Peter Ree and Maggie Han

COUNTRY: Venezuela and Panama
FOCUS: Education and Leadership Training
and Faith Formation/Pastoral Care

Maggie and Peter joined MKLM as a married couple in 1996. Both of them were born in Korea and came to the U.S. in early adulthood. Before joining MKLM they were very active in their parish, St. Paul Chong in Queens, N.Y. They were involved in youth ministry, group work and catechism and as Eucharistic ministers. Maggie studied math at the State University of N.Y. at Stony Brook. Peter studied electrical engineering there as well. In addition, Maggie was trained as a social worker at Hunter College in NYC.

Peter and Maggie began their work with MKLM in Venezuela, where they lived and worked for six years. In June of 2003 they moved to Panama to begin their ministry there. They lived in Darien, the largest and poorest province in Panama. Although the province is economically poor, it is rich in bio-diversity and cultural diversity. A large percentage of the population is indigenous, from the Embera and Wounaan groups. They have lived in this area for centuries. Darien province is growing rapidly—particularly with youth. These young people often do not have opportunities for education and employment. Peter and Maggie’s ministries responded to the needs of the indigenous and the youth in their region.

Centuries, if not millennia, of their history and culture are disappearing from their collective memory. The indigenous leaders initiated a project that resulted in the creation of a written language for the Embera and Wounann peoples. Maggie and Peter’s work in the Indigenous Identity Program built upon this new resource through their work to informally educate people in the written language providing opportunities for recording histories, traditions and stories in their own language. In addition, Peter and Maggie’s work promoted a greater sense of identity through cultural activities and social events that reflected the indigenous peoples’ ethnic identities.

The other area of their work was the Darien Youth Project. The people emigrated from other communities and often found themselves in isolated conditions due to the lack of basic infrastructure such as roads and telecommunications and to the lack of attention of the central government. This resulted in inadequate educational facilities, as well as scant human, social and economic resources. The youth often were consuming alcohol, drugs, and were involved in sexual risk activities. The Youth Project was designed to bolster self-esteem and spiritual strength as well as raise awareness on issues such as family, sexuality, gender, cultural values and the environments.