A special feature about TNKR Matching sessions is that refugees get to choose their tutors. The refugees do the choosing based on when they arrive at our office. In our early days, we hosted sessions at other offices, so we usually weren’t allowed in before noon for our 2 pm sessions.
Then we moved to our current office in July 2016, so refugees started arriving earlier, with the record earliest arrival getting to our office at 9:20 a.m. Yes, almost 5 hours early.
As of 2018-03-17, we now have a new record: 1:15 a.m.

If I had a time machine, then back in 2013, I would have brought TNKR co-founder Eunkoo Lee to this moment. Back when we first started TNKR, she believed that North Korean refugees were passive and couldn’t choose for themselves. Her background is in North Korean studies, she worked as a researcher for about a decade, including several years as a lead researcher interviewing North Korean refugees. Everything in her experience had told her that refugees couldn’t choose for themselves.

At midnight about two hours ago, Eunkoo called me to tell me that one of the refugees wanted to sign in and sleep at our office so she would have first dibs on tutors. The refugee studied the resumes of tutors closely and has already put five tutors on her hit list. She has clear strategy about what she wants to study and is practicing her introduction (she messaged me asking me for last minute help with pronunciation).

I came to the office, let her sign in, then pushed her out the door, she had already proven that she was ready to stay over night with her overnight bag.

Yes, if I had a time machine,

  1. I would bring Eunkoo Lee to this day, to show her that by designing the program so that refugees have the power to choose that they would surprise us with how aggressive they are and can be.
  2. And I also would have told Eunkoo, “We might need to stop this English project for refugees before it takes over our lives.”



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