A Dream to Reality

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

My lovelies

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.

 

 

Reflecting Zimele- Inspired by Weaver Birds

I had a great encounter with amazing artists of a different species. They are the Weaver Birds.

If you’re like me and aren’t naturally interested in birds, you’ll have to trust me on the fact that these birds are one of God’s best creations!

Weaver birds are the extraordinary artists and architects of the bird world. Just as their name suggests, they fashion intricate nests out of plant material, carefully woven into a solid structure. All of this is done by male Weaver birds while the female Weaver bird watches and selects their mate and their home depending on the male’s weaving skills. How crazy is that?

After the males completes their nest, the female goes inside, tests it out and then makes her choice. Mind you, the female Weaver chooses the most elaborate work. Obviously the most elaborate work reflects the most skilled and talented male Weaver.

The female not only receives the most comfortable home but also the assurance of the genetic standards of the home-maker.

Some researchers say that if, after trying to impress the female birds with their nests, they don’t attract any females, the males would destroy their nests and start all over again.
And still others say that it’s the female birds that try out their nests and if they dislike it, they destroy their nests. Either way, these birds have personality and attitude which I find so fascinating. But more than that, these birds give me a glimpse of an artist’s mind and the way they reflect out society intrigues me.

Personally watching these cute yellow birds at work and seeing their dissatisfied work thrown away on the ground really amazed and inspired me to create a bird-like jewellery piece.

In our upcoming PSALMSxZIMELE collection launch event next year, our 9 different rooms will take you through the different moments of my journey. Of the nine, you’ll be seeing a room inspired by the Weaver birds and a piece specifically woven and constructed with these special creatures in mind.

Stay tuned!

 

Photography by moi:

 

 

Reflecting Zimele

I left off on my 2nd day of  ”My Zimele” Journey. It was more difficult than I expected to blog every day especially since I was staying in a hut for two days and leaving for the safari another two days.

But, here I am! Reflecting on my Zimele journey. I’m back home, enjoying quality time with my hubby and really enjoying the fall here in Toronto.

If I can sum up my experience in three words it would be, I LOVE AFRICA. But that’s not anything new. But I’ve learned that I don’t love Africa because it’s a beautiful place, because I love the people or because I love my fat cake (traditional fried dough). My love for Africa grows deeper because I saw it’s raw, broken, corrupted nature.

As I lay in the back of a truck going home on a very bumpy ride, I remember a moment when I said to myself – “I want to hold Africa in my arms”.

They say third time’s the charm, well I really did experience Africa’s charm this third time around. I learned of this country’s traditional belief/myths/superstition which ruin lives, the hopelessness teenagers feel being stuck in a village with no job opportunities, dreaming big but no ways to achieve simple goals.

I learned of the struggles the whites (Afrikaans) go through of battling racist views they’ve been taught to have and the unfairness, double standards between the blacks and the whites through different job opportunities only meant for blacks or whites. Is the Apartheid really over? I don’t think I am the only one that has wondered that being there.

I was very fortunate to meet Rosetta’s good friend Peatrice who is a VERY unique man I have to say. He is not afraid to speak his mind and it is obvious he has experienced life for the worst. Peatrice is Afrikaans and he works as a tour guide. You can imagine the crazy stories he had up his sleeves since he’s toured people from all over the world and gets first hand experience on what’s happening in the city. Lots of prostitution, drugs and disease being spread all over the world.
What really boggled my mind is the trend of British, Dutch girls who would come as a “humanitarian” but their real goal is to have sex with African men. Peatrice was really angry as he told us this story because obviously this is how AIDS can become a pandemic in other countries.

I will forever remember the interesting girls sleepover in Thandah’s hut. Thandah and Lundy are two sister entrepreneurs who got help from ZIMELE to start their hut bed and breakfast business! Anyway, it was three South African girls and three asian girls in one hut singing and talking out boys.  But talking about boys was very interesting because it was not like how they us north American girls gossip and chat about boys. It was rather stressful because of a very (doesn’t make sense) tradition that they had where the man has to bring a dowry of around $3000 USD and have money to buy gifts for all the women in the family plus for the wedding in order to marry the girl. The part that got me angry is that Thanda’s father has left her and her sister when they were small and their mother passed away but still the dowry would go to the father who did nothing for them.
This is a problem because $3000 is an impossible amount for some to make and they would have to wait a really really long time to be married. This causes early teenage pregnancies and many times the man just give up and leave after he has pregnated her.

This trip has answered a lot of questions for me such as Why is there poverty in Africa? Why does the AIDS pandemic exist? Why so much early teenage pregnancies?

Thank God for the insights because now I can have a clearer, better idea as to how I can do my part  in Africa more precisely.

I hope this read has made a difference in your views of Africa. Please, let’s brainstorm together new and better ideas on how we can make a difference.

Thandah

 

TORONTO FASHION WEEK SS13 Wednesday

It’s another rainy day in downtown Toronto, but rain or shine the runway and the fashion week tent is filled with fashion lovers!

There were beautiful designs by Lucian Matis, and many more by various other designers, but the highlight of my day was something else.

I was SO surprised and happy to bump into an old face that I recognized after many years. My very first employee named Rachel used to craft Psalms pieces! She has grown up into a beautiful, stylish lady and was excited to tell me that she worked for Lucian Matis as one of the sewers. She immigrated to Canada from Korea at a very young age and has always wanted to become a designer, and here she was accomplishing her dreams!

“Make sure you look at the red dress on the runway! I made it!” She was so proud and I was so thrilled for her…

Catching up with her, she told me how Lucian Matis is a sweet heart and how his mother helped sew the designs as well! Hearing great things about the designer makes me love his collection even more.

Photographs by Ashley Kim

Rachel Clara Pie, remember her name! She’ll be one to watch for.

 

I desire to wear…

A Lucian Matis dress

Rachel wearing Lucian Matis and her co worker

Actor/Model from LA Sam Sarpong

Intrigued by my necklace

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