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2018-01-13 What a Beautiful Night: TNKR fundraiser by Sandra and Amanda

One of TNKR’s underlying goals is to build a community of support around North Korean refugees. We do this by connecting them with volunteer tutors and coaches.

What happens when a community rallies around TNKR? That’s what it felt like at the Hidden Cellar when TNKR fans Sandra Durinick and Amanda Sheffy hosted a fundraiser for us last night. They rounded up a team that included Samantha Murphy, Kim Noriko Durinick, Jamila Charles, Reza Carr, Jay Wiltz, Hannah Ruppert, Renee Dupuis, Tom Moran, Jamie Kembrey, 송인환 and Hyeona Hong. (Thanks to Kim Noriko Durinick for adding the names.)

I should have said more about TNKR, but my entire speech was thanking everyone. TNKR volunteers, our new fans, everyone rallying around our humble project helping North Korean refugees.

It was a special night in TNKR history, one that we will never forget. In all, the team raised more than 1 million won. It was our special night, because we won an additional 340,000 won in a final raffle—I pulled the number of TNKR Academic Coordinator Janice Kim. She promptly donated the money—I can’t promise that I would have donated it if I had pulled my own number!

Today we were back to the grindstone, holding two orientation sessions for incoming tutors and students. It was tough, doing this on a Sunday, after working at TNKR for every day so far this year. But we were all walking on air after last night’s wonderful fundraiser.

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TNKR’s Million Won Fundraising Club

TNKR’s Million Won Fundraising Club


Cherie Yang, Special Ambassador, “탈북민 영어교육프로그램 모금

Sungju Lee, Ambassador, “Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee (autograph)



Casey Lartigue, TNKR co-founder and International Director, “Casey Lartigue’s Matching Donation Alert” “Casey Lartigue’s fundraiser for TNKR,” “KC’s 2017 Birthday Matching Grant,”

Dave Fry, TNKR Assistant Director and tutor, “Help me help North Korean Refugees

Tony Docan-Morgan, Senior Fellow, “Tony’s TNKR Birthday Fundraiser! 🙂,” “I’ll Mail You Korean Stickers!” “Thanksgiving, Black Friday, & Freedom

Youngmin Kwon, Academic Adviser and tutor, “Support North Korean Refugees & Human Rights!

Janice Kim. Academic Coordinator and tutor, “Janice’s 30th Birthday Fundraiser for TNKR!

Spencer Kim, Intern Coordinator and tutor, “Fund TNKR’s Future


Renee Cummins, November 2016 party


Sandra Durinick & Manda Sheffy, January 2018 fundraiser


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2017-12-21 Who was more inspired!

How often do you have a meeting, with both sides declaring, “I’m so inspired by you!”

It happened last night, when I met Rola Brentlin (recommended to me by Nigel Ashford and Kerry Halferty Hardy) during her short trip to Korea. She posted on Facebook that she was inspired to learn about TNKR.  In my case, I was inspired that she took such an interest in TNKR, and then took that interest to the next level! She wants to help TNKR with funding! 

“Inspiring meeting with Casey Lartigue Jr. who runs an organisation helping North Korean refugees. I would very much like to help them with funding, any ideas for how we could raise some funds for this important work is welcome!”

We now have more than 60 volunteers and fans who have set up fundraisers. Recently we have had well-connected people express interest in helping us build up TNKR. That is always inspiring!

Support TNKR



2017-08-15 Cycling ceremony

TNKR was one of the beneficiary organizations of the “Korea’s Rivers Cross Country Cycling Road Tour.” The riders raised 1 million won to be split between two organizations.

I had the honor of handing out awards to riders and being treated like a VIP.

It was such a busy day, I regret that I had to leave early to get to another event. I felt like a politician showing up, shaking hands, taking photos, then rushing off to another event…


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Is this what grassroots looks like?

Thanks to volunteers coming together to raise money, TNKR can pay its rent and cover basic necessities! One day we may even be a sustainable organization, we have been building a community of support around NK refugees. Recognizing our unconventional approach of focusing on 1:1 tutoring rather than workshops or glamorous fact-finding trips abroad, we realized that we must rely on our volunteers and others who support our work, not big companies or goverment.

So far this year, 95 tutors and 60 refugees have joined TNKR. We strongly recommend that all tutors set up a fundraiser on our new crowd-funding website. We now have 4 months of results.

Based on entry into TNKR, here’s how our volunteers and fans have done at fundraising this year:

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2017-06-04 Refugees join TNKR Matching Grant Challenge!

I’m proud to announce that 5 North Korean refugees in TNKR have joined our effort to secure a 4 million won matching grant gift! Our challenge? Raise 4 million (about $3,500) won by June 15, then we get the 4 million won gift. So every donation really counts.

They grew up in a country with virtually no such thing as civil society or NGOs engaged in fundraising. Now they are raising money for TNKR, learning the value of civil society.

Donate to the following fundraisers set up by TNKR students, the donations will be doubled!

Click the names below to view each refugee’s fundraiser (in Korean and English):

1) Cherie탈북민 영어교육프로그램 모금

2) Eunhee당신이 바로 탈북민들의 운명을 바꿀수도 있는 멋진 사람이란걸!


4) 설향먼저 온 통일에게 꿈을 키워주세요

5) Jun, I Love TNKR

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2017-05-29 TNKR’s BtoB Sweatshop Opens

TNKR is about to enter into a Kpop music cult.

A lovely mom and daughter visited us yesterday to donate about 100 book bags to TNKR. They say they have about 200 more, but they couldn’t fit all of them in their car (they drove from Incheon to our office in Seoul). Their plan: We can sell the bags with the patch from a popular Kpop group (BtoB), all proceeds will be donated to TNKR! We will be including a small TNKR patch, which I’m sure many of the kids will rip off.

Mom was going to sew them on, but I suggested that it would be better for TNKR to do that. It turned out to be a great idea, because we happened to have some new interns starting with us! They sewed the patches on 13 bags yesterday! The high school student will take the lead in connecting us with BtoB fans so hopefully they will rush to our website like teenage girls at a music concert rushing the stage.

Here’s the fundraising page to purchase bags.

If you’d like to spend a few hours sewing, stop by the TNKR office!


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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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TNKR fundraising reports

At one point, TNKR was down to 37,000 won in the bank. Survival became an issue, it was going to be difficult to help refugees if we didn’t have money and we wouldn’t be able to expand operations operating like that.

After a year of asking volunteers to set up fundraisers or events, we tried something new: An all-in-1 website that would avoid the problems of most crowd-sourcing sites. February 1 was the official starting date, so it has now been three months, a good time to review our progress.

The great news: paying our rent and for basics will no longer be a problem if fundraising continues at this pace. With our basic necessities taken care of, we are thinking bigger.

We have had 56 volunteers and fans set up fundraisers on our behalf. It has been really encouraging to see people, sometimes strangers until they joined or reached out to us, attempt to help us grow. I checked all 56 fundraisers at the give.teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org website. So far, of the 56 fundraisers set up:

22 have raised money, 34 have not, many others are working on their plans.

Status Overall number Amount raised Average amount raised Average goal
Succeeded 22 $6,062.31 US

(6,930,131 won)

$275.56 US

(315,005 won)

$591.64 US

(676,332 won)

Failed to raise any so far 34 $0 US

0 Won

$0 US

0 Won

$225.89 US


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