March 5, 2019│By Joy Yoon
Excerpt from Discovering Joy: Ten Years in North Korea (joyinnorthkorea.com)
One little girl’s greatest dream: walking to school with the rest of her classmates. For the first 10 years of her life, it seemed impossible.
Having been diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia, a type of cerebral palsy that affects both arms and legs, she, like so many children in North Korea, was considered untreatable. Since she couldn’t walk, her classroom teacher had to carry her on her back to school every morning. And at school, she would have to be strapped to her chair to avoid falling out of her seat during class lectures.
But in the fall of 2013, all that began to change. God gave my husband, Stephen, and me a unique opportunity. Instead of allowing children like this little girl to be left without resources and proper treatment, our goal was to convince North Koreans that children with disabilities have value as part of society. Through our project and those of a few other organizations, treatment for children with developmental disabilities is now available for the first time in North Korea.
After working with us for approximately 11 months of daily therapy, this little girl finally, miraculously realized her dream. She walked out of the hospital with a local news network there to broadcast the powerful moment. Today she attends school with the rest of her classmates and has a new dream: becoming a rehab physician to treat other children with disabilities.
Thousands of children like her are waiting for medical treatment in North Korea. Many of them have never attended school, but through our therapy program, these children with developmental disabilities now have hope for a better future.
Seeing the positive impact of the Pyongyang hospital’s successful treatment of children with cerebral palsy, the North Korean Department of Public Health is now working to establish Pediatric Rehabilitation Centers in all 10 provincial hospitals. Doctors are also being trained in treatment methodologies at Kim Il-Sung University Pyongyang Medical School Hospital. The government has ensured the development of this specialty in all 10 medical schools in the country by signing an agreement with our sponsoring organization. Former Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il and current Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un have signed off on the project as well.
One child, family, doctor, and facility at a time, we are seeing our vision become a reality, and Christ’s love being shared with many.