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!

3) KenTNKR IS A LITTLE BIG HERO(작지만 큰 사람 TNKR)

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.

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.

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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

258,222

Notes:

  • A few fundraisers who haven’t raised money yet will be running in marathons or have set up special events coming soon. I will be so delighted to move them into the “succeeded” category!
  • Those who raised money on average set higher goals, were more likely to post it on their social media, and also were more likely to update me about their progress..
  • Some of the 34 who failed to raise money so far are now joining TNKR so they may also raise money once it is official.
  • A couple of donations are pending.
  • One wonderful thing: We are no longer alone. We now have many people who are raising and donating money to TNKR.
  • I personally have enjoyed seeing many volunteers struggle with raising money. Some had thought it would not be difficult, but they have run into reality. I hope some of them will understand that, in my case, it isn’t just posting one fundraiser, but rather, it is thinking about how we are going to create a sustainable organization.
  • Not everyone enjoys being expected to raise money, some do it with the enthusiasm of military draftees in the middle of a war.

The champion fundraisers so far are also the tutors who taught the most hours in March 2017:

 

NAME Amount Raised
Youngmin Kwon 1,520,000
Dave Fry 1,202,955
Lauren 483,990
Ryan 401,559
Annie 390,491
Tony 359,958
Daniel 346,731
Cherie 330,000
Joolee 260,000
Hannah 250,324
Sean 210,000
Eunhee 202,249
Laura 200,031
Ken 170,000
Amy 120,000
Taylor 110,004
Leonie 98,282
Celena 86,416
Jennifer 77,370
William 69,773
Dylan 29,998
Carmel 10,000

Want to help? Our next fundraising brainstorming session will be on May 20 from 3 pm at the TNKR office.

Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

TNKR’s 2015 expenditures

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2017-03-22 Pam Davidson, TNKR volunteer forever!

Back in March 2013, “English Matching” began quietly. One of the biggest changes occurred when Cho Joo Yeon joined us. She brought us so much energy that for the first time, we could think about expanding as an organization. She recruited volunteers for us. One of them who has remained with us, no matter where she goes, is Pam Davidson.

Whenever we were holding a meeting, Pam would come from “The End of the World” to join the session. She was then living several hours away from Seoul, apparently on the last road before you would land in water to the south of South Korea. Matching sessions, speeches, special events. It didn’t matter, she would join, or apologize. She even attended one of our events in North Carolina back in 2015.

She was the first TNKR volunteer to donate to us. That was at a time that we didn’t have an office, website, phone, or future!

Pam returned to the USA a while ago, but she has remained one of our cheerleaders. She is always saying on Facebook that she wishes she could watch our events. I have held off on recording events until we had a team in place that could do it in a professional way. We are not an organization with Internet buzz, we haven’t had a marketing or social media team in place, so we might put a lot of effort into it but only get 800 clicks. When refugee speakers in our program are ready to present, we want to do it in a professional way that they can be proud of!

Finally, because of donations from supporters, we finally have enough money in the bank that we can think about an expansion I have had in mind for a long time: A TNKR video project. If we are successful, we will finally be able to present stories of TNKR speakers in a professional way. Unlike many people, Pam doesn’t just give praise! As soon as I told her that we were setting up a video project, she set up a fundraiser to support it!

Pam Davidson joined TNKR as a volunteer in early 2014. Read more

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2017-02-20 Blast from the past

We were visited yesterday by one of the first refugees to study in TNKR! She has remained a friend of TNKR, and of course I love her because she constantly praises me as a hero of NK refugees. Well, that’s the official reason I love her.

The unofficial reason is that she always says I am so handsome. 🙂

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2017-02-07 “TNKR gave me my name” Eunhee Park

I used to say, “Today was a special day,” but these days, it seems that every day is special. Super special North Korean refugee Eunhee Park had class with one of her tutors. Then we talked about TNKR’s upcoming activities and ways that she can be more involved.

When we told her about our new fundraising site, she immediately set one up. She is a thoughtful lady. We can be talking about something really simple, then she will suddenly say something profound.

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2017-02-02 Special Speech Invitation: Two South Korean ladies made it happen

Another big speech opportunity. It took two South Korean women working at a big company to make it happen.

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