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2017-01-07 I almost destroyed TNKR (again)

I have lost count of the number of times I have almost destroyed TNKR. My latest attempt: Expecting volunteers to make good-faith attempts at fundraising.

  • Separate Orientation & Matching: In 2013, we started with orientation and matching sessions in the same day–I decided to separate them. It seemed the tutors wouldn’t come. But they did! It causes problems, some people can’t make it two weekends in a row. Things are much better now, the tutors are more knowledgeable about the program, we have more time to get them and the refugees prepared for joining TNKR.
  • No socializing. When I realized that some tutors saw TNKR as a Refugee Buddy Club, going hiking and hanging out, I cut off socializing within TNKR. It seemed TNKR would die because it was unrealistic to expect tutors to only tutor. But they still signed up. And the unexpected benefit: Refugees began taking the program more seriously and referring their friends! New tutors sometimes want to hang out with refugees, they think we have too many rules, but we will not yield.
  • Kakao: I had a flip phone until sometime in 2013. Then I lost my flip phone, finally bought an iPhone, at which time I experienced something called Kakao. It seemed irritating, the notifications, the overwhelming instant messaging aspect of it. But refugees were using it. We began to use it as a means of contact with them, but then we had some problems between refugees and tutors when they had separate conversations. Since we started group rather than individual conversations, we have not had any major blow-ups.
  • Photos: I’m surprised there wasn’t a mutiny when I banned tutors from taking photos with refugees. I learned that some would take selfies with refugees, then post them on Facebook, “here’s my North Korean refugee student,” and then even use the refugee’s name. We had a few cases of tutors talking refugees into allowing them to take photos, ignoring when refugees were hesitant. Then I would have to get involved, the tutor would blame me for blocking them from posting photos with refugees who supposedly had agreed. So we banned them.

My latest attempt to destroy TNKR? Expect all incoming volunteers to make an attempt at fundraising. I got the usual warnings that I would destroy TNKR, that tutors wouldn’t show up. I had thought about trying it in the past, but TNKR was so unstable that I decided to wait. Then after we moved into our new office, it seemed to be the right time to try. I started by asking volunteers if they would be willing to donate or fundraise for TNKR. They said they were, but few followed through (that’s life). We have had 37 people apply to join the program for our upcoming sessions. We may still have enough tutors join the Matching session that we can provide refugees with plenty of tutoring options.

Today we had a brainstorming meeting with new volunteers to discuss fundraising. TNKR’s co-directors, special ambassadors, assistant academic adviser, tutors and newcomers joined the session.

The meeting was incredible. Looking around the room, I was amazed, knowing that volunteers had shown up to brainstorm ways to raise money for TNKR.

The volunteers had fundraising ideas. Probably the most negative person in the room was the American co-founder. We have heard many ideas, but there was something different about today’s group–the people giving the ideas weren’t delegating them to “somebody.” They were saying they would give it a try. And one volunteer followed up almost immediately.

The easiest thing in the world is to make a suggsetion that someone else needs to do something, to fall so in love with thinking and analyzing that you suffer, as Jesse Jackson used to say, “paralysis from analysis.”

A couple of volunteers have embraced this initiative, so it seems that I have failed, once again, to destroy TNKR. But there’s always a new day.

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