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Catholic Charities Observes Migration Week

From left, Claire Collins, Kelsey Coplin (both work for the Catholic Charities Refugee Foster Care Program), Charles Ryu (refugee from North Korea), and Father Jon Pedigo.

“Many Journeys, One Family” was the theme for National Migration Week 2018. Pope Francis reminds us that regardless of where we are and where we came from, we remain part of the human family and are called to live in solidarity with one another.

On January 7, in observance of Migration Week, Father Jon Pedigo and Grupo Solidaridad were honored to host Charles Ryu, a young man who escaped North Korea and settled in the Bay Area with assistance from the Catholic Charities Refugee Foster Care Program. Charles was only 15 years old when he was sent to a labor camp as punishment for his first attempt to flee North Korea. While there he worked 16 hour days, seven days a week, was only given 150 kernels of corn a day to eat and suffered brutal beatings from the guards at the camp. Charles grew so weak and desperate from starvation that one morning he ate rice he had picked out of dried vomit on the side of the road. He grew so weak that he could hardly stand on his own and was finally released from the labor camp. He escaped North Korea for the second, and final, time. Charles shared that throughout his ordeals, it was only the hope of freedom that kept him going. With the help of Catholic Charities he was resettled in America, where he learned English, graduated from high school, and has even worked as a coder! He is currently pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.

After Charles’s inspirational testimony of determination and perseverance, Grupo members were able to share their own migration stories, reminding us of our similarities whether we are from North Korea, Mexico, Maine or San Jose. This special celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany culminated with a theatrical production of the Gift of the Magi that included toys for the children and was followed by a Fiesta.

Grupo Solidaridad is a project of the Office of Advocacy and Community Engagement of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County designed to mentor emerging leaders, promote social change and provide a place to form communities of radical hospitality. Grupo Solidaridad believes that encuentro between people of different cultures and ethnicities, religion, social class, level of education, sexual orientation, gender identification, age and cognitive and physical abilities will lead to a more compassionate, just and prosperous society. Grupo Solidaridad meets most Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. at the chapel at the San Jose State University Newman Center.