BWM Newsletter #1, February 10, 2013

prepared by Sung Suh, professor at PUST and Director of R&D Center at PUST

 

Dear Friends and Supporters of Brighter World Movement (BWM):

Shalom!

One day prior to entering into PUST (Pyong Yang University of Science & Technology) for a semester of teaching at PUST, last spring, 2012, I was told at an orientation meeting that the electrical power supply at PUST was less than an hour a day and getting progressively worse. I was totally dumbfounded to hear that and I wondered what would the power situation at the other parts of the country be like when the power supply was so bad even at a university such as PUST?

And I began to wonder what I could do to help those needy students and families residing in the countryside. I made a decision to help them out by launching Brighter World Movement (BWM www.Brighterworldmovement.org.), not only for those North Korean families but also in the long run, for those who need lights around the world. The light for studying, for working and for living or for whatever.. provide with the lights inexpensively. Like many others have realized already, I immediately thought that the solar powered lamp is the answer to satisfy the needs. Its now been almost a year since I dreamed of starting BWM.

 

Upon returning to the U.S.A. for a summer vacation in June, Ive prepared a power point which tells the stories of BWM; did research as to why solar lamps and who makes them inexpensively,  reliably and sturdily; plans for raising the funds; plans for how to use it to help those who need lights; plans for providing needy with the lights easily and inexpensively.

Ive told BWM stories to friends and families at homes, at churches, and restaurants, whenever and wherever there was an opportunity and I sent out emails as well. Ive included in my talks how serious the power situation was in North Korea as an example.

Many friends, church members and others supported the cause and ideas of BWM. Some donated to purchased one lamp, many 10 and some 100 lamps; in total, the funds to purchase more than 2,700 solar lamps were raised (each costs about $10 per unit from dlightdesign) during 2-months of my summer vacation of 2012.

 

I would like to extend my thanks again to all those who generously donated the money and time, practicing Love Thy Neighbors as well as to those who showed their continued interests in helping needy children and families in North Korea and around the world. 

Upon returning to PUST for the fall semester in September, 2012, I initially thought to purchase and to bring in 1,000 units of solar lamps from dlightdesign Co. in Palo Alto, U.S.A. However, I realized that I was not sure, first of all, how I could bring them to PUST without causing trouble —remember that the university is in a city which is located in a tightly controlled and isolated country. Furthermore, even more importantly, I was not sure if I could deliver those lamps to the needy in the countryside outside the city of Pyong Yang. Mind you that I was never allowed to leave the PUST campus without a minder following me around during the entire spring semester!

Therefore, I decided to bring in only 500 lamps as a trial and to see how the initial attempt to bring them in and to distribute them to the children would work out. So, I ordered 100 of S1 model and 400 of S10 model lamps, respectively, from dlightdesign Co. (See pictures of S2 and S20 model, respectively). To my pleasant surprise, I was able to receive those lamps in three weeks from the date of order and was able to store them in a temporary warehouse at PUST R&D Center (See the Pictures of the lamps arrival at PUST). The pick-up and delivery of the lamps from Pyong Yang International airport was done with the help of foreign affairs department at PUST-i.e., the department which is in charge of minders operation.

 

To be honest, I was rather excited upon the delivery of lamps without much trouble at all and with all the necessary cooperation extended by the minders department! Remember that they are assigned to watch us over, not so much of extending any help to us. And because it meant that the major hurdle of bringing in those lamps were executed with a flying color. By the way, to top it off, I didnt even have to pay for any import duty for the lamps, since I have pre-applied for a custom duty exemption document.

To my great disappointment, about this time I was told that any products brought into PUST without paying the custom duty are not allowed to be removed from the campus; I suddenly realized that the second hurdle was even bigger problem than the first and thought that the lamps could be stuck at PUST, not going anywhere.

In other words, the lamps couldnt be sent to those elementary school children desperately needing them unless I came up with a way out. Ive actively engaged in seeking a solution to this issue in-between my lecture schedules. Ive talked to the vice president of N. Korean-side, my counterpart; I met and pleaded with the president of N. Korean-side as well asking for a solution to this issue.

In about a weeks time from the delivery of the lamps to PUST, while I was agonizing about the way of getting the lamps out of to those childrens hands, out of the blue an encouraging signal came from an unexpected corner; that is, a proposal came from N. Korean vice present if I would allow sending 100+ lamps to temples in the mountainous region; an idea struck me that this proposal might be a door opener to other possibilities; I promptly agreed to send the lamps to the temples. I assumed, of course, those temples wont have any electricity anyway, being located in deep mountains.

     

A team of people from National Heritage Preservation Association showed up to pick up the lamps: they thanked me profusely and sent me a few pictures demonstrating how the monks were making a perfect use of those lamps around the temples; monks reading the Buddhist scriptures under the lights as well as lighting huge prayer rooms (See Pictures from the temples: Pictures; the pictures shown is one of the largest temple in Korean peninsula).

Within a week or so, I was allowed to send another 100+ lamps to an elementary school; shortly thereafter, another 100+ to a middle school in the countryside, respectively (See Pictures below). I gifted the rest of the lamps to each of PUST faculty members, and also to 30 of North Korean staff members (See pictures that students and professors using the lamps in PUST lecture rooms; Pictures #4-1; 4-2; 4-3; at PUST cafeteria and on campus roadways; Pictures #5-1; 5-2; 5-3; also a happy girl with the lamp: Pictures #6-1; 6-2). I was quite happy at this point and able to breathe easily seeing that our first lamp delivery overcame major hurdles, including those restrictions imposed by unknowable regulations and was properly disposed of to those people weve initially targeted.

The long term plan for BWM is to develop PUSTs own solar lamp design, hopefully one of the best in the world, and assemble them on campus as a part of student training project. N. Korean side was in fact very enthusiastic about the idea of on-campus assembly, and promised a full support for the project. Since many of the parts needed for the lamps assembly are not available from/in N. Korea, one of the key tasks is the sourcing of those parts from China: a quite useful experience to gain by the students, I would say.

 

The cost of producing our own lamps would be probably less than half of that of imports from China; for example, the transportation cost alone is $2.20 per lamp out of $10.00, total delivered cost to PUST. This means that at least the double quantity of lamps could be provided with the same amounts of funds available for the project.

   

In summary, we are pleased to report that we are witnessing the small steps we have taken through BWM projects begin to yield intended crops; we ask for your continuing supports and prayers for the success of these efforts.

Let there be light, and there was light (Genesis 1:3). We are dreaming of a dream for many Einsteins being born and many Steven Jobs being trained under the BWM solar lamps.

**BWM is one of the Special Projects of ACEF (Asia Culture & Education Foundation). ACEF is a non-profit organization; its website is: www.Brighterworldmovement.org.

**If you are interested in PUST, please contact ACEF; we will send you a DVD which introduces PUST in detail. PUST urgently needs professors as well as research workers at its R&D center.

 

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