Suzie, Sessions and I had long discussed using our bike trip to support a good cause. Originally, I had planned on trying to find some sort of organization that served to combat poverty and malnutrition. I was looking hard at KIVA, an organization that provides micro-loans to small, manageable projects around the world. Jared and his team biked for KIVA during their trip from China to London, so I thought it might be good to continue his work and support KIVA. Though KIVA would have been a fantastic option, and I still think the organization does enormous good, Sessions made the suggestion we find something a little closer to home. Home, in this case, for us is South Korea. What better cause to support than helping out in aiding those in North Korea who rely almost solely on the support of the outside world!?
While researching aid organizations that provided North Korean’s with much needed food and supplies, a haunting reality set in showing me how terrible life in the North really is. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Food Program, over 3 million people in North Korea will require food assistance in 2012. Over 1.5 million of those are children. There is absolutely no need to throw anymore facts or figures at you… 1.5 million children will be without adequate food in the year 2012. Of those, who knows how many will die, especially during the notoriously harsh winters that sweep across the Korean Peninsula. It became our goal to find a charity that would make an impact in aiding these children.
A long internet journey had me sweeping through loads of websites in an effort to find the most effective organization that would help us to accomplish this goal. It became increasingly frustrating to learn that, although many aid agencies had the best of intentions, actual services were not being administered on the ground. The DPRK (Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea) has a policy in effect that basically states “every man for themselves.” The people are expected to fend for themselves and feed their own families by any means possible. This means, the party is basically not providing sufficient resources to its people. Further, the policy in effect in the DPRK is “military first.” What food is grown and stored is given to the military and party officials long before it ever reaches the far regions of rural North Korea.
What bothered me most about this were the various accounts that I read that detailed party officials using food aid for themselves, or worse, to sell off for profit so that more weapons (cough, cough, nuclear warheads) could be purchased. It just seemed to me that the larger organizations efforts were not being reflected on the ground. Enter “Manna Mission.”
Love North Korean Children is a charity launched by Manna Mission in 2001 which builds and maintains bakeries insideNorth Korea. Their mission is to feed the children who are malnourished o theKoreanPeninsula. Currently, they operate 4 bakeries in Sonbong,Pyongyang, Hyangsan, and Sariwon. Their goal is to have a total of 26 bakeries operational. What I really liked from the start was that the organization is small and has proven results on the ground in the country. I immediately contacted Reverend George Reeves who put me in touch with Dr. Shirley for our first meeting.