Project Completed - Football Play it Forward

Successful Mission to follow up our Footballs.

Rotarians Randal and NIkola along with Dr. Chen Qun and Shen Keqiao say farewell to the students and football players at Mirim School.

Rotarians Randal and NIkola along with Dr. Chen Qun and Shen Keqiao say farewell to the students and football players at Mirim School.

From 11 to 18 August we led a successful mission to Pyongyang with the number one purpose of following up our 200 footballs and uniforms donated on behalf of Mac Millar (www.MacMillar.org) for his Football Play it Forward project.

Mirim School for Orphans

First stop for this project was to visit the Mirim School for Orphans in Pyongyang where we watched a match between the two teams, accompanied by live music by the school band and enthusiastic cheers by students at both ends of the soccer pitch.

We took the opportunity while onsite to scout the school for additional project opportunities including placement of an improved cookstove in the school kitchen, placement of a library, installation of solar water heaters, and collaboration with their greenhouses for the Food Plant Solutions Rotarian Action Group.

In the afternoon after visiting a ShelterBox distribution site in Rakrang district of Pyongyang we visited the Rakrang Juvenile Sports School where we watched the first half of a match and had a nice photo session where he handed out Rotary club banners of our project sponsors.

There were many other elements that we combined into this mission - which we will write about separately. You can see a full set of photos on our flickr site here:


Footballs now on their way to Pyongyang

Finally we can announce that our donation of 200 footballs, uniforms and pumps are packed up and ready to depart Beijing for Pyongyang.

This is probably proof that it requires as much effort to implement a small project as it does a large one, but the nature of this project is about testing the waters and relationship building, so if all proceeds according to plan I expect that we will emerge from our August follow up visit with a strong desire to build on it.

Now on the planning of the site visit.



Rotarians help feed North Korean children

Donating Mannapack food packages to the Pyongsong Orphanage.

Donating Mannapack food packages to the Pyongsong Orphanage.

Journal Pioneer

SUMMERSIDE, CANADA (Journal Pioneer) - Starving children in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea are the focus of a complex undertaking by Rotarians.

Charlottetown Rotarian Tom Wilkinson told members of the Summerside Rotary Club of the success their efforts have had in feeding starving children in a country not open to foreign involvement.

Charlottetown Rotarian Tom Wilkinson, center, meets will Summerside Rotary Club president Nelson Snow, left, and Rotary meeting chair David Anderson, following his address to the local club about the success of the Korean Friendship Network program. – Mike Carson/Journal Pioneer

Charlottetown Rotarian Tom Wilkinson, center, meets will Summerside Rotary Club president Nelson Snow, left, and Rotary meeting chair David Anderson, following his address to the local club about the success of the Korean Friendship Network program. – Mike Carson/Journal Pioneer

“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,” Wilkinson said. “The Rotary goal is to promote international understanding, good will and world peace. A lot of people think we’re foolish. A lot of people think,’ what are you doing there? You haven’t got a hope in heck to get anywhere with that kind of a dictatorship.’ But the point is that if we’re not there who is going to be there. 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 nine 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.

“We help to identify and determine need, develop partnerships and negotiate access into the country,” he said “We determined a need. We located and negotiated and the need was for starving children, children die because of starvation. Both the flood and the drought that struck North Korea two years apart and over 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.

“It’s a U.S. trades-based NGO who had the right consistency of food packages,” Wilkinson said. “That is very critical. The food pack is particularly designed for children. In order to help them, it has to be a very specialized type of food. It will not only help them to come back from starvation but also is acceptable to the country and the diet of the 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. It was Italian. There are very few shipping companies that will go into North Korea.”

Wilkinson said the money to ship the container and process the documentation needed to be found. It cost $8,000 and was raised by the Summerside Rotary Club.

He said the documentation was the most important and difficult part because of U.S. Customs regulations.

He said adding to the difficulties was the strained relationship between the U.S. and North Korea over nuclear testing.

“In that climate, we had to keep our focus.”

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. 

During their visit, they discovered skin rashes with many of the children, particularly at one of the orphanages.


Sun Oven's Long Journey Ends In North Korea Orphanage

Rotary News Basket

When Rotarians see an opportunity for World Community Service (WCS) they won't let any obstacles stand in their way.  So it was that after two false starts, members of the Provisional Rotary Club of Shanghai, China, successfully completed their first WCS effort with the recent delivery of a sun oven to an orphanage in Pyongyang, capital of North Korea (a.k.a. Democratic People's Republic of Korea or DPRK).

The club's initial attempts came to naught largely because it was difficult to find a reliable partner in a non-Rotary country.  Unexpectedly, in July 2001, an opportunity literally walked into the Beijing office of UK businessman Roger Barrett.

Dr. Jong Sang Hun, a DPRK government official, came to Beijing on a mission to locate Rotary in China.  He had heard of the humanitarian projects that Rotarians support worldwide, including in the North Korean region of Rajin where the U.S. Rotary Club of Bremerton supplied computers to a school and fertilizer to local farmers.  The Shanghai provisional club had helped with buying the fertilizer for the project. 

The North Korean wanted to bring a sun oven to Pyongyang Orphanage, home to 180 children.  Barrett, who had previously been a guest speaker at a meeting of the Shanghai club, linked up Dr. Jong with Randal Eastman, chair of the club's international service committee.  The project was an easy sell to eager club members.  

Plans for the effort became truly international with the support of a US$12,120 Helping Grant from The Rotary Foundation, as well as cash contributions from individual Rotarians, the Rotary clubs of Makati, Philippines; Taipei, Taiwan; and Chigasaki Shonan, Japan, and the Temple Solar Committee of District 6450, Illinois, USA, which has specialized in sun oven projects.  In-kind donations included free shipping (from Illinois, USA, to North Korea) from ocean line company P&O Ned Lloyd, as well as medicines and children's clothes from Rotarians, garment retailers, and an anonymous benefactor.   

On 8-15 March, a four-member team comprising Shanghai Rotarians David Turchetti and Eastman and his wife, Olya, and Bruno Bensaid of the Rotary Club of Queenstown, Singapore, traveled to Pyongyang to oversee the installation of the sun oven.  Officially guests of the country's ministry of foreign trade, the visitors were hosted by orphanage director Dr. Jo Huayun and Dr. Jong.  

"What surprised us most - and we had many misapprehensions before traveling to Pyongyang - was the friendliness of all the people we met," said Eastman.  "The overwhelming message we received from our hosts was that the door is now open for Rotarians to conduct more worthy projects in Pyongyang and the DPRK."

Dr. Jong said, "The Rotarians' first visit to Pyongyang was effective.  It showed to the Korean people and government what Rotary is.  After their departure, senior government officials came to see the oven several times.  They appreciate and encourage Rotarian activities."

Source: Rotary News Basket #807, 30 April 2003

Shanghai Rotary Has Its Own Sunshine Policy For N Korea


By Jane Lanhee Lee 

SHANGHAI (Dow Jones)--While the World Food Program helps to feed North Korea's hungry, Rotary International's Shanghai branch is trying to do its part to address the country's shortage of fuel. 

A scarcity of fuel for home heating and cooking has exacerbated the serious humanitarian situation in North Korea, which was hit by a series of famines in the late 1990s. The World Food Program estimates that 42% of North Korea's children suffer from chronic malnutrition, a legacy of those famines. Deforestation and a shortage of coal have meant that fuel for household use also is in short supply. 

Responding to a request from a North Korean diplomat, Rotary's Shanghai branch recently presented his countrymen with an oven that uses the sun's rays to cook food - giving a more literal meaning to "sunshine" policy, the name South Korea uses to describe its engagement with the North. 

In the 18 months that followed that initial request, relations between North Korea and the U.S. have deteriorated. President George W. Bush last year said the communist state was part of an "axis of evil" along with Iraq and Iran, while Pyongyang has threatened to resume its nuclear program, raising fears it may develop nuclear weapons. 

Rotary's Shanghai club delivered the solar oven early in March, just days after North Korea had intercepted a U.S. reconnaissance plane. 

"Of course we were nervous," said Randal Eastman, a Canadian who is heading the club's project to donate solar ovens to North Korea. "But in Pyongyang it was actually very peaceful." 
Made up of expatriate business people working in Shanghai, the Rotary club raises money for community projects. 

The idea of donating a $12,000 solar oven came from North Korea itself, Eastman said. 
He was contacted out of the blue in July 2001 by Jong San-hung, a former North Korean diplomat at the United Nations Development Program. 

"Dr. Jong had long been interested in solar ovens and came to us because of Rotary's involvement in donations of them in other countries," said Eastman. 

Rotary International already had donated solar ovens to a number of developing countries in an effort to alleviate poverty and help preserve the environment. 

"Made In China" Tag Dominates Shelves In Pyongyang 

For the installation of the solar oven in North Korea, Eastman and several other members of Shanghai's Rotary club flew to Pyongyang. 

Jong, who is now working for a research arm under North Korea's trade ministry and helped plan the trip, suggested that the recipient of the oven be the Pyongyang Orphanage, home to about 280 children. 

"None of the children looked emaciated, but most of them had blotchy skin and runny noses," said Eastman. 

He didn't see any signs of famine in North Korea, Eastman said. Foreigners are usually paired up with minders in the North and aren't free to travel independently. 

Spring is usually the worst time of the year in the North, as grain from the previous year's harvest runs out and a new crop remains months away. 

The Rotary club also responded to a request from the orphanage for televisions as well as refrigerators to store food and medicines, Eastman said. 

Shopping around for four television sets and two refrigerators, Eastman got a glimpse of North Korea's recent steps toward economic liberalization. 

"Prices varied a lot from store to store, and we had to figure out through our contacts how to get the best price," he said. 

While shelves at local currency shops were practically empty, foreign currency stores remained well stocked. 

Last year, North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-il eased price controls, raised salaries, and gave greater freedom to the management at state-owned companies. 

Payments in hard currency in the North now supposedly are transacted in euros after it abandoned its official exchange rate with the U.S. dollar last year. 

"But they took all currencies - renminbi, euros, dollars, Japanese yen, and often times change from the store would be a mixture of the currencies too," Eastman said. 

The home appliances Eastman chose for the orphanage all carried "Made in China" tags, he said. In fact, most of the appliances on the shelves in Pyongyang were sourced from across the border, the Canadian said. 

Eastman could be returning to North Korea. He said Shanghai's Rotary plans to donate two more solar ovens, one to a Pyongyang child nursery and another to a district hospital. 

-By Jane Lanhee Lee, Dow Jones Newswires