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2017-03-22 Pam Davidson, TNKR volunteer forever!

Back in March 2013, “English Matching” began quietly. One of the biggest changes occurred when Cho Joo Yeon joined us. She brought us so much energy that for the first time, we could think about expanding as an organization. She recruited volunteers for us. One of them who has remained with us, no matter where she goes, is Pam Davidson.

Whenever we were holding a meeting, Pam would come from “The End of the World” to join the session. She was then living several hours away from Seoul, apparently on the last road before you would land in water to the south of South Korea. Matching sessions, speeches, special events. It didn’t matter, she would join, or apologize. She even attended one of our events in North Carolina back in 2015.

She was the first TNKR volunteer to donate to us. That was at a time that we didn’t have an office, website, phone, or future!

Pam returned to the USA a while ago, but she has remained one of our cheerleaders. She is always saying on Facebook that she wishes she could watch our events. I have held off on recording events until we had a team in place that could do it in a professional way. We are not an organization with Internet buzz, we haven’t had a marketing or social media team in place, so we might put a lot of effort into it but only get 800 clicks. When refugee speakers in our program are ready to present, we want to do it in a professional way that they can be proud of!

Finally, because of donations from supporters, we finally have enough money in the bank that we can think about an expansion I have had in mind for a long time: A TNKR video project. If we are successful, we will finally be able to present stories of TNKR speakers in a professional way. Unlike many people, Pam doesn’t just give praise! As soon as I told her that we were setting up a video project, she set up a fundraiser to support it!

Pam Davidson joined TNKR as a volunteer in early 2014. Read more

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2017-03-21 TNKR featured by Koreana magazine

Teach North Korean Refugees has been featured in the Spring 2017 edition of Koreana magazine (Vol. 31 No. 1). The author of the article is journalist Kim Hak-soon, a Visiting Professor at the School of Media and Communication at Korea University.

Koreana (PDF)

 

 

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2017-03-18/19 Active, not busy

A bit earlier, a friend I haven’t seen since September asked me if I’m still busy. I said: “I’m not busy. I’m active!” That means that I’m doing many things, meeting many people. But I can always squeeze fun into my schedule, no matter how busy I may look to some people.

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TNKR’s upcoming schedule.

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2017-03-18 “Don’t Make Me Fly!”

This morning we coached a refugee who is getting prepared to give her first public speech in English when TNKR presents at the 13th KOTESOL Seoul conference. She was an English teacher in North Korea, but she lacks confidence to give a speech in English. So this morning we gave her feedback on her speech.

Step 1, she wrote her speech in Korean. We like it so the speakers deliver their speeches with as much of the original flavor as possible.

Step 2, TNKR volunteer translator Lee Saria translated it into English.

Step 3, I edited it.

Step 4, Eunkoo Lee and I gave her feedback today. She felt encouraged after the session. Before, she had been worried that we might want to cancel after hearing her speak. We tried to make it as realistic as possible by having her stand up to give the speech. Today I convinced Eunkoo Lee that we should buy a mic stand so that speakers can practice without holding the microphone and their speech text. She felt like she was flying her confidence was soaring.

Step 5: I will record the speech so she can follow the intonation and also use correct Texas pronunciation.

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2017-03-17 Inspired by Eunhee

Eunhee Park visited the TNKR office yesterday for classes with tutors Debbie Roberts and Kaina Ortiz. It is amazing to see her speaking in English. She joined TNKR almost two years ago at a basic level, and now she is laughing and joking in English! Those of you who haven’t read my Korea Times column about her, please do so, to see how incredible her story is. You can also read it in her own words at her fundraiser for TNKR.

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2017-03-16 Not everyone at McDonalds cooks hamburgers…

Something I hear very often: “Teach North Korean Refugees means that only teachers can volunteer at TNKR, right?” Another version: “But I’m not a teacher. Can I volunteer?” They are usually surprised to learn they can do things other than tutoring. As I often say in speeches: “Not everyone at KFC kills chickens. There are drivers, accountants, marketing specialists, salesmen, many other positions.”

Join us for TNKR’s Open House on April 1 to learn about many ways you can get involved.

Such as:

Tony is a professor in the USA teaching speech and communication. He has volunteered to analyze the speeches of refugees. He was at TNKR today for more than 7 hours, spending quite a bit of it analyzing the speeches from TNKR’s English speech contest. So much detail, I have already ordered him to avoid critiquing my speeches. As I told him: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

By the way, if you would like some nice Korean stickers, Tony will send them to you, if you donate at least 10,000 won to TNKR.

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2017-03-16 You Can’t Have Everything…

I love it when TNKR tutors and students study together at TNKR’s humble office.

  • Tutors feel more connected to the program.
  • Refugees are more likely to give us feedback when they see us more often.
  • We have a better understanding of the needs of the students.
  • Tutors are also more likely to share concerns as well as successes.

Everything is great, except for the fact that we don’t have enough space. There’s an old saying, “You can’t have everything.” As comedian Steven Wright later added: “Where would you put it?”

We have more students and tutors coming to the office, but where will we put them?

 

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2017-03-14 Lunch with the Freedom Rapper

As always, it was great to see Kim Chung-ho. He is one of those rare academics who is as interested in doing stuff as he is in analyzing. How many economics professors do you know who also like to rap?

He founded the company Freedom Factory. After I joined, he allowed TNKR to incubate there. Even at its founding he wasn’t sure what would happen, but he always welcomed TNKR. He remains a fan and is now a donor of TNKR. Without Prof. Kim, I’m not sure that TNKR would have survived. I joined Freedom Factory at the moment we were thinking about expanding TNKR beyond an informal group merely connecting refugees with tutors. Having Freedom Factory and the Atlas Network connected to us at that stage was crucial in giving us credibility, and it also gave TNKR co-founder Eunkoo Lee confidence in our effort to expand.

I was the referee in this rap video a few years ago, with Kim Chung-ho having a rap battle about economics. Here’s a Korea Herald article from a few years ago about the rap video, the article even quotes TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue:

A “Fail Harder” sign Kim had seen at Facebook’s head office in California last year had inspired him to be daring with education when new employee Casey Lartigue Jr. directed Kim to a rap video from his native U.S.

The video, pitting fictional representations of economists Friedrich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes against each other, inspired the CFE’s first foray into music, “More Grasshoppers than Ants.” Before long, a second video was in the works.

“At many companies, the boss is in charge. At CFE, whenever we want to do something new, he (Kim) says, ‘yes, let’s make it big!’ We have no excuses here, we have a boss who sets the kind of atmosphere that makes it okay to try and to have no shame if we fail,” said Lartigue.

 

 

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2017-03-15 TNKR presentation to American high school students

Four TNKR Ambassadors presented last night to a group of high school students visiting from the USA. The students had earlier gone on the DMZ trek, then wrapped up the day by talking with refugees in TNKR.

We had a great time, the students asked many questions and were deeply engaged.

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2017-03-12 Hottest Seat in Town (TNKR Matching 54)

At our speech contest on Feb 25, we squeezed 130 people into a room fit for 80, with some attendees at the back of the room having to stand. Yesterday at our Matching session, we squeezed 31 people into a room fit for 20. That means that the late-comers had to sit on the floor yesterday.

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