Part-Time Human Rights Defenders: Simon and Martina (eatyourkimchi)

“Part-Time Human Rights Defenders” is an interview series spotlighting people whose day jobs aren’t necessarily being activists or working at nonprofits, but are still making great change in the human rights causes they care deeply about. My goal is to demonstrate that human rights affects and is affected by every sphere of human interaction and activity, and that anybody could make a change just by doing what they’re good at and what they love to do. I hope this will encourage you to do what you can, in your own field and with your own expertise, to improve global human rights!

Simon and Martina, better known as eatyourkimchi to their one million subscribers, are a married couple from Canada who make videos about food, travel, and adventures. They’ve lived in Korea for over seven years and recently moved to Tokyo to explore Japan. In December 2013, they made a video to spread awareness of the human rights situation in North Korea and to raise funds for Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), a nonprofit which rescues and resettles North Korean refugees. Through the Project for Awesome campaign, Simon and Martina raised $50,000 — enough to rescue and resettle 16 refugees! Check out my interview with them below to learn more about their experience as part-time human rights defenders!

1. What would you say is your full-time job?
Making YouTube videos.

2. How did you get the idea to be involved in your work with LiNK?
When we were living in Korea, LINK reached out to us. They told us about their mission, and asked if we wanted to participate in a fundraiser in Korea. We did, and it worked out great. We decided to work with them again for the P4A project, and that worked out great as well!

3. Why did you choose this cause?
It just resonated well with us. We lived in South Korea, and we saw the stark contrast between North and South Korea, and it saddened us. We were presented with the opportunity to do something that could help, and we jumped on it :D

4. If you could have another job for a day, what would it be?
Farmer. We’ve been working with technology and the internet for so long. I’d like to connect with something more natural, something that’ll make me sweat.

5. When you first started this campaign, did you think it would be this successful?
NOPE! Well, not financially successful at least. I thought we’d be able to help with raising awareness, and I’m glad we did, but I didn’t think we’d help win the $50,000!

6. Did your involvement in this partnership with LiNK bring any change — in your perspective of the world, in what you value, in your goals, in your life?
We feel more driven to do charitable work now than before, that’s for sure. It wasn’t something we thought we’d have any impact on before, but now it feels like we can do something.

7. What advice would you give to people hoping to do good on the side — to become a Part-Time Human Rights Defender?I’m not the best person to give advice on this. We don’t have any titles that we give to ourselves for any work we’ve done. No capital letters in describing what we do. We just do our best to empathize with others, even when it’s challenging, and to be decent people.

8. Would you do it again?
We’d love to!

7. What is one thing you do everyday to become someone who does good?
Make a strong effort to empathize. What’s that Mr Rogers’ quote? There isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love if you’ve heard their story. It’s easy for us to vilify others, to just call them crazy, or idiots, haters, or whatnot. It takes a lot more work to try to understand them, but it’ll do you a lot more personal good to empathize than it would to just dismiss them.

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