Meet NAKASEC – Eun Ha Yi

Do you ever wonder who the people at NAKASEC and our affiliate centers, KRC and KRCC, are? Not just the staff, but the community members, volunteers, interns and board members? Well they are the ones who keep us grounded, help drive our campaigns and keep us motivated. You may have seen our seniors on the State Capitol fighting against budget cuts, our young people dancing, singing and shouting out for youth rights, our children playing poongmul (Korean drums) at rallies and marches.

Well, in order for you to get to know us better, we are rolling out our #meetNAKASEC Fridays where we will profile one person within our network. We hope you enjoy!

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Q: What’s your name?
A: Hi. My  name is Eun Ha Yi. When I was naturalizing, there was a choice to change my name. For some reason I thought of “eun ha soo” (it literally means Milky Way in Korean) and decided to change my name to ‘Eun Ha.’

My mother actually gave me the name ‘Hwa Ja’ and it meant “to share love all around you.” I didn’t really understand the meaning and thought it was tacky. That’s why I wanted to change it. My English name is Grace and my church pastor gave me that name symbolizing the meaning “eun hae” or “grace” in Korean.

Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born in Japan but grew up in a providence called Yang Yang, which is located on the Northern part of Korean peninsula. When the Korean War broke out, my family went to Seoul. I was only 9 during the time of war. I lost a lot of family then… we were all separated. Like many families, we evacuated. It was then that my father was forcefully drafted and my mother was captured and tortured. In the end, my parents safely made their way to the south and me and my sister stayed with an aunt before we too would be separated.

Many years passed and when I turned 30 years old, I came to the United States. I landed in Sacramento, California. Miraculously I survived the war as a child, grew up to be an adult and was lucky enough to immigrate to the land of opportunities. I think God’s grace had a lot to do with where I am today.

Q: How did you get involved with KRC?
A: I became interested in the Korean Resource Center through articles I saw in the Korean papers. They intrigued me so much that I decided to visit the center in perso
n. As soon as I walked in, I saw their motto, “Live Rightly, Know Our Roots, Empower Ourselves and Live in Harmony”… and for some reason those words stuck. I couldn’t get them out of my head. I decided that if these people really lived by those words, it wouldn’t hurt to get to know them. It was then that I periodically dropped by KRC whenever I was in the area and got to know the people better. Then there was an event I attended with Dae Joong Yoon, the current executive director with KRC, where I got a chance to meet members of the city council. I felt empowered and decided to be active.

Right now I am a member of KRC’s Community Health Promoters. We are proud seniors working to promote and protect our rights. I haven’t missed a single meeting (there is one held at the last Friday of every month) and if there is a special event or action, I am one of the first ones to sign up to volunteer.

Q: Why do you do the work that you do with KRC?
A: I want to live in a world where people help each other… and I know that KRC helps many people who often feel powerless. I am active with KRC because I want to provide support and strength to contribute to the wellness of our community. My wish is that the community and KRC will mutually help each other – KRC with its free services it provides to the people in the community, and the people who receive those services to support however they can so that KRC can continue to keep its services and programs running.

Q: If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be and why?
A: I haven’t really thought about this so I am not sure. But I am religious and so perhaps trading places with someone who accompanied Jesus Christ would be my wish.

Q: What is your comfort food and why?
A: Wild herbs. When I was growing up in Korea, I used to always go into the mountains and pick all different kinds of herbs and berries. I think it helped keep a good health. There are similar types of wild herbs here in the U.S. but the taste is different. If I ever get a chance to go back to Korea, I would want to definitely eat the herbs and berries I had growing up as a child.

 

Meet other folks at KRC, KRCC and NAKASEC!