Projects for Peace: The Vision of Kathryn W. Davis

"My challenge to you is to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war."

Benefitting All Children in Korea (BACK)

Project #
South Korea
Washington and Lee University
  • Uri Whang

BACK: Benefiting All Children in Korea

Uri Whang was inspired by stories of her grandparents’ escape from North Korea to Seoul during the Korean War. She knew firsthand how difficult it is for refugees to assimilate and prosper. She was further motivated by founder Wendy Kopp’s vision during a summer internship with Teach for America. This led to her application for a Projects for Peace grant to pair American college students with young North Korean refugees in the Seoul area. The college students, most of them studying abroad in South Korea, would be volunteer English tutors and mentors through BACK.

Students in South Korea are required to learn English, and it is difficult to find employment without English fluency. Most South Korean students supplement their time in school with evening English classes at fee-based private schools. North Korean refugees cannot afford these private schools, and fall behind in language acquisition. Uri’s idea was that American college students could help fill the learning gap by offering classes and tutoring sessions. She partnered with two schools to not only provide tutors and mentors, but also to build much-needed resources of English books and materials.

Uri’s project garnered much attention. In addition to her Projects for Peace grant, Uri won a Washington and Lee Johnson Opportunity grant and was honored with the Center for International Educational Exchange (CIEE) Student Recognition Award, given to one student from all the CIEE programs worldwide. Uri’s goal is to continue to form partnerships with U.S. colleges and to continue to provide training for young American volunteers to make a difference in the lives of many North Korean refugees.