TNKR is getting ready today for Matching session #86. We began this little hobby back in 2013, became an official organization in 2016. We have 8 refugees signed up to choose among more than a dozen tutors.

The session starts at 2 pm.

The first student arrived at 9:10 am.

Yes, almost five hours in advance. That’s because students get to choose tutors based on the time the students arrive at our office to register the day of the Matching session. They have had an initial interview, orientation, and now it is Matching day!

The first student was thrilled when she learned that she was first!

Before we had our own office and were relying on others for meeting space, we typically could not show up more than 2 hours in advance. But after we got our own office, refugees could show up at any time. And they began to do so. One refugee called at midnight, asking if she could register early. So I met her at the TNKR office at 1:10 am, she signed in at 1:15 am. We have had some other students ask/threaten to stay at our office overnight so they can choose first.

We began telling refugees not to show up before 9 am!

We still call it “Matching,” which is a relic of the way we held our first session, with TNKR staff matching the refugees. Ever since then, it has been based on refugees choosing. The “match” these days refers to good matches–availability (day, time, place), refugees reasons for wanting to learn English to be matched with the preferred teaching interests of tutors.

Many many moons ago, when I was in graduate school at Harvard, I used to confidently tell my peers that programs need to be designed so that beneficiaries and participants have power to choose, that feedback mechanisms need to be set up on people’s actions, not their words! That’s true with TNKR, because refugees get to choose their tutors and they have the power to unchoose tutors if the matches aren’t good or tutors are more concerned with being buddies, hanging out, or doing research on them.

We occasionally have larger organizations asking us to send refugees to them, to justify their big budgets and projects that refugees apparently don’t really want. I constantly have people recommending to me workshops and ideas that refugees don’t ask for. When we mention those ideas to refugees, we see that most aren’t really interested. So I suggest to people that they set up their own organizations, and see if refugees will show up hours in advance!

I should return for an alumni reunion so I can tell my former Harvard classmates: “Told ya so!”


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TNKR is getting ready today for Matching session #86. We have 8 refugees signed up to choose among more than a dozen tutors.The session starts at 2 pm, the first student arrived at 9:10 am

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