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(The following message is the third and last of the series from three North Korean defectors that spent the early months of 2020 at ENoK. Their words were originally in Korean and have been translated into English by ENoK staff.) I want to cherish each day I spent at ENoK where I first started to enjoy learning English. I decided to go to Chicago because I wanted to overcome my fear of learning English. I simply wanted to overcome this fear and begin to enjoy learning English. It was not an easy process for me to clear my plan to make this trip possible. There was also a lot of advice from others against this trip, but I was determined and finally got on the flight bound for America. A few minutes after the arrival at the airport, someone came to pick us up. I had no idea that he…

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(The following message is the second of the series from three North Korean defectors that spent the early months of 2020 at ENoK. Their words were originally in Korean and have been translated into English by ENoK staff.) When I was leaving for Chicago to join ENoK, the circumstances were not good. I lacked rudimentary knowledge of English and barely had any money to buy the flight ticket. Against so many people’s advice against it, I decided to leave for Chicago because I yearned to learn more. I thought I had given up so much in order to make this possible. But now that I have finished my time in Chicago and come back to South Korea, I realize that I have gained so much more than I have lost because of my time in Chicago. It opened my eyes to new things and broadened my perspective. I am not…

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(The following series are from the three North Korean defectors that joined us during the winter and spring of 2020 from South Korea. Their words were originally in Korean and have been translated into English by ENoK staff.) I began studying English with the hope of helping more people understand North Korea. At first, I and two other girls planned to stay in America for six months when we first went to Chicago. We lived near the University of Chicago campus and learned from many volunteers who taught us in libraries and nearby cafes. We worked on grammar, conversations, vocabulary, and reading skills. When March came, however, because of COVID-19, we had to change all of our lessons to online sessions. In a way, it was unfortunate that we could not explore downtown or go outside much at all because of coronavirus. However, in exchange, we got to spend more…

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(The message below was written by a former ENoK volunteer about his marriage to a former NK refugee student at Empower House.) It still feels a bit surreal that I am a married man. It’s already been ten months! My wife and I began dating early last year, but the journey to our wedding happened *so* *much* faster than we had imagined. We got to know each other through ENoK, after she enrolled in the Empower house program in 2014 and built our friendship – slowly but surely – on authentic conversations and squash workouts. I found that we have shared experiences and worldviews that made it easy to feel connected with each other. She came to be a close friend and confidant as I struggled with my identities, work, difficult life questions, and everything else. I admired her for the wise woman that she is, always giving fresh perspectives…

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(Hailey (alias) was a North Korean refugee resident at Empower House until this past spring. In the summer, she left to start college in another state. ENoK has continued to work with her remotely by providing scholarship support as well as academic support for her schoolwork. We are very proud of her accomplishment (straight As) during her first semester, and we look forward to being part of her remaining journey throughout her college years.) Below, Hailey shares her memories with ENoK. =========================================== I am very excited that I have completed the first semester in college with good grades. The ENoK organization continues to provide NK refugees support to achieve higher education like me, who were not able to learn much in North Korea. I was able to earn good grades this past semester, helping me get closer to my goals in the United States. In particular, I appreciate the tutors…

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Hi, my name is Rachel (Alias). I still cannot believe that I finally graduated from four years of high school. I must thank many people for their care and support. I came to the US as a minor with no biological family around. Yet there were many people who helped since I first arrived here. ENoK has guided me through the last year of my high school career as well as the first semester in college. Each and every teacher was a blessing to me. They have helped me learn and supported my dreams. Even when I felt discouraged, my teachers at ENoK talked to me like friends, and I could consult them with any matter. With the help of these wonderful people, I was able to finish my last semester of high school with mostly As. I am forever grateful for their time and effort in working with me.…

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Q. What is your goal in joining Empower House? A. I would like to pass the GED (U.S. high school diploma equivalency exam) Q. What made you decide to join Empower House? A. As I lived in America, many people asked me whether I graduated from high school. Q. What would you like to do after your time in Empower House? A. I am going to explore options as I learn more throughout the year at Empower House!

Q. What would you like to achieve by joining our program? A. I hope to learn English and other subjects through a good systematic program. Q. Why made you decide to join Empower House? A. Other North Korean refugees that previously took part in Empower House recommended the program to me for its customized programming tailored to each individual’s need. Q. After you finish your time at Empower House, what do you hope to do? A. I would like to do work that uses what I was able to learn at Empower House. For example, I would like to be able to support other refugee demographics, serve the church as an instrumentalist, and work as a tour guide. I want to follow the footsteps of ENoK’s many staff and volunteers who make this program possible by helping others in need.

Everyone has their homeland and becomes a citizen of the country when they are old enough. I also have my homeland where I was born, but I do not have the citizenship of my country because I fled from the land to China to have freedom.  I was 17 years old then. It was before I realized how vital my nationality and identification that I could show where I was born and who I am was. When I realized their importance, I was already terrified by the reality that I didn’t have any identification to show. The only status that I had was as a woman from North Korea that escaped from a communist country and lived in China with no documentation. I also could not reveal my nationality because I was a defector. I became a citizen of the United States in nine years after going through a long…

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What better moments are there for us, ENoK, than to witness two North Korean refugees in our program begin a relationship during their stay at Empower House and finally get married after finishing our program!? Here are a few words from the bridegroom: It has been a long time since I updated about my life after finishing ENoK House program. Thanks to ENoK, I am currently in college. I know that some of our teachers from ENoK have gone away, even abroad outside of the U.S., far away from EnoK House now, but I do not think the distance can remove our memories of your support and help that changed our lives. There is another reason that I am writing this message. Since I attended the program, as many of you all know, my life has been changed dramatically. It is not only that I have become a college student,…

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