So you wanna volunteer with TNKR!

Great choice, but there are some things you need to know to reach your goal. TNKR has developed its own culture and process, and we are always seeking volunteers who want to help us to continue to develop so we can offer great education opportunities for North Korean refugees.

Here’s our process for applying!

  1. Application
  2. Customized resume
  3. State-level ID.
  4. Signed Waiver
  5. Follow-up!

Here it is, step-by-step, and will be updated as necessary.

  1. Application

Here are the most important links, you can apply as a volunteer tutor, coach, or join TNKR’s Volunteer Leadership Academy.

Why why why? Some people naturally want to know why they need to submit an application. Isn’t it enough for them to send an email or just call us to let us know they will drop by, grab some refugees, and head off on their merry way?

Slow down!

  • NGO: TNKR is an official non-profit organization registered with the Seoul City Government. TNKR is not a social club, a hangout joint, a language exchange, or a meetup group. So we need to build a real organization with a transparent process, proper data collection, accountability and protection of participants.
  • Multiple projects: We have many activities going on, it can be confusing to newcomers. Tutor? Coach? Volunteer Leadership Academy? Track 1? Track 2? Forums? Book Club discussions? I occasionally receive emails from people who write, “Hey Casey! I want to join your next meeting!” Then I think, for example, about all of the orientation sessions and meetings we are holding this month.

2. Customized Resume

Be careful! This may be the trickiest step during the application process! Some people ignore our guidelines and send their standard resume, which we reject until they get it right.

The most important thing to know about this step is that the resumes are for the refugees. When we say that TNKR is refugee-centered, that starts with the resume being formatted for them. They don’t need a detailed accounting of your academic and professional career or a resume you would send to a company in the US or South Korea.

What they need to know is: When and where are you available to tutor or coach? What are your particular teaching or coaching skills?

So watch this step! Or you might fall out of TNKR before you ever get started. First, our resume guidelines.

Why do we have these guidelines, and why can’t volunteers send in whatever format they want?

  • One-page maximum resume: Some volunteers have sent resumes as long as 12 pages. If every volunteer did that, and we had 15 volunteers apply, then refugees would need to wade through 180 pages.
  • Word document: We need the resumes all formatted with Word without any fancy graphics. Really, we have had some people with some high-tech resumes! Why is that a problem? We receive the resumes, then copy and paste the information from all of the applicants. You can see why PDF or other document formats could cause a problem, with those fancy-dancy graphics falling off the page.
  • One-paragraph self-introduction: Why in the world would we require such a thing? The refugees want to know who you are! Who are these nice people willing to give their time to help them learn English? Some of the statements, some are really sappy. Anyway, be sure to include this, because it is the first time that refugees get to “know” you, before later meeting in person.
  • Teaching (or coaching) preferences: We restrict this to two items. Many applicants declare they can teach anything, but with 15 people all saying they can teach anything, that won’t be a good guide for refugees! Some refuges want to focus on particular skills, and would like to study with a tutor who really wants to focus on that. So how can we help them make good choices when choosing their tutors? One way is not by overloading them with a bunch of information!!!!

Just follow the resume template, and you will be on the expressway to volunteering with TNKR.

  • 3. State-level ID

Some volunteers ask us why they need to submit a state-level ID.

  • NGO: There’s that term again! TNKR is an official non-profit organization registered with the Seoul City Government. TNKR is not a social club, a hangout joint, a language exchange, or a meetup group. If there is ever a scandal, #metoo, or some other problem arose from the reckless actions of someone in our organization, then TNKR would probably get shut down. Some people have asked if they could submit library cards, gym cards, and other forms of ID. Nope! It needs to be a state-level ID, preferably an ARC for non-Koreans and Korean ID cards for South Koreans, but passports are the second choice.
  • Protection of refugees and volunteers: It gives refugees security when they know that we have the ID of everyone who joins us. We require all refugees to also submit identifying information. We have also had North Korea sympathizers and watchers join our organization with the goal of finding “dirt.” We have even had people try to avoid submitting IDs or insisting they don’t need to give us their real names. That’s not a good volunteer!

4) Sign a Waiver

Some applicants have tried to avoid submitting a signed waiver and applicant even altered one line that he didn’t like. That’s not ethical and will get you barred from TNKR! You can email it (recommended) or sign it at our office. Why do we require a waiver?

  • NGO: There’s that term again! TNKR is an official non-profit organization registered with the Seoul City Government. TNKR is not a social club, a hangout joint, a language exchange, or a meetup group.
  • TNKR culture: We have developed our own culture and need volunteers who agree to abide by our process. We are a serious organization focused on helping North Korean refugees improve their English or tell their stories. Volunteers who consider themselves to be free agents within our organization are like poison to the culture we have developed.
  • Recommended by an evaluator: We have had three researchers study our organization, this is one of the recommendations from the first evaluator back in 2014 that we were given when we let her know we were considering becoming an official organization.

5) Follow up!~!~!

We receive many emails, messages, calls. Some people are serious and really and really want to volunteer, some others are just checking around with different organizations, and some others are just curious. If you want to get our attention, then start the application process!

  • Janice Kim: She is TNKR’s volunteer Academic Coordinator. Some months we receive as many as 50 applicants. Yes, she manages the entire process as a volunteer. She checks every detail, personally messages every applicant, and will often call applicants in advance.

So do you still want to be a TNKR volunteer?

If yes, then get the application process started! Some people are able to get this done within an hour. Some others take several days to figure out the process.

Some applicants unlikely to fit in with TNKR show up ready to lecture us about how we should change our application and process, without understanding that we have very specific reasons for our process.

And some struggle and give up, angry.

It doesn’t have to be that way, if you follow the steps above!

If our process is not acceptable for you, then I strongly recommend that you find a different organization that you can lecture to, I’m sure that many are waiting for such a person to join them.

For everyone else ready to follow our process, wants to help us continue our particular approach, and will respect the way we operate, then please, join TNKR!

You can have a lovely time and meet great people!


A final note, and this one isn’t required: Each volunteer who makes an effort to fundraise for the organization can make a big difference.

Setting the standard: We have now had almost 200 fundraisers set up by volunteers. Other organizations are amazed that our volunteers give their time as well as try to raise a dime for TNKR! Other organizations have reached out to me, asking me for advice about how they could have a similar campaign with volunteers. When they talk about it, volunteers dismiss them or discuss the ethics of engaging in fundraising.

Inspiring others: One of our fans was so inspired that he vowed to match the donations we receive at our super incredible 2019 Matching Donation Challenge. Because TNKR must move out of its current office by July 2019, we will use this money to acquire a suitable office.

Skin in the game: Some volunteers who fundraise or make donations have a deeper connection to TNKR. They don’t want the money they raised to go to waste and after informing relatives about us, they are more proud than when they remain anonymous. So join us, help us continue building a quality organization offering education opportunities for North Korean refugees!


Casey Lartigue

TNKR co-founder and International Director

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