Summer CSGC Grant Update: Heavenly Dream School

This summer I worked with Heavenly Dream School, an alternative middle and high school for North Korean defectors in South Korea. 2023 marked the first after a four-year break of English Unification Camp (EUC) at Heavenly Dream School. As mentioned in my initial grant post, I led 10 Korean classes for a group of international volunteers from the U.S., led 10 English classes for a Heavenly Dream School student, and had the opportunity to participate in EUC myself.

At EUC, volunteers from 21 different countries attended and trained to foster an experience of cultural exchange between North Korean defectors, South Korean students, and international students. Throughout the camp, I acted as a translator within our team and gained new relationships with North Korean defectors my age, children of North Korean defectors who were born in Russia and China, and volunteers from abroad. This camp was an inspiring experience both academically and spiritually. Hearing from the defectors about their life and customs back in North Korea, the journey across several countries to South Korea, and their struggles in adjusting to a country very different from their homeland was a valuable experience. I am grateful for the personal connections I have gained from this experience with fellow students who are of the same ethnicity but have grown up in different cultures. I look forward to sharing the learning experience through the CSGC symposium.

From June 13 to August 23, I led a total of 10 English classes with a student who attends Heavenly Dream School. We focused on grammar that the student needed guidance with and practiced having daily conversations in English. The student was able to apply those conversational skills while communicating with foreign volunteers at the school and at the camp.

I thank the CSGC for funding this experience through the Earle/Mendillo Grant. The fund was used to purchase Korean grammar books and English workbooks for class. The remaining amount was donated to Heavenly Dream School, which is entirely dependent on donations from churches and donors. I thank Heavenly Dream School’s financial manager Mr. Chung and English department head Ms. Lee for their support throughout the process.

-Ellie ’25