There was a wide range of emotions at today’s TNKR 50th Language session.

* Serious: One refugee mentioned that she almost committed suicide because of a personal setback (long deep story). Looking at the beautiful volunteers in the room ready to help her made her realize what a mistake it would have been if she had committed suicide, that she now has people eager to help her. She left the session with four new tutors who can understand her desperation for learning, not hanging out. She thanked us so many times before, during, and after the session, then made a donation on her way out.

* Breath-taken: she was so excited during my interview with her before the session that she could hardly remain seated. When she introduced herself during the session, she said “my heart is going boom-boom.” She is so eager, she said she has been in other English study programs, but this one is “special.” At dinner, she kept repeating that she is so thankful. She ran out of words, apparently she had reached her English quota for the day, she finished by telling the volunteers, “I’m so thankful thankful thankful so thanksful.”

* Expectations: one of the refugees wants to travel, study and live abroad. She wants to start getting prepared for job interviews. She has been memorizing vocabulary, but she lacks the confidence to speak English. She hopes through talking with tutors 1:1 that she will be confident to one day travel on her own.

* Inspiring: A refugee who studied in our in-house tutoring program was so happy to be joining the Matching program. She was the oldest refugee in the room, she had known about TNKR but didn’t consider herself as a student, but says that her world view changed when she saw a tv show about an elderly South Korean man who was learning English. She read everything she could about TNKR, she said “Casey and Eunkoo are doing great things for North Korean refugees.” She said she was impressed by the many volunteers, but based on the feedback from tutors, they were more inspired by her. At dinner, she concluded, “From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of the teachers, thank you Casey and Eunkoo for everything you do, I will do my best.”

Desperation: she is returning to TNKR, two of her three tutors have left Korea. She will have two tutoring sessions tomorrow, because she will be having some important English interviews soon.

*Determination: This refugee is contemplating the future, not sure which road to take. He has known about TNKR for a while, but finally applied. He said “I will grab this great chance, I am so lucky and thankful to the tutors for volunteering.”

* Stressed: We were lucky that one of our special ambassadors, Ken Eom​, joined the session. He is in grad school now, studying, dealing with the reality of studying. Visiting this session was a chance for him to relax his mind! The tutors were impressed by his outgoing nature and great sense of humor.

* The tutors were clearly impressed by the refugees and their determination to study. As usually happens, most tell me during orientation that they think they can handle only one student, but after the refugees introduce themselves, I can see them mentally clearing things out of their schedules to make time for the refugees. During orientation, we instruct refugees not to beg the tutors because we know it is difficult to say no in such a situation.

For Eunkoo Lee​, during her closing statement, she added that meeting so many lovely volunteers reminded her why she couldn’t give up TNKR, even when we went through some tough times financially and dealt with other challenges that come with trying to start an NGO and trying to do it your own way rather than trying to fit the models of experts.

Today was great, we look forward to session #51.


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