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2017-05-04 New Volunteers, New Projects

Jenny stopped by the office to give us feedback about a new project idea. It is always delightful seeing us, she first joined TNKR in 2015 and comes back to us sometimes.

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2017-05-03 TNKR at CDS

How delightful!!! Students at the Cheongna Dalton held an art auction as a fundraiser for TNKR.

The whole thing was amazing.

  1. They decided to hold the art auction to raise money for us, but they didn’t even tell us about it!
  2. I was looking for an article about TNKR when I came across the information. I was shocked and amazed.
  3. I contacted the school, the teacher organizing the art auction told me that it was really real.
  4. I insisted that we would like to visit after the auction was over to thank them. It isn’t enough to just have them send us the money.
  5. It was technically a holiday, but because it is an international school they were available. TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee and TNKR Ambassador Eunhee Park were available, so this is how we spent a large part of Wednesday.

Eunhee was at the center of attention!!!

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2017-05-01 “I can speak English now”

Yesterday at TNKR:

  • Feedback sessions with two refugees
  • International reporter visits TNKR
  • Refugee designs bag for TNKR
  • In-house tutoring
  • Children taking over TNKR

Feedback session 1:

One of the refugees who came by for a feedback session with TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee talked how much confidence she has gained since studying in TNKR. She had previously studied at a language institute but she felt lost in the classes.

  • She never studied English when she was in North Korea.
  • In South Korea, she had taken English classes at language institutes, but felt lost. The South Koreans in the basic class clearly had studied English, whereas she was at the very beginning.
  • She studied on her own, but wasn’t really sure how to study.
  • Then, she saw Yeonmi Park’s One Young World speech. She thought about speaking out, but because of family still in NK, she decided against it, but continued cheering for Yeonmi.
  • She found out about TNKR, then she began chasing me, asking me to meet.

She joined TNKR a few months ago, she has been studying with three tutors since then. She has continued studying on her own, but feels she has some guidance after studying with native and fluent speakers. She says that her friends are amazed (“envy”) that she has three tutors who are helping her to improve her English.

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Feedback session 2:

When she first came to us, she only spoke Korean. She even seemed a bit suspicious of us at first. She hasn’t said it, but it seemed that she was wondering, “What’s the catch?” She began studying hard, then her tutor realized that he wasn’t helping her by speaking Korean to her. Then, a few few months later when their class was going to end because she was going to join the Matching program, she said the key thing for her was when her in-house tutor stopped using Korean to translate things for her. For the first time, she had to start thinking in English.

She says she is now active in her classes at school, that she has gained confidence her studying with two tutors.

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2017-04-28 “Dear Leader” author visits TNKR

We had a nice meeting then dinner with “Dear Leader” author Jang Jin-sung. He was a poet propagandist for NK dictator Kim Jong-il, his role was to convince South Koreans to support the NK regime. He later escaped to South Korea, he worked with a security agency connected to NIS, then later founded New Focus International.

He has made it clear that he is a fan of TNKR! He has proven it not only with his words, but his actions!

  1. Here’s a nice interview he did with TNKR’s co-founders a few months ago. (English, Korean)
  2. On June 24, he will be the featured speaker at TNKR’s third Global Leadership Forum. This will be a great chance to ask a question to a former member of North Korea’s elite and someone whose role it was to be sympathetic about North Korea.
  3. We will be announcing another update soon, TNKR’s Assistant Director Dave Fry is drafting the press release.

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2017-04-28 Not a drive-by reporter

Even though TNKR is for only adult students and volunteers, I have realized that we do need some toys for little people! Many of them can be distracted by videos or computer games, but some of them also like to explore the TNKR office.

A reporter who stopped by to interview me brought her children, including her daughter who seemed to be amazed that the man talking to her mother in the other room was also on the computer, so that bought us some time for the interview. Eventually she left with the last stuffed toy at the office, so next time, I can’t be sure what will happen when a little person shows up.

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2017-04-20 Hansarang Foundation Award ceremony

I remember the moment I was nominated for the special “Social Contribution” Prize awarded by the Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation.

My response: “Hahaha. I know I won’t win, but it is nice to be nominated.”

Then later I heard that I was a finalist, that’s when I began to take it seriously. Then I was informed that I had won. So last night, it was a great feeling to be on the stage, accepting the award, still not quite believing that I had won.

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There have been a few news articles about it: Read more

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2017-04-20 Visit to UN office, TV interview

  • Yesterday morning:
    • I was delighted to be part of an interview with one of the Big 3 networks in South Korea.
    • Part of it included another visit to the UN’s Seoul office.
  • Yesterday evening (my next post)
    • I was honored to win an award from a Korean foundation.

*** Read more

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2017-04-13 Pushed out of our office

Yesterday was our first full day back at the TNKR office after the TNKR directors visited England for a week.

  • Tutoring sessions
  • Speech coaching
  • Visit to an event location
  • Planning meeting for Global Leadership Forum

It finally happened. We ran out of space, so the TNKR co-directors were pushed out of their own office.

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2017-04-02 Track 2: Refugees taking charge

TNKR started in March 2013 as “English Matching.” It was a hobby for the co-founders, as they did this on the side. TNKR is now an emerging NGO with its own office. We still have no paid staff, but despite this, we have held 55 Language Matching sessions with about 270 refugees and more than 560 volunteer coaches and tutors. Yesterday’s session was special because it was a Track 2 Matching session. Whereas we hold at least one Track 1 session per month at which refugees choose tutors for English study, we only hold Track 2 sessions (public speaking and other communication) when enough refugees request it.

Yesterday 7 refugees chose among 9 coaches (3 had last minute scheduling and other problems so there were 9 instead of 12). TNKR is a self-study project, with the focus being on refugees finding their own way and telling their own stories. We connect them with volunteer tutors and coaches to help them with that. After having orientation and discussing their projects, the refugees are really eager to get started.

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