, , , ,

Happy Birthday, Dave Fry!

Happy birthday to TNKR Assistant Director Dave Fry! From our first discussion it was clear that he was not going to be drive-by volunteer just dropping in.

Read more

, , , , , , ,

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.

, , ,

Happy Birthday, Eunhee Park!!!

Eunhee Park, a TNKR Special Ambassador and a member of TNKR’s Refugee Leadership Team, is celebrating her birthday today! Unfortunately, she “celebrated” with a difficult exam at the end of her freshman year in college.

I am always inspired by her passion for life and joy of freedom. She is still the only refugee in TNKR history to go from Track 1 only (for English study) to Track 2 (public speaking). Here’s the column I wrote a few months ago about her incredible transformation.

When I first met Eunhee in April 2015, she didn’t use her real name and she didn’t show her face in photos. She joined TNKR so she could study English. In the group photo in the bottom right corner, she is hiding behind others, with the peace sign.

 

****************************************************************************************** Read more

, , , , , , , ,

2017-05-18 TNKR presentation to Australian students

Thursday was one of those days we could really appreciate how much TNKR has grown. With very little money, we have created an NGO that provides practical learning opportunities for refugees and has gained respected internationally.

We have had more than 570 volunteer tutors, but just a handful have committed to us long-term. Of the 270 refugees who have joined us, the same is true, just a handful have stuck to us. Having people around us has taken a lot of pressure off us. And now a new thing is happening–we are no longer at the center of every activity.

***

TNKR presentation to Australian students

Two TNKR Ambassadors and TNKR co-founders Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue spoke to a group of MBA students visiting from Australia. Here’s our group photo after the session.

Some venues have standing room only. Ours included sitting on the floor and standing. My math isn’t great, but 20 chairs, 24 visitors, 6 volunteers=not everyone will get a chair.

***

TNKR Special Ambassador Cherie Yang was the winner of our fifth English speech contest, so now expectations are higher every time she speaks. And she meets the challenge!

***

Eunhee has gone from being anonymous to a regular speaker with great confidence.

The students had many thoughtful questions and said they learned a lot.

 

We had a full house!

TV stations often have a “Green room” where guests wait for their chance to go on the show. The TNKR green room is a study/storage/waiting room.

Support TNKR

***

Standing with TNKR

Over the past few years, we have had almost 600 volunteer tutors and coaches volunteer with TNKR. An important thing for us is having volunteers commit to us long-term. Last year Youngmin Kwon joined us as a full-time volunteer, taking on various roles (assistant academic adviser, project manager of the Bring My Father Home project, translator, office manager). More recently, Dave Fry has joined us as Assistant Director of Publicity and Professor Tony Docan-Morgan has joined TNKR as a Senior Fellow of Communication and Advocacy. The Professor evaluates speeches by TNKR ambassadors and speakers and gives them specific feedback. He has been teaching communications for 15 years, he is so good that I have been recruiting him to become my speech coach. He has conducted three 1:1 feedback session for refugees who participated in our speech contest in February. We want the speech contest to be a learning opportunity in addition to the other benefits.

The Professor going line by line with Cherie Yang over her prize-winning speech.

Feedback session 2 with another refugee who has competed in TNKR speech contests. After the session, he declared, “I learned so much, I think I can win next time!”

Speech feedback session 3: She said aspects of public speaking that she had never considered, that she will be able to use the techniques in her classes. She doesn’t show her face, but she said she has gained confidence in giving a public speech even though her English isn’t that strong.

 

TNKR discussion about our upcoming brainstorming session. Anna Martinson (seated) and Dave Fry (arms folded) will be leading the session. Spencer has joined TNKR as a fundraising intern and Chansook is a South Korean fan of TNKR who dropped by to volunteer for a few hours.

 

TNKR Assistant Director Dave Fry is a tutor, fundraiser, donor, motivator and office comedian who is helping us develop long-term strategy.

***

One of the important developments about TNKR is that refugees in the program have been standing by our side. The ultimate test of a program is: Do the people who are benefiting from the program have a connection to what you are doing? Are they willing to stand by your side?

TNKR Special Ambassador Cherie Yang has taken on a leadership role within TNKR. She is always ready to help, even shooting a promotional video for TNKR.

Joseph is one of the first refugees I met years ago. He brings us gifts and could eventually partner with us on a business project.

Support my fundraiser for TNKR

 

 

, , , , , ,

2017-05-14 “A Woman is a Flower” TNKR Global Leadership Forum 2

TNKR held its second Global Leadership Forum on Sunday May 14, featuring speakers discussing the lives of North Korean women. The event was co-sponsored by the Working Group on North Korean Women.

Lee So-yeon kicked off the forum by discussing the brutality that she and other North Korean women suffered in the military, such as being raped by military leaders. It was another reminder about a brutal regime that does not respect the rights of individuals.

Eunsun Kim, author of A Thousand Miles to Freedom, then discussed her escape from North Korea. Many of the attendees began crying when she discussed the conversations she had with her mother when they thought they might starve to death.

Lee Juseong, author of Sunhee, wrapped up the forum by discussing specific statistics related to North Korean women and calling on the South Korean government to do more to rescue North Korean refugee women from China.

TNKR Speech Fellow Tony Docan-Morgan kicked off the event, TNKR co-directors Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue briefly introduced TNKR, then after the speakers and Q&A, TNKR Assistant Director Dave Fry issued a call to action.

The room fit about 60, and we had about 70 or so in attendance, with a few latecomers having to stand.

 

 

****

 

 

 

, , , , , ,

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.

This was unexpected! One of the refugees we recently met in the UK came to South Korea on a short visit. We had a feedback session with her to learn about her education needs. Here’s my Korea Times column about our trip to the UK.

She couldn’t stop laughing when I said I wanted to take a photo with her. Then when she realized how I was going to shield her face, yes, that’s her laughing as we take a photo.

Here are some college students who want to volunteer to help us with office management.

Jeeyeon has been volunteering with TNKR since August 2016. She was in this CSR video done for TNKR by one of our South Korean volunteers. you can see her from the 3:30 minute mark.

These college students would also like to volunteer in the office.

Expert volunteers! Anna and Spencer are both joining to help us with fundraising and outreach!

TNKR  Assistant Director Dave Fry tutoring TNKR Special Ambassador Cherie Yang.

One of the refugees in TNKR was shocked to see my name in yesterday’s Korea Times as she was reading it. She sent this screen-shot.

, , , ,

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.

Read more

, , , , , ,

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.

Read more

, , , , ,

Random thoughts, rainy Friday morning

Some random TNKR stuff this Friday morning:
* Who can spit in the face of someone who is smiling? That’s an old Korean saying. This morning, a refugee who recently joined our program was late for her class, again. I was going to read her the Riot Act, but she had such a big smile on her face, greeted me with such a happy “Good morning!!!” that even the grumpy TNKR co-director laughed, decided to save the lecture for another day.
* Volunteer doesn’t have to mean low quality: We have had 50 people apply to join TNKR since March 11. That’s even though we have raised our expectations for volunteers. I’m happy to report that I have failed, once again, to destroy TNKR!
* Big Day Tomorrow: I emailed all of the applicants accepted for tomorrow’s orientation for Track 2. I hope others will join the Open House, but the Orientation is invitation-only for those who have already fulfilled all of the items on the application checklist.
* Reality: Some people whine that I mention TNKR’s pathetic budget too often, but I have learned when I mention it that we get some donations, when I don’t mention it, we don’t get any donations. So what should I do? Give in to the whiners?
* Resumes: TNKR is volunteer, so perhaps applicants don’t take it seriously. But you would not believe how many resumes I receive with the title “Resume” or “TNKR resume.” What ends up happening is that the resumes get labeled “Resume (1)” and “Resume (2).” If your application has ever gotten rejected by HR or managers at companies, sometimes it is because of the screening process. As one executive VP told me years ago, “If people don’t use common sense when applying for a job, they won’t use it after they get hired, either.”
* All alone: Eunkoo Lee, Youngmin Kwon, Dave Fry and Tony Docan-Morgan are all out of the office today. I’m the only authorized staff member here today. So everyone messaging me should understand that I might be slower than usual in responding.
* Be careful what you ask for: I sent out a reminder to tutors a few days ago to send in their late reports, so it has been raining reports on my head ever since then! Sometimes I think I would be better off just turning TNKR into a hiking club. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with so many reports and other administrative tasks. It is now the end of the month, so I will be going through all of the reports (more than 200 again) from this month.
, , , , ,

2017-03-25 “Hello, Konglish!” Hello, Jinhee Han!

The “steak” of Teach North Korean Refugees is our English tutoring project. The “sizzle” is when refugees in our public speaking project give public speeches. Yesterday, before a crowded room at Seoul KOTESOL, North Korean refugee Jinhee Han gave her first public speech in English. She was amazing, the crowd was really interested: She was an English teacher in North Korea before she escaped to South Korea.

***

Jinhee first joined TNKR in 2013, back when TNKR was “English Matching,” and still just a hobby for the co-founders. Jinhee has remained in touch, although she has been too busy with her life teaching North Korean refugees. Plus, she is embarrassed to be introduced as an English teacher from North Korea because people will have high expectations about her English. I think because of it that she has avoided talking with people about her background. Yesterday, she gave her first public speech in English, discussing her English teaching career in North Korea and also discussing English education in North Korea. The crowd was clearly moved by her speech. She still prefers to remain anonymous, but last night she let us know how much she enjoyed it, and that she is willing to do it again. She has watched TNKR and stayed in touch over the years. She said she was crying as she listened to our speeches, she could truly see the impact that TNKR has had on North Korean refugees, and she thanked the many volunteers who have given so much of their time to help NK refugees adjust. We have encouraged her over the years not to give up on studying English because of the expectations some have and that she should ignore the quick-to-judge people.

She said that she felt so encouraged seeing that so many foreigners were so interested in hearing about her experience as English teacher, she would have never believed this could happen.

************************************************

Who was the hardest-working man not affiliated with the conference organizing team? TNKR Assistant Director Dave Fry! The co-directors were able to relax, think about their speeches, and provide support rather than having to lead at every moment.

Dave has the right personality to be the official TNKR Greeter!

*******************************************

After we wrapped up our panel, it was then photo time! We got a lot of great feedback. People were moved by Jinhee’s speech. They also loved hearing what TNKR co-director Eunkoo Lee had to say–it was also her first formal speech in English at a conference. I had to talk her into it, she is a shy lady, but she presented great insights about what refugees tell her about TNKR. In my case, I was amazed that several people told me that they came out to hear me speak, that some of them are regular readers of my Korea Times column. A few who have heard me speak say they learn something new every time, even though I am always talking about TNKR.

Some of the people we met promised they would get involved with TNKR, as a volunteer or fundraiser. One of the attendees even pledged to sell some of her artwork, and to donate the proceeds to TNKR!

Assistant Academic Adviser Youngmin Kwon is not pictured many times, that’s because he was the man behind the camera yesterday!

It was a team effort and an enjoyable time informing so many people about challenges North Korean refugees face and the role that TNKR has embraced in trying to give support to some of them.