It’s as if I’ve woken up from a dream… I know that sounds dramatic but my surprise trip to Korea last week was not what I expected.
It all started with a dream a few weeks ago – I was dreaming that I was somehow in Korea and after I woke up from it I received a message from a friend asking if I could fly over to Korea to help with a project, airfare included!
We briefly spoke over the phone about the project. I would be hired as a mentor to young women and girls at an orphanage centre as part of a documentary for an organization called K-Move. K-Move is backed by the first female South Korean presidential candidate as well as the chairman of the European luxury brand, MCM. K-Move hopes to serve as a networking organization giving resources to students in Korea during the slow job market.
So after thinking it over for a few days, I soon found myself flying over to Korea and praying that this journey would be in God’s hands.
The morning after I arrived in Korea I sat with the director before entering the orphanage center where I would be mentoring the young women and girls in creating jewellery. To bring me up to speed, he told me he was hired by K-Move to shoot a documentary on myself as a designer from Canada, bonding and mentoring the girls at the orphanage for the next 5 days.
I would spend all day with them and the cameras and crew would follow me everywhere I went and film everything I did with the girls and interviewing me in between.
Right after understanding what my role in all this was, I went into the center to meet the girls. Feeling nervous as first, I instantly felt peace and at ease seeing their precious faces. After finding out that I was nervous, they too revealed they were scared upon hearing that some designer from Canada was coming to mentor them. They told me later on that they thought some snobby person would come and just tell them what to do.
I sat down with them and introduced myself and even opened up my heart and told them about my family background and the troubles I went through in my childhood. When I saw the understanding in their eyes, I asked them “How did you girls end up in the orphanage?” And unexpectantly, one by one, the fifteen girls went around and shared their broken hearts with me in tears. It was my first few hours with them and I was surprised but grateful that the girls opened up to me so quickly. Everything was happening so fast that I just sat there in shock asking God “Why did you bring me here? What do you have in store for us?”
The documentary was specifically focused on three girls and I. These three young girls became my sisters and they went through an incredibly dark journey. And the girls have allowed me to share them with you.
Juhee is 19 and she lived with her dad and stepmom. Her dad was an alcoholic and he drank himself to death. Soon after, she got kicked out by her stepmom and got lost on the streets. She ran into a very warm and kind looking couple who brought her into their home and gave her everything she needed. Later on she was told her she owed them a great debt and they sold her into prostitution at the age of 15. She was raped by many men and somehow escaped and thankfully ended up at the orphanage. Juhee is a very intelligent and creative girl. We had a lot in common like the fact that we both were allergic to hot peppers but still ate them. She is an excellent jeweler and I know she will be someone great someday.
Hae-Soon and Hee-Young are sisters. The older sister, Hae-Soon is 24 and Hee-Young is 23.
These girls impacted my life the most. It is hard for me to even describe to you the horrors all these girls have gone through but I hope their stories impact you as well.
They lost their mom when they were 3 and 2 and have lived with their dad ever since. After their mom was gone, their uncle began to rape both girls without either of them knowing of the other. When the older sister came forward to tell their dad, he responded without much care choosing ignorance and soon after came to rape them both. Neither sister realized this was happening to the other until the dad tied them together in the same room and took payments from his friends to rape them as well. Somehow they both escaped to the orphanage at 14 and 13 but the damage and scars from their past were so severe that they could barely form words and struggled with speech.
I know this story may make you sick to the stomach, but it is real and they tell me their stories full of tears and agony in their eyes. Yet, still these girls are the warmest hearted and loving sisters to me. Although this isn’t the first time I’ve heard personal accounts of injustice and abuse, it is strange and jarring to hear this happening to individuals who share my background.
At first I was worried about being filmed with all the cameras on me but because the girls and I bonded so naturally, I eventually didn’t even notice the cameras! We had a blast no matter what we did or where we were and they filled me with so much laughter and joy.
Thankfully, the director and I shared the same love for Jesus and were on the same mission for this documentary. Although it was intended to be used for a political purpose, our mission was to show the beauty of these girls and let their light shine for the world to see. I wanted to share their courage, their strength, and the true gems of Korea.
This doesn’t even sum up half of my experience from this trip, but I hope I have a chance to share them with you one day. If you are interested in knowing more, please don’t hesitate to give me a shout!
Although I didn’t realize this as I was going through it, but I look back now and see that God was answering my prayers… prayers on the vision of Psalms, to create job opportunities for the widows and orphans in Korea and Africa… He continues to take my hand and lead me to on these incredibly journeys that He himself put in my heart for years, and all I can do is thank Him.
The girls at the orphanage sketched their stories and put them into jewelry pieces for me to share with you. I will be launching their collection in February 2013, so please stay tuned.
First day of the shoot, during an interview
With Hee Young. She would always warm her hands to warm mine and held it in her pocket…
At the K-Move conference as one of the mentors being interviewed
The girls came with me for support and watch me speak at the conference. Then we went out for some Korean “Dok Boki” and Baskin Robbins!
Fun times with Juhee!
Her name is Sky and she is the youngest girl in the orphanage. Only 13. Here she is in the process of creating a jewelry piece which describes her broken heart.
One of my favourite pieces designed by one of the girls.
The wonderful, inspiring woman who all the girls call “mom”. She lives with all 15 girls and help them heal.