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2018-01-11 Pushed to the bathroom

We have five rooms in our office–2 study rooms, 1 common area, 1 office for directors, 1 bathroom. At one point, all five rooms were being used, with one staffer making a phone call from the bathroom so he wouldn’t bother other meetings.

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2018-01-02 ‘Will my tutors quit?’

TNKR co-founder and National Director Eunkoo Lee received a phone call from a refugee who joined us recently. Her main comments and questions for Eunkoo:

Are my teachers okay even though I am an ABC level English speaker? They must be having a tough time dealing with me. So they might want to quit?

I was determined to try English only, but when I met my teachers, I guessed that some of them might be willing to use Korean because of my low level. But none of them have used it and one told me that it is against TNKR policy. I think this shows that TNKR teachers understand how refugees need to study English.

I am so happy to continue studying, but I am worried that my teachers will be bored helping a student like me who is so basic at English.

In addition to that student:

  • Eunkoo had three face-to-face interviews with refugees eager to join TNKR.
  • A refugee who is really eager called to ask if he can join the next Matching session. He recently joined us and wants to study more.
  • A refugee who has been studying in TNKR consistently since joining in early 2016 called to ask if she can rejoin soon.
  • A refugee who did not have a good experience in the past now sent a long message saying that she can now understand our approach. At that time (2014 or 2015), she thought there was a problem that we did not have a set curriculum that students had to follow. But she has heard from other refugees about the way the teachers adjust to the students, and she can see that she wasted her opportunity to study with us because she was waiting to be led by the teachers.
  • Plus many nice notes and messages from refugees in TNKR over the holidays and today.

When we have so much activity around us, of refugees reaching out to us, I think about those “experts” who “know” that refugees are passive and need to be led.


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2017-12-24 Refugee Transition Adjustment Transformation Integration Process

Applicants and bilinguals who struggle with the TNKR pedagogical stratagem will be politely dislodged and ejected for an opposite transition process from TNKR.”

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2017-05-13 “Hello Konglish!” TNKR at KOTESOL

TNKR presented “Hello Konglish!” at the National KOTESOL conference. TNKR International Director Casey Lartigue introduced the organization’s main activities, TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee discussed her findings based on feedback sessions with refugees, refugee Jinhee Han discussed her experience as an English teacher in North Korea.

We also had an information table. We were delighted that Leonie Overbeek stopped by our table, she has donated art work to TNKR.

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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.


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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2017-04-13 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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2017-03-24 Be Nice to Your Favorite NGO

Meeting #1: South Korean professional visiting from Hong Kong. He wanted to find ways he could help from Hong Kong.

Meeting #2: Feedback session with a North Korean refugee who arrived in South Korea in December 2015 and joined our program December 2016 after waiting for a few months.

I imagine that some of my peers who are involved in advocacy, abstract or analytical work about North Korea rarely or never have NK refugees seeking them out to thank them. Some of their work may be valuable, but it isn’t the type of work that leads to the people who benefit from what they are doing to praise them.

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2017-03-24 No Time for the News or clowns

  • I haven’t watched TV regularly in decades.
  • When I was a college student, I subscribed to the Boston Globe, New York Times, Washington Post, read numerous magazines. These days, I barely pay attention to the news.
  • We have so much going on at TNKR, it is hard to keep track of our own activities building TNKR, so the latest killings, scandals, bombings, shootings, gossip, celebrity weddings, etc., just don’t interest me. Life is much more interesting building something rather than watching the chaos that interests news editors, TV producers, podcast hosts, and others in the chattering class.
  • When people ask me what I have been doing, I tell them, “Let me check my Facebook to see.”

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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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