First steps into North Korea


Kelly Spicer
Focus on Adoption magazine

Kelly Spicer visited numerous orphanages in North Korea (DPRK) in November 2010 with First Steps, a Vancouver-based non-profit, whose mission is to prevent childhood malnutrition. While there, she captured the hope and suffering she encountered in a diary of her experiences.

Nov. 23: What am I doing in North Korea? I still can’t even believe that I am here!

Nov. 24: Nampo Kindergarten Orphanage (160 children). I can’t resist any longer, I pick the tiny girl up and sit with her on my lap and put my arm around the other little one. From their sizes I thought they were only two years old, but they are actually five. Neither looks healthy and yet they are adorable. So innocent, so sweet.

Nov. 25: Nampo Baby Home (136 children). I pick up a tiny baby girl, she is dressed in a pale green outfit. She is the child First Steps is monitoring. She was born November 18, 2008 and has first degree malnutrition. I can hear how congested she is, how laboured her breathing is. I mention it to Susan and she tells me that the director has just confirmed this little child has developed pneumonia and is not doing well. I am asked to go to the bus for some medicine which we leave with the director. We gather some information, and then once again it is time to go. We head back to our hotel and I try to sleep, but my mind is racing. I can’t help but worry and wonder about the little girl with pneumonia. Even with First Steps’ help, will she make it? At least her chances are better. She is in my head and in my heart. It is overwhelming and feels so incredibly unfair. The tears pour down my face…I cry myself to sleep.

Nov. 27: Wonsan Kindergarten Orphanage. The children here seem quite happy. There are many kids with runny noses and their baby teeth are brown and black and rotten. The orphanage director tells Susan that they have no coal for heat and so the children are getting sick. They need 300 tons (at $30 per ton) to have heat for the winter. Even with the bitter cold and the effects of malnutrition, these little children smile through it all.

Nov. 28: Tongchon Kindergarten (206 children). When I look in to the eyes of these children it is as if they know me. There is an undeniable connection. Where have you been? What took you so long? In some eyes I see fear, in some hurt…we are hungry… we are cold.

Nov. 30: Final thoughts. The trip to the DPRK was short, but so very intense. Last night I wept again. I try to be strong, but to see little children suffering from malnutrition and shivering in the cold, it is excruciating and heart-breaking. I am emotionally exhausted.

Kelly Spicer and her husband are friends of AFABC and are in the process of building their family through adoption.

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