On Tuesday I received a phone call from a North Korean refugee I don’t know. She doesn’t speak any English and was excited, exasperated, frustrated and excited all at the same time explaining to me in Korean that she wants to study English in TNKR.

Yes, that was on my personal cell phone.

Eunkoo received two calls directly to her personal cell phone from refugees eager to join TNKR. Other refugees have been messaging us asking if they can join–and then when we meet them, they want to know, “When can I start?

It seems that our phone numbers have been posted anywhere, the proverbial bathroom wall with the message, “For a good time learning English, call TNKR…”

We continue meeting with each refugee joining TNKR, each initial interview takes about an hour. In addition, we also meet with other refugees who have already joined us, sometimes for feedback, sometimes for counseling sessions, other times to discuss their involvement within TNKR.

Over the last few weeks we have had many orientation sessions with volunteer tutors to start the year, so many of them say our program is so organized. I wish we would have started like this, just about everything we do is based on trial-and-lots of errors.

It amazes some people that we don’t recruit refugees. As I quoted Leonard Read in one of my speeches, the test of your effectiveness is if people seek your counsel. If you can get to the point that people are seeking you out with you recruiting them, then it means you are doing quite well.

Of course, that is a bit different when it comes to volunteers, it is necessary to recruit people when WORK is involved! 🙂 In that spirit, I have been thinking about some changes we can make to our English tutoring project:

  • Evaluator: The goal would be to develop a better assessment system. We give the students an introductory test, but I think it is time for us to upgrade it. Some of our tutors are so kind that they forget to push the refugees sometimes. I would like to have some evaluators who aren’t trying to be buddies with refugees, but would be like third-party evaluators who want to give the refugees a realistic assessment of their English levels.
  • Senior tutors: These tutors wouldn’t be matched with particular refugees, but would come into our office to help refugees with particular needs.
  • Emergency tutors: Some refugees sometimes need emergency help before an exam, interview for college or a job, a presentation in school, or some other short-term task requiring English. Ideally, these would be tutors who have already been in TNKR for at least six months and aren’t looking to be buddies with refugees.
  • Material development: We have tried with a curriculum but refugees rejected it. I do believe it would be useful to develop some special English lessons and materials for some specific needs that arise out of our classes.
  • Office: Yes, it isn’t a teaching need, but we do need an office from July 2019.

What could we do without tutors giving their time to tutor North Korean refugees? One of our volunteer tutors, Caylin, is now tutoring as much as three hours a day in our office.

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