Starving children in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea are the focus of a complex undertaking by Rotarians.
“A small group of Rotarians and Rotoractors (young Rotarians) decided to establish a network that might facilitate the Rotary goals that we were trying achieve,” Rotarian Tom Wilkinson said. “The Rotary goal is to promote international understanding, good will and world peace. … If we’re really going to promote international understanding, and really believe that that is what we’re about, as Rotarians, then we have to explore those possibilities, always in that effort to bring about understanding.”
They established the Korean Friendship Network, a volunteer umbrella group of Rotarians from Shanghai, Hong Kong, the U.S., Italy and from Canada, networking with Rotary Clubs and Rotarians interested in humanitarian and educational projects in North Korea.
“It is needed to determine and develop relationships, not only with the people of North Korea but also with the few NGO’s (Non Governmental Organizations) to give them support as well as government officials and agencies which will help ensure that projects and material, especially such as food and medicine and equipment, get through the maze of bureaucracy, and, in fact, reach our intended recipients and not end up feeding the military,” Wilkinson said.
“ …The need was for starving children. … 75 per cent of the food production was lost in the floods.”
The group located and negotiated with an organization in the U.S. called, Feed My Starving Children. While Feed My Starving Children had the ability to prepare the food packages, it lacked ability to ship a container into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. … We found the shipping company. “
With all the obstacles in front of them, the group did manage to get the food packages into North Korea.
Rotaractors Gary Permenter and Michael Zhang travelled to North Korea at their own expense confirming that the food had in fact reached the children for whom it was intended. The project has provided 273,000 meals to disabled and orphaned children.