It all started with the movie. Inspired a movie about North Korea, Brian Chung, a fourth year student at UBC, decided to start an awareness group about the worldâ€™s only Communist country. â€œPUNK, or Promoting Understanding of North Korea, started two years ago. In our first year, we had a big concert at UBC to raise money for First Steps. We still have the concert this year but Iâ€™ve also started going around to local high schools to talk to students about North Korea,â€ explains Brian. Itâ€™s all about breaking down barriers and confronting the cliches and the misunderstandings.
During the interview, Brian faced the issue on theÂ Cheonan incidentÂ â€“ a North Korean torpedo has been blamed for the sinking of the South Korean navy ship and the deaths of 46 sailors. According to Brian, many countries, especially the United States and South Korea, are accusing North Korea for this misfortune. However, he doesnâ€™t think this would do any good for the already unstable relationship between the two Koreas and feels that it is unjust to plainly accuse North Korea without enough evidence. â€œIn the past, North Korea has been pretty blunt and honest about anything it does or intends to do,â€ explains Brian. â€œBut with the Cheonan incident, the country is strong on its stand that it was not responsible.â€ Brian feels that the media is to blame for all the accusations and misconceptions aimed at North Korea and urges any students who want to know the truth about the country to rely on third party organizations.
PUNK (Promoting Understanding of North Korea)
â€œAnyone can change their lives for the better,â€ says Jeff Torres, the 20-year-old Youth Ambassador forÂ World Vision. â€ I did, so if I can do it, anyone can.â€
Itâ€™s easy to assume that Jeff, the top youth fundraiser forÂ 30 HR FamineÂ in Lower Mainland last year, always lived this way. He talks to hundreds of students on a weekly basis to inspire them to take the challenge and get a taste of what many children in the world experience everyday. But rewind to three or four years before and anyone can see he was on a different path. A frequent drug user and dealer, he often got into trouble but did not realize the consequences until one night, he was arrested by the police. â€œThey took me to the station and told me that I would have a criminal record for the rest of my life. Back then, my dream was to be a firefighter but after I heard that, I knew I can never be one,â€ reminisced Jeff. â€œAfter I got home that night, I started really thinking, is this how I want to live my life? My answer was no. So I started praying to God and asked him to change my life and make me a better person.â€
After graduating from high school, Jeff decided to try pledge for 30 HR Famine when he heard about the horrific number of children that go without food everyday in undeveloped countries. After six months of countless donations and a self-initiated triathlon fundraiser, Jeff raised over $10 000 in total, earning him a two-week trip with World Vision to Tanzania. There, he met a family of two young boys, both under ten years old, and their mother. Many things about the family amazed him, but it was the lives of the two boys that stayed with him the most. â€œEveryday, they wake up to go to school. On good days, there would be food on the table but if there isnâ€™t, theyâ€™d go without. A few hours later, they walk to school. Because there arenâ€™t any schools nearby, they walk around 20 km to the closest one. Thatâ€™s over two hours of walking for two very young boys who are always malnourished,â€ Jeff described, using the recollections of his mind. â€œSchool is the only place they meet their friends so they love it, even though it takes such a long time to get there. Thereâ€™s never enough food at home so they never have lunch. Now, after school, we can usually go home and have some snack. But after that exhausting day, those two boys walk another 10km to work. Work there isnâ€™t anything easy, nothing youâ€™d give to kids. A lot of it is heavy lifting and hard labour. When theyâ€™re done working for a few hours, they can finally go home. And it takes another 10 km to go back home. Then, they finally have their second and final meal of the day but again, only if thereâ€™s food. So in total, these boys do half a marathon everyday on empty stomachs. They have a well nearby but the water is really dirty. Thereâ€™s even bugs floating in it! So they are very malnourished.â€
Since coming back from Tanzania, Jeff has been working with World Vision as the Youth Ambassador. Heâ€™s currently continuing his education in Human Kinetics at Capilano University. Although he does not have a career that he wants to pursue, Jeff knows he wants to travel to different nations to help the hungry children and believes that his knowledge of the human body will greatly help him in the future. His trip has also inspired him to help children. Instead of getting a cell phone, he spends his money on sponsoring two children. â€œNot having a cell phone is pretty inconvenient but knowing that youâ€™re saving two peopleâ€™s lives is the best feeling.â€
Often, he sees many students on the unstable path he was on during his teenage years. However, he has faith that anyone can change his or her life with determination and courage, no matter what one has done.
Who is this talented actor who can speak in any accent, sing like Elvis Presley, and has tons of useful tools under his belt ? Connor Ruther, a grade 12 student at Churchill Secondary School, has been in seven shows in his high school years and is currently working on his eighth. But he wasnâ€™t an actor as a child and certainly didnâ€™t know about his talent. As a young boy, he immersed himself in books and loved reading literature and books on philosophy. It wasnâ€™t until grade 9 that he considered acting in a play. â€œMy drama teacher encouraged me to audition for a one-act play because I have great projection.â€ With his teacherâ€™s guidance, Connor went to the auditions without much thought. There, he found some unexpected challenges. â€œThe directors gave us a poem about a caterpillar and asked us to put a melody to it and have a movement to it as well.â€ Although it caught him off guard, he aced his audition by giving the lyrics an Elvis Presley tune and putting in some creative movements. That was just the gateway to the world of acting.
As an actor, Connor finds it amusing many of the roles he plays fall under two categories: a smooth-talking sly character or a popular but proud man. Still, he never fails to find a renewed sense of joy in acting everyday. â€œActing brings different people together. Youâ€™ll find that actors are the nicest people. Itâ€™s a great way to meet people and make friends from different groups.â€ His advice for any young aspiring actor? Join any theatre, whether it be a school or a community group.
He admires actors Laurence Olivier, Sean Connery, and Patrick Stewart. His favourite quote?
â€œWe make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.â€ â€“ William Butler Yeats