full of hope and motivation and left for Seoul. I could never have imagined how much I would learn and grow during my short time with the NGO.
As an intern with the Advocacy and Campaigns Team, I was led to carry out many interesting tasks so as to help raise awareness and shed light on the Human Rights situation in North Korea. I also had the opportunity of joining the NKHR’s Rescue Fund – an incredibly dynamic team made up of amazing individuals devoted to the rescuing of North Korean refugees – where I was able to help organize the NKHR’s Annual Fundraiser for Refugee Rescues. Both of my roles as Intern and Volunteer motivated me greatly and I remain extremely grateful to my bosses and fellow volunteers for all that they taught me in the process.
While both of the aforementioned opportunities were incredibly fulfilling, I believe that the experience that taught me and helped me grow the most was tutoring North Korean students. I had had experience with tutoring students in English before, but this was a completely different situation.
Having little to no knowledge of the Korean language, I was worried that I would have to find new ways to make the students feel comfortable and keep them engaged (thank you for the confidence boost, Google Translate!). I found out, however, that the students had an amazing drive to learn and that, in their earnest will to make their dreams come true, they were willing to work extremely hard. I truly believe that I learnt more from them than what I could ever have taught them. They showed me that your age, past or present situations and circumstances do not and cannot entirely define your capacity to dream and to chase after those dreams. I will never forget when, during one conversation with one particularly bright student, I asked him what he wanted to do later on in life. Flashing a huge grin at me, he said: “a Diplomat”. Sharing the same dream as him, I can only hope that he will find success, in whatever way that should come.
In short, my time at the NKHR allowed me to meet incredible humans – both those arduously at work to make this world a better place, and those seeking to chase after their dreams. I hope that this step in my young professional career will always remain with me as a reminder of all the great change that motivation and dedication to important causes can bring.
This year’s NKHR Rescue Fund Annual Fundraiser for North Korean refugee rescues deviated from the traditional method of the past few years. Instead of participating in a race along the Han River, volunteers elected to try something new: a crazy-sock themed dance party!
With any experimentation, there is always a bit of a learning curve. Although our team came short of our goal of $7,500 to assist in the rescues of three refugees, we learned a lot and were able to enlist the support of a different set of friends and community members.
For starters, use of the venue, Hongdae’s legendary Freebird Cosmic Live, was generously made available to our team at no charge, thanks to our friendship with the owner, Skyler Jeong. We also enlisted the help of four local up and coming djs, Baron van West, FALSEFACE, JISOO, and Mikey B, all of whom graciously agreed to contribute the soundtrack of our event in support of the work NKHR is doing. Our team was also lucky enough to secure a variety of top-notch prizes for our raffle from our friends at Magpie Brewing Co, Salt House, Yogiga Expression Gallery, Dear Korea, and more! It was wonderful to see so many people in our community excited to get involved.
Leading up to the event, NKHR staff, interns, and volunteers all sprang to action to get information about the event out to the public. We were lucky enough to be asked on TBS radio and featured on several online event sites; we also sent out a press release and executed an aggressive online campaign via our facebook networks. We created an online fundraising page through our Global Giving page so that our friends, family members, and far-flung supporters could participate. As a personal incentive for my own networks, I decided to draw thank-you portraits for each of my friends and family members who donated. While we are still accepting donations, I am happy to announce we have raised $1,132 so far!
As for the event itself, it was a smash hit! We danced and raffled the night away, raising 1,077,000won towards refugee rescues. It was truly an honor to work with the NKHR Rescue Fund volunteers Julie Costa, Tonya Bryant, and Parker Bot, and NKHR interns, Andrea Escobedo-Paiz and Cait Cronin, who gave their time and creative energies so passionately for the cause.
Throughout my involvement in the North Korean human rights movement, I have been grateful for the opportunity to become friends with a number of North Korean resettlers who have overcome great adversity and forged their own paths in South Korea and beyond. Our ultimate goal of each annual fundraiser is to come together as a community to provide similar opportunities to refugees still waiting for assistance in China, many in highly dangerous situations. We think of these individuals as friends we have yet to meet.
I am in awe of each of my friends and family members, our local and foreign supporters, and NKHR staff for all of their work to contribute to the success of our fundraiser; we could not have done it without you!
We are a group of volunteers fundraising for NKHR (Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights) to rescue