Only for a few days but nonetheless: I could once again visit our project partners in Pyongyang.
Mr. Yang explains the progress of the project: The technical books “Stirlingengines” and “Stirlingmachines” have been translated, a copy of the “ST05 Viebach” has been manufactured and they are working on their in-house development of the Beta-Stirling for domestic production. At the end, I leave with a catalogue of questions for the Stirling specialists in Europe!
One morning I visit the Ryu Gyong-Eye Clinic with 102 beds that treats about 300 outpatients per day. Three years ago, Mr. Yang underwent glaucoma surgery performed by Dr. Kim who was still working at the Red Cross Hospital at the time and today is the director of the clinic. Mr. Yang is thankful that the operation was successful, “otherwise I would be blind today.” He has his eye pressure measured in the outpatient clinic where the referred patients from the regional hospitals are examined. The director explains that they have received new instruments but have no experience with them yet. Additional on-site training would be helpful. A wide-open door!
I was very excited about going to the Red Cross Hospital and seeing our visiting doctor again.
The rheumatology ward has 50 beds and 25 doctors. Our doctor has finished translating the reference book and it will soon be printed. The microscope and ultrasound are being used – I encourage his supervisor to have him train others in using them. He would like further material and is open to inland-workshops. More open doors.
After a tour through the new Sci-Tech Center (similar to the science center we know and with many visitors) my colleagues had to run some errands. Having a car at my disposal was very useful and once again I get a glance of life in the quarters: streets with many sales booths, alive and bustling.
We have been supporting the organization TOGETHER for several years. Robert Grund, deaf since birth, is giving a voice to the concerns of the deaf.
Although there are special schools in every North Korean province, deaf and blind persons are not visible in public. Many persuasive efforts are necessary to enable communication between the deaf
and the blind among each other and with the hearing and seeing.
Special kindergartens and schools for deaf children are part of the efforts, as well as assistance for communication between parents and their children. Thanks to your donations, Agape international has repeatedly been able to offer financial assistance: We printed
sign language booklets and purchased technical equipment to access intranet.
Robert Grund, Project Director of Together Hamhung, has further plans: „It would be a milestone to insert a sign language interpreter during the broadcast of national television news. So far there is no practical experience in this area. I want to offer a study trip to Europe in 2017 so that interested parties can gain practical experience how this is done.“
A visit to the Swiss Foundation procom (www.procom-deaf.ch) would be interesting within the study trip. Procom promotes communication possibilities of hearing-impaired people among each other, as well as between the hearing-impaired and hearing persons. It offers sign language interpretation services and organizes a telephone service for the hearing-impaired.
We want to enable meetings between deaf Swiss and Korean persons.
It is with thankfulness that we look back on another year of partnering with the people of North Korea some of which we met personally when they came to Switzerland. From others we have heard through the reports of our partners telling us what they have been able to achieve with the finances they received from us. Networking, communicating, building bridges, going the extra mile – it was a year of challenges stretching me to my limits but at the same time a source of much joy.
In 2017 we will remain committed to Koreans and Swiss meeting each other. We will continue to work towards combined heat and power generation. And are looking forward to hearing how and where deaf people can work creatively and how we can support them.
All of this is only possible through our partnership with many other people and organizations.
Thank you for joining us!
In the meantime things have changed in North Korean agriculture: In the last two years the co-operative farms in Korea were given more responsibility and freedom in their planting decisions. This is a challenge, as so far it was the state that decided what would be cultivated where. In return, the produce was bought at the official state price.
Now the question is how to decide what to grow so that the produce can actually be sold with a profit.
The visit of the delegation of the Ministry of Agriculture dealt mainly with the topics concerning rural development but also operational planning.