Soldiers and armed guards everywhere, no color – just white, grey, brown and black, people with very strict and rigid faces, no smiles. This is what I imagined that I would see when I arrived in North Korea. Instead I saw a beautiful country that was full of beautiful people! The countryside was alive with various crops growing in the fields, with rolling hills and tall mountains in the background.
I also expected to see very sick and suffering people, because my purpose was to visit the Eugene Bell tuberculosis (TB) care centers and deliver medicine to patients. I was honored to represent Seoul Foreign School as a member of the Eugene Bell Foundation on the Fall 2012 trip to North Korea. The Eugene Bell Foundation cares for over 800 patients in North Korea that suffer from multiple drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis. So, I saw many, many, very sick people. People just like you and me. However, these people came from a life of very little food, little electricity, little heat, much sickness and very little hope. A life I cannot even imagine.
Each day we would leave very early to drive to the different care centers, such as Dongdaewon. As the sun rose and brought light to the world, I would begin to see the North Korean countryside with people walking along the sides of the dirt road we were driving on. Some of these people were up very early just like us. However, they had been walking for hours in the cold, cold weather to get to work or school, instead of riding in a nice heated van like ours. Some people were biking and I saw many bullock carts.
Each time we arrived at a care center I was amazed that the patients were always outside, anxiously waiting for us to arrive! As all the supplies and medicine were unloaded and set up, I was able to take a few pictures as I watched the patients. I realized that there was no laughter, no smiles, and very little talking with each other. I very quickly began to see that these people were very sick, so scared, and suffering. As I soon became very busy with taking photos of each patient, I could see the suffering in each patient's eyes. These people are just like you and me, someone's mother or father, someone's grandmother or grandfather, someone's son or daughter, someone's friend.
It was later in the day when I began to see a change in the patients. Little by little, I began to see a glimmer of hope on these faces.
As boxes of medicine were passed out – more HOPE!
YOU bought the medicine for our Dongdaewon patients.
YOU gave these people these HOPE.
YOU helped these patients to get completely well of TB.
YOU gave this HOPE.