Casey's 2021 birthday

Fundraiser by Casey

This fundraiser supports Haanong's Monthly Matching Donation Challenge

$2,328 raised

About This Fundraiser

Celebrate my birthday this year by pre-ordering my book! I am writing it with a North Korean refugee who is telling her story for the first time. She has never given a public speech, she held her story inside, then asked me if I could help her write a book. Of course, I couldn't say "no," even though I know from experience how much time it takes to write a book.

The book is scheduled for publication on February 17, 2022.

North Korean refugee Songmi Han will be publishing the book "Greenlight to Freedom" in February 2022. She has told her story to only three people, but her inspiring story will now be told.

Pledge US$ 15 or more: Receive a digital copy of the book.

Pledge US$ 25 or more: Receive a paperback copy, plus a North Korean refugee postcard and bookmark both featuring North Korean refugee art (shipping within the USA).

Pledge US$ 35 or more: Receive a paperback copy, plus a North Korean refugee postcard and bookmark both featuring North Korean refugee art (shipping outside the USA).

Pledge US$ 75 or more: Receive a signed copy of the paperback, signed by co-authors Songmi Han and Casey Lartigue.


* The book is scheduled for release in February 2022, this is an announcement about the book and for those who want to order it in advance.

* The title is a working title and will be finalized soon, and available on Amazon and other sites later.

* By buying the paperback version of the book, you will automatically be entered into various drawings for gifts.


My 29th birthday of gift-giving
By Casey Lartigue Jr.

The United Nations and I both celebrate Sept. 5 as a day of giving, but for different reasons. Declared as the International Day of Charity by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, the main goal was to raise awareness and provide a common platform for charity-related activities internationally.

In my case, the super wonderful day of Sept. 5 is my birthday. I have celebrated this day as Casey's Day of Charity for two decades. I reject gifts for myself and instead ask people to donate the intended amount to my favorite cause or non-profit. I started this back in 2000 when I was on the Young Executive Board of the Washington Scholarship Fund.

My initial motivation, however, was not as humanitarian as the U.N.'s. I was tired of receiving lousy birthday gifts. I know people say "it's the thought that counts." But which thought counts? The thought that I am going to give you something you never would have bought and will quickly return if I include the gift receipt? People condemn recipients for not being grateful enough for even lousy gifts, but is it ever acceptable to scrutinize gift-givers?

When people say they have no idea how much to donate, I encourage them to guess my age, and donate that amount in U.S. dollars. Even as I approach my senior years, there are suddenly many people declaring with their donations that I must be about 29 years old.
Three years ago, over my objections, a caring friend insisted on sending me a birthday gift. It was a miniature dinosaur puzzle. Even when I was six years old, I didn't like dinosaur-related items, knowing that a real dinosaur would have devoured me and destroyed my neighborhood. After I informed the gift giver what I was going to do, I re-gifted it to a six-year-old who loves dinosaur things.

Due to the prevailing sentiment surrounding "it's the thought that counts," most recipients don't tell gift givers the truth, they just hope a gift receipt is included.

In the 2009 book "Scroogenomics," business school professor Joe Waldfogel estimated that Americans spent $66 billion on gifts in 2007, but that recipients only valued them at $54 billion, producing a deadweight loss of $12 billion to the economy.

Will those same considerate people be any more efficient on International Day of Charity? Based on my experience with volunteering, donating, and fundraising for various non-profits and causes over the past two decades, I doubt it.

From 2012 to 2015, I was the volunteer International Cooperation Adviser at an alternative school for North Korean refugee adolescents. We often had many caring people donating books, toys or clothing. School leaders finally asked me one day how they could reject some of the donations without irritating donors. We were running out of storage space. What the school needed seemed to be secondary to what some donors wanted to give.

Christmas is coming, that's the time some caring people ask me how they can donate toys to North Korean refugee children. The parents always express gratitude, especially the first time they receive a gift from a stranger. But teddy bears from 10 different people? Some parents begin to sound like those school leaders wanting to politely reject gifts without seeming ungrateful.

One mother thankfully accepts all gifts but explained that her son loves the new toys ― for about a day. When I began to probe deeper, she and other North Korean refugee parents would talk about actual needs, such as having money for private academy classes or being able to save enough money for college.

When I suggest to donors the possibility of giving more meaningful gifts with long-term value, many seem to search for others ready to accept the gifts they want to give, as if the recipients mattered.

Giving is a two-way street, from a willing giver to a receiver who wants what has been given. To donate, first investigate. If it is a school or organization, don't just call up asking, "whaddaya need?" Instead, volunteer, get to know the organization's leaders and listen to what they say (not just what you want to hear).

This birthday weekend, I will once again eschew birthday gifts. I plan to spend the day revising the manuscript of the book "Greenlight to Freedom" that I am co-authoring with North Korean refugee Songmi Han (her birthday is Sept. 27). I will be answering birthday messages this weekend with the link to the book.

Instead of a miniature dinosaur puzzle for me, you can pre-order the book. Based on my investigation, my co-author will be delighted. I can guarantee, as co-author of the book, you won't need a gift receipt to return such a wonderful book.

Casey Lartigue Jr. is co-author along with Songmi Han of the forthcoming book "Greenlight to Freedom." He is co-founder along with Eunkoo Lee of Freedom Speakers International (FSI) and executive director of Giving Tuesday Korea.

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About Haanong's Monthly Matching Donation Challenge

Last year the owners of the Haanong Furniture company learned about Matching Donations for non-profit organization. They told the co-founders of FSI (then TNKR) that they would like to have a Matching Donation challenge of their own.

That time has arrived! They will be matching up to $2,000 a month.

What can you do?

Donate whatever you can. If we have 400 donors giving $5 a month then every month we can match what Haanong has generously offered. Every monthly donation can help us reach the monthly goal of $2,000.

People often say that South Koreans don't care about North Korean refugees, but the owners of Haanong have been supporting FSI ever since they learned about us in April 2018. They have been inspired by the staff, volunteers and refugees connected with FSI. One thing that really impressed them is that not only do volunteers give their time, but some even raise money for the organization.

Learn more about Haanong: Website and YouTube channel (please subscribe).

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