A Harvard senior kicked off a $5,000 fundraiser for a North Korean patient of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis at a dinner at the Student Organization Center at Hilles on Thursday evening.
The dinner, which marked the official launch of the “5K for NK” campaign, was attended by members of Harvard Undergraduates for Human Rights in North Korea (HRiNK) and potential student donors.
“I want to get more young people interested in North Korean humanitarian aid,” said Joshua Ra ’13, who started the project.
After traveling to North Korea last October and volunteering in local hospitals and clinics that treat MDR-TB, Ra was inspired to spread awareness of the disease and other hardships faced by North Koreans.
“I was struck by how many patients were around my age,” said Ra, a molecular and cellular biology concentrator. “If they did not get these medications, they would essentially be condemned to death.”
The campaign will support a MDR-TB patient in her twenties with two daughters. She has lived with TB for four years, but the disease has only recently developed into MDR-TB.
The patient was chosen by Dr. Stephen W. Linton, an associate at Harvard’s Korea Institute and the chairman of the Eugene Bell Foundation, which provides medical humanitarian aid to about 1,000 patients in rural North Korea.
Ra said that even though North Korean politics receive a lot of media coverage, the difficulties faced by average citizens often go unnoticed by western audiences.
“Through this campaign, we’re hoping to shed light on the whole situation that gets covered up by politics,” said Rainer A. Crosett ’14, the co-head of HRiNK.
Ra said he hoped that focusing on one person and getting students to relate to her story would help spread awareness.
“I was really moved by the story,” said Joy A. Choi ’13, who attended the kickoff dinner. “I’m personally [persuaded] to donate to this cause, and I hope that other Harvard students will be encouraged to do so as well.”
Ra, who has raised over $900 so far, hopes to meet half of the cost of the medications by this Sunday.
“If we really invest in one patient, perhaps we can begin to make a larger impact by helping other numerous North Korean patients,” Ra said. “But it all starts by showing her, our one patient, that people on the outside do care.”