We Support an Orphanage in North Korea. Is This a Good Way to Make a Difference in North Korea?
Perhaps God has put North Korea on your heart but you are confused about the best way to help. Here are some questions we frequently receive at VOM Korea, along with our most heartfelt and deeply researched guidance in response.
Orphan care is a gaping need in North Korea. Orphanages seem like an obvious solution. And yet, it overlooks the voice of real experts in the situation: North Koreans both inside and outside of North Korea. They recommend a different approach: Placing each orphan with the nearest biological family member, or with a family that will treat the orphan as if he or she were kin. Individual orphan placement has the advantage of keeping the child in mainstream North Korean society, with a social class designation that gives them the maximum opportunity for future success. Remember: North Korean society is not upwardly mobile. Every individual is categorized based on loyalty to the government. “Child raised in Western-sponsored orphanage” is typically a less desirable label than “child raised by aunt after parents died.”
While those of us in wealthy nations tend to favor projects of larger size and scale (i.e., building an orphanage) over distributed solutions (i.e., supporting the North Korean underground church’s efforts to care individually for such children), we have found in our own efforts that the latter approach tends to work better in a country like North Korea where social stigma follows one not only for life, but for generations of descendants thereafter.
Do you have other questions about how to provide real help to North Korean people? Write us and we’ll be happy to reply!