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2017-07-02 TNKR Matching: “When can I start?”

TNKR called an Emergency Matching session because we were getting so many requests from refugees. We decided to try to squeeze in another session before our regularly scheduled July 15 Orientation/July 22 Matching session. On such short notice, would we be able to recruit enough tutors?

Yes! Over the weekend, we had 2 orientations with refugees, 1 with tutors, an Open House with volunteers, and a fantastic Language Matching session yesterday. Below are some of my notes.

Participants at TNKR’s 60th Language Matching session:
6 refugees, 10 tutors.

When did refugees arrive in South Korea?
2008 (1)
2009 (1)
2013 (2)
2015 (2)

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2017-07-02 English Emergencies

I arrived at the TNKR office early this Sunday morning. The reasons?
 
* Two study sessions starting at 11 a.m.
* Skype call at 11:30 am.
* Waiting for refugees who may arrive early for the matching session.
* Orientation by TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee for a student who couldn’t make it yesterday.
* Another study session at 1 pm.
* Matching session from 2 pm.
 
Thankfully I arrived even earlier than I had originally planned. As I was starting to type this post, one student arrived at 10:50 a.m.! Yes, for a 2 pm session, she arrived more than 3 hours in advance. This beats the previous record of 11:30 a.m. Some fans wait in line to buy new tennis shoes or video games. Refugees in TNKR show up hours early so they will have the chance to choose tutors.
 
I think it was more than two years ago that TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee suggested that students choose based on when they arrive, and since then we have eliminated the problem of students showing up late. The issue now is that we must arrive early enough to meet students as they are arriving.
Eunkoo admits that she once thought that refugees were passive, but that if a program is designed properly, then even people who seemed to be passive can be actively engaged. We have a waiting list of 70 refugees eager to join TNKR, which is why we had an emergency orientation and will have an Emergency Matching session later today.
 
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We have two volunteers who are tutoring and coaching this morning, both classes started at 11 a.m. It is amazing that we have so many people willing to give so much of their time to help North Korean refugees learn English.
Mark is having his first coaching session at TNKR. He first learned about us from TNKR’s appearance on 이만갑. His student has been with us for quite a while, she has studied English in many places. She says the difference is that TNKR tutors focus on her particular learning needs, rather than her having to follow a curriculum or to study in a group session.
 
Louise has been tutoring in TNKR since late 2015. It is rare to have a tutor stay for so long with a single student. The student arrived about 20 minutes early for her class. What an improvement since she first began. She thanked me and said she is always thankful to TNKR for giving her such a great opportunity to study 1:1 with an English tutor for free.
 
Kaina joined TNKR earlier this year. She and her student have been studying continuously since then. This morning her student brought her a small gift. 🙂
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We recently called for an Emergency Matching session, thankfully we had 10 tutors who went through the application process and came to the session. When I called it, I wasn’t sure we could get enough tutors for a session. We will be having our 60th Language Matching session later today, so I will be updating this.
We held an Emergency Orientation yesterday afternoon to get prepared for today. 10 volunteers answered our call for a Language Matching session this weekend. I often say that TNKR could not survive without volunteers. We feel it even moreso this weekend because we have been able to squeeze in another Orientation and Matching session to slightly reduce the waiting list of 70 refugees.
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What’s even more incredible is that many of the volunteers stayed around for the Open House right after the Orientation. Anna Martinson, TNKR fundraising manager, led the session.
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2017-07-01 Emergency English? Hallelujah!

Years before TNKR, I was on the Young Executive Board of the Washington Scholarship Fund, we provided scholarships for low-income children in Washington, D.C.

One of the moments we all looked forwarded to was calling the families to inform them that a child had been awarded a scholarship. The responses were usually screams and shouts of “Hallelujah,” “Praise the Lord” and expletives of joy.

They couldn’t believe they had won a scholarship. Many of them would tell us that they had never won anything. They believed or hoped this would give their children the chance to go to a good school. We later converted the program from a privately funded to a publicly funded program when our lobbying led the US Congress to create the Washington DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Washington parents interested in school vouchers attend an orientation meeting at the DC Convention Center to fill out applications. Pictured, Juanda Benjamin (cq), center, gives her daughter DaQuanda, 9, a kiss as they listen to their options with other hopeful parents. This was after we converted the program from a privately funded to a publicly funded program. Photo credit: Washington Post

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Emergency Tutor Recruitment session (70 refugees on the waiting list)

A great and terrible thing is that TNKR has 70 North Korean refugees on the waiting list to get into our program.

The good news is that our program is in demand. Every day we have refugees asking us when they can join the program. Refugees already in the program are asking us when they can join again (after their tutors have returned to their native countries).

The bad news is that it is hard to meet the demand because we can only accept refugees into the program based on the number of available volunteer tutors.

Who is on the waiting list? I asked TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee to give me a few cases:

* One refugee who contacted us says he has an opportunity to study overseas but needs to improve his English.

* Two refugee dancers have opportunities to perform internationally, but they need English so they can answer basic questions.

* Two refugees who are singers are on our waiting list, they hope to improve their English so they can introduce themselves properly.

* A couple of refugees say they can’t graduate yet until they can score at a certain level of English.

* A housewife finally has time to study, but we aren’t sure when we can let her into the program, and we worry that when we can accept her into the program that she won’t have time to study.

* A couple of refugees with children hope they can improve their English to speak it with their children. Their children are all getting support to help them learn English, but there are few opportunities for adults.

* Several NK refugees have come to us asking if they can study English during the summer.

If you or anyone you know would be interested in tutoring, please let them know about our emergency Teacher Recruitment session this weekend.

We need a few more tutors to sign up to help refugees waiting for their opportunity to study 1:1.

Apply here: http://teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/volunteer/

Minimum 3 month commitment, twice a month.

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2017-06-27 TNKR loves Eunhee Park

We always look forward to Eunhee visiting TNKR. No matter how difficult it can be running an NGO, the office brightens up whenever Eunhee comes to visit.

She started the day by having an interview with a top media outlet.

We had a conversation about her future.

She and Ken Eom then gave speeches to high school students visiting Korea.

Then we had dinner.

She has really blossomed in the last two years, going from a refugee who didn’t use her name or show her face in photos. She is now a regular on TV, often gets interviewed by media, and shares her passion for life with everyone around her.

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2017-06-27 American high schoolers visit TNKR

Support TNKR

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Some American high school students visiting South Korea stopped by TNKR to hear speeches from two TNKR Special Ambassadors. As co-founder of TNKR, it was another beautiful moment, seeing two speakers who came to us in 2015 blossoming the way they have.

  • One if now a graduate student, the other is an undergraduate.
  • They both have improved their English a lot.
  • They have both improved their ability to make speeches. Practicing many times and working with many tutors and coaches has definitely helped them improve.
  • And they thank us TNKR so many times for the impact that it has had on their lives. Not only do they say this when they are with us, but I have heard from others that they praise us.
  • They both even raise money for TNKR! Thank you Ken Eom and Eunhee Park.
  • The students said they learned so much. It is really a great opportunity for them to learn directly from North Korean refugees the reality of that country and the challenges that refugees have when they make it to South Korea.
  • TNKR will continue making a difference in the lives of refugees and volunteers who join us.

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2017-06-27 Overpopulation at TNKR

  • If TNKR were the Earth, then environmentalists would condemn us as being overpopulated. It finally happened that we had too many volunteers in the office at one time, so not everyone could get a seat.
  • People often ask us what we would do if we had more money. One thing: Get a bigger office! We have a number of volunteers who want to work at our office, many tutors and refugees want to study at our office. But we lack the capacity.
  • We were squeezed out of the big room because Eunhee Park was getting interviewed.
  • Sometimes I feel like I’m in a bar, because it seems that I am the only person in the office who knows how to whisper. It needs to become the TNKR library, because we need to keep it quiet for study pairs and occasional interviews.

2017-06-24 “Dear Leader” TNKR Global Leadership Forum

TNKR held its third global leadership forum on Saturday June 24, “Dear Leader” featuring author Jang Jin-sung. The event was co-hosted with New Focus International. Mr. Jang discussed his escape from North Korea, analyzed various issues related to North Korea, and fielded a number of questions during Q&A. We took many photos, I will post many of them here, so it may take a moment or two for the photos to load up.

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2017-06-25 Speech Coach Orientation & Open House

Today is the 67th anniversary of the Korean War starting. We marked the occasion at TNKR by holding two planning sessions to help TNKR become more effective at helping North Korean refugees.

  • At 2 pm, we held a Speech Coach orientation for coaches who will be helping refugees entering TNKR’s 6th English speech contest. Tomorrow I should be holding one or two more orientation sessions for applicants who couldn’t make it today. If they all get their applications completed then we can start matching them together.
  • At 3:30 pm, we held an Open House session to discuss ways for applicants to get more involved with TNKR. It was one of our most productive sessions. If just half of the participants follow through then you can expect some big changes within TNKR!

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2017-06-19/21 Be a magnet

Years ago a former supervisor of mine gave me a fantastic compliment. He told me that I was an energy center. He added: “Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad, but there is always SOMETHING going on around you. You seem to be a magnet.”

These days, that SOMETHING is Teach North Korean Refugees. We are attracting volunteers, donors, fans, media. It has gotten to the point that we have staff volunteers rotating shifts in the office because we don’t have enough space to accommodate them all at the same time. I am amazed that we get so much done with such a limited budget and office space.

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