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2017-07-22 TNKR 61st Matching session

REFUGEE TESTIMONIALS

Student 1:
I am a student who attended the TNKR Matching Session on July 22, 2017.
I arrived at 1:00 pm.
It was very apparent that Mr. Casey, Ms. Eunkoo, and Youngmin teacher were very busy preparing for the session.
As the session began, the 12 volunteer tutors introduced themselves one by one. All of them had such warm smiles on their faces, and I felt honored to be given the opportunity to study with them as a North Korean refugee. Words cannot adequately convey how happy I felt to see so many volunteer tutors willing to help us improve our English.
It also dawned on me how much the international community was focusing on the situation surrounding the Korean peninsula, particularly in North Korea.
It was also fascinating to see all the students introducing themselves one by one and being given the power to choose their own tutors. It was a very special system unheard of in other organizations.
As a student, I was particularly thankful for the strict policy of only using English and banning the use of Korean in classes. I initially planned to choose 2 tutors, but I ended up choosing 4 tutors.
Two students even chose 5 tutors each.
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to all the tutors from various countries (USA, UK, New Zealand, etc.) for caring so much about us despite their busy professional schedules.
And I would like to sincerely thank TNKR for shining a light of hope to all the North Korean refugee students.
I also feel hopeful that all of this English support, big and small, will have a monumental impact on the Unified Korea in the future.
Hurrah to the Great Unified Republic of Korea! Glory to our elders from the United States of America!

Translated by: Youngmin Kwon

Edited by: Anna Martinson

 

TNKR began in March 2013 with co-founders Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue matching a few North Korean refugees with volunteer tutors at a small “English Matching” session. Yesterday TNKR held its 61st Language Matching session. We have now matched almost 300 refugees with more than 600 tutors and coaches. We’ve designed sessions so that that tutors teach at least 2 refugees at least twice a month. That means that refugees can have a few tutors but volunteers won’t be overburdened. The result is that in a typical session, refugees select at least three tutors each and volunteers can have two refugees each. Yesterday worked out so that tutors accepted 2.5 refugees each and refugees hauled away 4.3 tutors each.

  • 12 tutors
  • 7 refugees

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2017-07-19 Something is going on…

  • Many refugees have been applying for TNKR.
  • Major media (CNN, the Guardian) are finding me again.
  • Volunteers are contacting us, asking how they can help.

Something is going on…

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Several meetings today in three different locations across Seoul.

I started the day participating in a Roundtable discussion at the Korea Times office near Seoul Station.

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I then was interviewed by the Guardian. I usually like to do such interviews while I am sitting at my desk. But in this case, I did the interview in a taxi on the way to our shared office with Save NK. 

My quote has been featured by EuroNews.

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We then returned to the TNKR Study Center. We had two feedback sessions with refugees, two more orientations with tutors to make sure the refugees have enough choices at this weekend’s Matching session.

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2017-07-12 TNKR interviewed about volunteering

Researchers who usually contact us at TNKR want to talk to refugees studying with us. But today was a bit different:

  • According to the researchers who interviewed us today, TNKR is seen as a pioneer in the field of volunteering in South Korea. So they wanted to learn about our process, history, and development. They hope to highlight us so more South Koreans can know about what we are doing. Their focus isn’t on us helping refugees, but on our approach when it comes to volunteering. In many programs, volunteers just drop in, there is no real registration process, but we have high expectations for volunteers. As one of our previous volunteers said, “Volunteering doesn’t have to mean no standards.”
  • The researchers wanted to know about the volunteers. It went a step deeper than South Koreans surprised that foreigners are helping North Korean refugees. Their focus was more on what motivates people to volunteer when they come to South Korea. If South Koreans are more aware of what we are doing then they may be motivated to volunteer.
  • I also let them know that 25% of TNKR tutors also raise money for the organization.

So it was a nice interview!

*** Read more

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2017-07-11 TNKR Hall at Bumyeong HS

When I moderate or host events featuring NK refugees, I try to limit myself to just a few minutes of setting the stage for the refugees to speak. I know that the audience is interested in hearing directly from refugees. So I usually pass the microphone.

I spend so much time organizing events for refugees to speak that I get surprised these days when someone features me as the speaker. Yesterday was one of those days, when I spoke at Bumyeong High School. In case it wasn’t clear that I was the main event, then I just had to take a look around at all of the photos welcoming me to the school!

 

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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.

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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.

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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 TNKR featured in Neon Magazine (Germany)

Jun Michael Park posted on Facebook: SEOULMATES, NEON Magazine, 07/17.

A story on how the NGO (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees is teaching English to North Korean refugees and enabling them to reach higher and achieve more. cc: Sharon Jang Casey Lartigue Jr. Eunkoo Lee
Text: Jurek Skrobala
Photos: Jun Michael Park
Special thanks to Amélie Schneider and Frauke Schnoor.