Tag Archives: Laura Ling

Life in the Dark: How Africa is Tackling an Energy Crisis to Transform Their Future

Laura Ling is an amazing journalist who has partnered with Discovery Digital Networks and ONE.org to bring awareness to stories and issues from across the globe include this most recent story of the energy crisis happening in Africa. Interestingly enough, with access to cell phones, the middle class has exploded on the continent, but the ability to do simple things like charge a cell phone (much less, have consistent lighting in clinics, businesses or even homes) continue to be a struggle as a result of blackouts, shortages and a reliance on “dirty forms of energy.” 7 out of 10 citizens in sub-Saharan Africa still do not have access to electricity. This means expectant mothers, business owners, students and everyone in between are doing their best to move forward and continue developing thriving communities without being able to simply turn on a light.

I will not let the darkness hold me back
-Hussein Mwende, student

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Laura Ling Shares the Ritual that Saved Her Life

In early 2009, international reporter Laura Ling found herself in China standing on the boundary of North Korea as she sought to bring attention to North Korean refugees escaping the region. This was not the first time Ling was in a high-pressure area but she was not expecting to find herself captured and indefinitely detained by North Korean military.

She was so far from her family and was unsure whether she would ever return home. She was able to receive letters from home and knew that candlelight vigils were being held in the hope of seeing her safely returned, but in the midst of a tumultuous political climate, who know if that would happen? In the space of not knowing what her future would hold, Ling began a practice that would change her life forever. She shares her moving story here: Continue reading

Take the Zero Waste Challenge!


How often are you taking out the garbage? According to Discovery Digital’s Seeker Network, the average American produces 4.3 pounds of trash everyday so when New Yorker Lauren Singer announced that she could fill a 16 oz mason jar with the trash she’s left with after two years, it was worth investigating. Continue reading

Thank You Message From Laura Ling

Dear Friends,

While in detention in North Korea, isolated and scared, one of the things that gave me strength and sustained my faith was hearing about the groundswell of support for Euna and me. You were a part of this incredible movement and for that I will be forever thankful.

Through the letters that I was able to receive, I learned about the many beautiful vigils, the LauraandEuna.com website, the petition, the Facebook group, and all the other grassroots efforts to bring us home. I am deeply humbled.

In times of extreme darkness and depression, I thought of all of the people, united together, sending us messages of love and hope. I envisioned the light of the candles at the vigils and it brightened my soul.

I would not be here today, home and free, re-united with my family (my sister is actually asleep on the couch right by my side), if not for the support from so many extraordinary people. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Words cannot adequately express my profound gratitude.

While my experience was the most challenging time of my life, I do believe that something beautiful came out of it, and that is the way in which so many people united around a cause for hope and peace.

I’d like to share with you an entry from my journal that I kept during my time in captivity:

Thursday, June 11, 2009 Day 87, 3:00 PM
“I’ve been so overwhelmed and touched by the outpouring of support from so many people. Loved ones, friends, people I haven’t been in contact with in ages, and even total strangers. It makes you have faith in humanity. I hope that I would be as good of a friend or human to someone else in a similar situation.”

Euna and I are two of the lucky ones whose story of captivity resulted in a happy ending. But there are so many journalists imprisoned around the world whose fate is still undecided. It is my sincere hope that the energy ignited around bringing us home will be harnessed into raising awareness around these fellow journalists and their struggle for freedom.

With all my love and gratitude,


Thank you friends and foes

This is a note of huge, heart felt and abundant THANK YOU to everyone who has cooperated in freeing Euna and Laura. In truth, that means everyone.

So I give thanks to the heroes, both those seen and unseen, to all those who have been celebrated so lavishly by so many.

And yes: I also give thanks to the bad guys. They actually did the releasing 🙂 Thank you North Korea! Thank you Kim Jong Il! Mwaah! One big kiss on each cheek!

Anyone else would like to try it? The only danger in allowing a tiny little ray of gratitude toward your enemy is that you might end up falling head over heels in love! Yes, you might see them under the mask, mirroring your own irresistible perfection. And that sight would make anyone throw away old grudges and go mad with ecstasy!

So I won’t judge you. Love them, if you dare.

Mallika Chopra: Free At Last – Welcome Home, Laura and Euna!

Watching Laura Ling and Euna Lee step off the plane this morning seemed like a scene from a movie.  It had all the drama – two young girls, after 140 days in captivity in the rogue nation of North Korea, rescued by President Clinton, running into the warm embraces and tears of their families.  Two women looking at their husbands with soulful gratitude and endearing love, holding their tearful parents, a little girl hugging her mom to welcome her home.

In mid March, when my brother called me to say that it seemed that Laura, one of his dearest friends, had been captured in N. Korea while shooting a documentary, he sounded despondent.  There were very few details, but Lisa Ling, Laura’s sister and also a close friend of Gotham’s, had a dreaded sense of panic.  Days, weeks, then months passed with little news and no contact.  Then a meeting with the Swedish Ambassador, a letter, a phone call – an agonizing and painful process that tortured the girl’s families.

Despite my blogs about them, I have to admit that I am personally not close to Laura Ling or Euna Lee.  However, my brother’s deep-rooted friendship with Laura has seen each other through work, weddings, and life changes.  Through the years, whenever I have met either Laura or Lisa, and as I have watched their stories and heard about their passion and compassion from my brother, I have developed a sense of respect for the Ling sisters, two girls who have the heart, the brains and the courage to tell hard stories.

What jolted me to Laura’s plight in N. Korea though was watching the agony of a family try to survive without any knowledge or contact with their loved ones, and feeling helpless as world politics beyond their control – nuclear testing and a succession plan in N. Koreans – doomed them.  And, then a 12 year sentence of hard labor that also came with no information about how the girls were coping.

I had experienced just several hours of such panic when my brother was detained years ago.  The thought of those hours extended to 140 days is still incomprehensible to me.

Watching Lisa Ling, an elder sister like myself, using all her resources and contacts to do anything she could, waiting every long day with bated breath, trying to keep her family strong and focused, desperately yearning to have her sister, her best friend, back home, was something I could relate to.  When I heard about how Iain wrote to his wife every day, and how Michael had become a single dad overnight paralyzed with fear but not able to give in to it, I thought about my own husband in the same situation.  At one of the vigils in LA, I could not even look at Laura’s mom – her pain was so overwhelming.  I could only think of my mom in the same situation.

Through the ordeal, while my brother stayed in daily contact with Lisa, our family also got to know Euna’s husband, Michael Saldate, and little daughter, Hana.  Hana and my daughter, Leela, are both the same age, so once again the connection was a natural one. Having never met Euna, I felt bonded to her – especially as Michael shared stories about how Euna’s messages and thoughts were with Hana in their limited correspondence. Of course, Euna was worrying about her daughters school admission – she was still a mom, even in captivity.

I think it was the realness of the families pain, combined with the goodness of the girls, that moved so many people to get involved in their release.  As Laura stated today, and Lisa before her, the efforts by total strangers to spread the word about their plight was incredible.  Even as the news and media let their story fade into the background, people still tweeted and facebooked and blogged and attended vigils that grew in size over the months.  Each voice, each prayer, each intent, propelled the US government to stay focused on obtaining their release.  Every action of support helped the families, and the secluded girls, maintain their resilience and resolve.

For the thousands of people who prayed for their release, who attended vigils around the world, who blogged and tweeted about it, who wrote letters to the girls or to the administration on their behalf, who signed petitions, the girls homecoming was a moment of victory.  As one friend wrote to me, “Nice to see the good guys (or gals in this case) win.”

Yesterday, after hearing that Bill Clinton had left for North Korea, I emailed Michael to tell him that we should reschedule the play date for Leela and Hana that we were planning.  He wrote back saying, “Wow, this moment that I have been waiting for is now about to arrive and I have no idea what to do, besides loving my wife.” What a beautiful statement.  And today, Lisa Ling tweeted, “Appreciating life in the most profound way.” After such pain, undoubtedly love shines like never before.

In the coming weeks, as Laura and Euna’s story is shared, I am sure we will be astounded by the courage and strength of the human spirit.  It is important that we remember as we hear their stories that there are countless others right now that are being held captive, with ambiguous charges branded upon them, separated from their families with no access to a true legal process, not only in North Korea, but also here in the United States. Laura and Euna’s joyful reunion should be available to others just like them.

Today, my brother finally changed his intent from praying for Laura and Euna’s release to, “My intent is that Laura and Euna and their families live happily ever after.”  For me, I close this story with new friends and immense gratitude and respect to a global community that showed a passion for peace, justice, and love.

One image from today will stay with me forever.  Four year old, Hana clinging to her mom and just not letting go – no words were needed to capture the emotion that little Hana was feeling.  No words can capture the love and joy of a family finally reunited.

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Laura and Euna: A Letter of Gratitude to the Divine

Dear God/Goddess/the Divine/the Universe:

Thank you for the release of Laura and Euna. Thank you for inspiring all of the key people who made it a reality. Thank you for bringing Laura and Euna home to their country and to their families – especially for reuniting Euna with her four-year-old daughter, Hannah. Thank you for reminding us that the depth of compassion is even greater than the depths of fear and suspicion. Thank you for the triumph of diplomacy over saber-rattling. Thank you for listening to us as we stood together in our intent, united in hope. Thank you for showing us that Love can pierce the darkness of isolation and confinement. Thank you for reminding us that there is ultimately no difference between “Us” and “Them.” Thank you for loving all of humanity in our conflicts as well as our best moments – not because of who we are, but because of who You are.

All my love,

Gotham Chopra: Thank You – Laura Ling and Euna Lee Pardoned

For the last few months, along with a few committed friends and supporters, I have attempted through blogs and articles to keep attention on the situation regarding my close friend Laura Ling and her colleague Euna Lee who were imprisoned in North Korea for the last 4.5 months. Today because of the efforts of many people including the thousands of activists, supporters, and well-wishers on channels like this one, Laura and Euna were pardoned and are currently on their way home to their families with former President Bill Clinton.

On behalf of the many committed advocates for Laura and Euna’s safe return home, both those who published blogs and articles on channels like this one and those that supported us and spread the word, I’d like to thank everyone who signed the petition seeking their amnesty, tweeted, commented, or even said a prayer on Laura and Euna’s behalf. We – their friends – are very grateful for all of your efforts and ask for your continued thoughts and prayers as the girls return home, reunite with their families, and heal from this unfathomable experience.

– Gotham Chopra

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Mallika Chopra: Families Torn Apart – Euna Lee’s Message to Her Husband

When your wife has been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in a North Korean prison camp, missing her phone call leaves you emotionally wrecked.  Missing that phone call, when you have only spoken to her three times in the 4 months that she has been detained, is a precious, lost opportunity. That’s what happened to my friend Michael Saldate, husband to Euna Lee.

The thing is that these days, Michael cannot afford to give in to his own emotions.  Instead he has to remain purely focused on the wellbeing of his and Euna’s 4-year-old-daughter, Hana. Hana misses her mom desperately and does not understand why she has not returned from her business trip.  At least once a day, she breaks down crying for her mommy.

This past weekend, Hana, Michael and Euna’s sister, Jina, joined us in Disneyland for my daughter’s fifth birthday.  It was a privilege to have little Hana cavorting and playing alongside my daughter as they ran from one ride to the next. Hana has an angel’s soul. She is gentle and playful, thoughtful and energetic, and like most children her age clearly has her father and aunt wrapped around her little finger! It was Hana’s first time to Disneyland, and she was determined to meet some Princesses.  As we rode through it’s a Small World, she squealed with delight with each new section.  Her enthusiasm is infectious and my own five year old would now seem to have a life-long playmate well intact.

Days like these for Hana are important ones, brief moments that she can escape a reality, that even while she may not fully intellectually process, certainly is taking its emotional toll on her. For Michael, no such a luck. There is no relief from the agony that he and Laura Ling’s family (Euna’s imprisoned colleague) are facing. The rollercoaster of hope and despair is exhausting – Michael described to us how his body intermittently collapses from all the stress.  The prior morning, he literally found himself paralyzed in bed, unable to get up.  Fortunately, Gina was able to watch Hana as Michael slowly reclaimed his strength and recovered.

Last week was a hard one – as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and North Korean officials traded barbs attacking one another. Words are powerful, and in this case they may have real consequences on the fate of real people, Euna and Laura.  Fortunately this week is looking a bit more hopeful. According to accounts, the North Korean government is requesting direct talks with the US government on a host of issues, including the resolution of the fate of Laura and Euna. We have our fingers crossed, but are accustomed now, 4 months later, to the peaks and valleys that sadly define this nightmare.

Based on what he knows from press accounts, briefings by the US State Department and his limited correspondences with Euna in the last 4 months, Michael believes that Euna and Laura are currently being held in a Medical Detention Facility.  Indications are that Laura’s pre-existing medical condition (an ulcer) has worsened, and Euna has lost a lot of weight while also having pains in her abdominal region. Michael is confident that his wife and Laura are being treated “fairly,” and have not been transported to the infamous North Korean labor camps as their sentence deems – for that he is very grateful to her captors.

Fortunately, even after missing Michael, Euna was able to connect with her sister Jina. She asked Jina to be there for Hana while she was away, no matter how long this dreadful predicament lasts.  Jina says that it’s clear that Euna aches for her daughter, and is more worried about her than for herself. Any mother can relate. Similarly, Laura Ling in her communication with hers sister, Lisa Ling, has been more concerned about her parents’ and family’s welfare than her own.  Curious how the human mind copes, how hope twists itself around concern, how suffering is perhaps easier to endure when one places their own attention outside of themselves. God bless Euna Lee and Laura Ling for having the strength to endure the unimaginable. The world could learn a lot by following their lead.

This is not just about Hana needing her mom back. This is about broken families. Husbands and wives torn apart (including Laura’s husband Iain who is equally devastated), sisters, parents, friends all wandering around in the fog of geopolitics, frayed diplomacy, juvenile gamesmanship and emotional terror.

Back to that missed phone call.  Euna actually left Michael a specific message on his voice mail.  She requested her husband reach out to moms, sensing that they may relate uniquely to her situation.  She’s right: every mother instinctively can empathize with the notion of being separated from their child. It’s a gut-wrenching emotion, the worst type of helplessness that can completely physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically overwhelm. To that end, I am personally committed to honoring Euna’s request – to reach out to as many moms as I can to mobilize their efforts in bringing Euna and Laura home as promptly as possible.

I am hopeful that no less than our Nation’s “First Mom” Michelle Obama, a powerful and passionate role model for millions, can add to the choir formally requesting Amnesty for these two young women who have now apologized for whatever crimes they may have committed.

Here are two specific things we can do to help Euna and Laura, and their families.

Sign the petition for Amnesty for Laura Ling and Euna Lee.  If you have signed it already, please pass it on to others that you know – friends, colleagues, classmates, mommy groups, church members, etc.

Write to Michelle Obama to get involved and make a statement asking that Euna and Laura be granted Amnesty.  You can write to her at:

Mrs. Michelle Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington D.C. 20500

Honestly, your active participation – even if just signing the petition or sending the letter to Michelle Obama – helps the family and the girls know that they are supported and their story not forgotten.  It also influences the Administration to know that we are all relying on them to make Euna and Laura’s release a priority. On behalf of Michael, the families of both Euna and Laura, and all of their friends and supporters, we are eternally grateful.

Please Sign the Petition for Amnesty for Laura Ling and Euna Lee

For more information about Laura and Euna and how you can help please go to – http://www.lauraandeuna.com

For updates on the situation please follow @LiberateLaura and @FreeLauraEuna

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Gotham Chopra: These (agonizing) Days

These days, even the good days are pretty bad. This past week, by all objective accounts, I had a great week. Two comic books that I created got picked up to be developed as television shows. I was advised to expect an “offer” on another idea I have been working on as a television show. I actually got multiple offers on a new non-fiction book I am writing. And I pitched a non-scripted travel show to a bunch of tv networks, all of which received it very very well. Boys and girls, forget a great week, that’s an f’ing awesome week…

But these days, no matter the achievements, I can’t really manage to get too up because deeply rooted in my consciousness is an agonizing despair over the unresolved fate of my friend Laura Ling and her colleague Euna Lee, now detained for over 4 months in the black box that is North Korea. To be honest, after a litany of blogs, articles, Op Ed pieces, and the like, I am almost all out of words to express my sense of frustration, agony, anger, desperation, resentment, hopelessness, and sorrow. Every time a new Google Alert pops up in my inbox, I pray it carries with it the miraculous news that Laura and Euna may have been released and on their way back home. Last week, there was a blitz of optimism when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other US officials formally requested amnesty for Laura and Euna and clearly expressed their regret for whatever crimes the two women may have committed while reporting on a news story back in March when they were initially arrested by NK border guards. News reports quickly followed that quiet backroom talks were underway focused on the girls’ imminent release. Hope knew no bounds…

And then…a flurry of almost incredulous remarks out of Thailand first by Secretary Clinton regarding the North Koreans, followed by their equally mocking remarks of her. Frankly – considering the stakes at play here – neither of the comments are worth repeating at the risk of inflaming more already most delicate sensibilities. In question though, particularly in regards to our own highest appointed international diplomat Mrs. Clinton, is how she could possibly go so far off-script. No matter what her personal feelings and frustrations are in dealing with the North Koreans, it’s incredulous to imagine how she may have thought her glib remarks could help matters.

In the wake of it all, for all of those who care deeply about Laura and Euna, and pray for their prompt return every waking and sleeping moment, there’s just more agony, anger, desperation, resentment, hopelessness, and sorrow. No matter the combination, these are not healthy emotions, rather a toxic cocktail that undermines whatever other achievements and successes we encounter in our daily lives. Personally, I am searching for any reason these days to feel hopeful and optimistic regarding the situation. Apart from my own inability to come up with more words, pleas, or reasons that Laura and Euna should be sent home, I now find myself paralyzed by the fear that something I may say could be misinterpreted, trigger an outcry, fray emotions, and as a consequence prolong Laura and Euna’s detainment.

So instead of saying anything else for now, I’d request anyone who reads this – that hasn’t already – sign the petition seeking the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee and their prompt return home to their families. Every single day, someone asks me if there is “anything the can do.” This is what you can do.

Here’s to a better week than last. Truthfully, only one thing matters these days.

Please Sign the Petition for Amnesty for Laura Ling and Euna Lee

For more information about Laura and Euna and how you can help please go to – http://www.lauraandeuna.com

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