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2017-10-01 Track 2 Matching session: Choice works, refugees are not passive

“North Korean refugees are passive.” “They must be paid to join NGO activities helping them.” “They are irresponsible and always late.”

Those are some of the comments I have heard over the years from people at other NGOs, from influential people who hear about refugees from colleagues; and others with grant money to recruit NK refugees into their activities. Many of them don’t believe it when I tell them that TNKR has a waiting list of more than 70 refugees eager to join us and that refugees chase us so they can join TNKR. Even refugees who can’t speak English will message me directly, asking how they can join TNKR.

Today at 2 pm we will be having a Language Matching session, our 65th. The first student to show up arrived at 9:40 a.m. this morning. Yes, more than 4 hours in advance.

Refugees are allowed to choose their tutors and coaches based on when they arrive to our Matching sessions. Ever since we saved enough money to get our own office, refugees have been able to arrive at our office (when we used other people’s offices, they understandably had restrictions on us). Some refugees have asked if they could stay overnight for the chance to choose first.

Support TNKR

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2017-09-17 TNKR Matching 63

On Sunday, TNKR held a large Matching session with 10 refugeees, 17 volunteers tutors, and 7 volunteer staff members. 

Support TKNR: http://teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/donate/

Volunteer: http://teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/volunteer/

Breakdown Read more

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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

Refugees Read more

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2017-07-02 TNKR Matching: “When can I start?”

TNKR called an Emergency Matching session because we were getting so many requests from refugees. We decided to try to squeeze in another session before our regularly scheduled July 15 Orientation/July 22 Matching session. On such short notice, would we be able to recruit enough tutors?

Yes! Over the weekend, we had 2 orientations with refugees, 1 with tutors, an Open House with volunteers, and a fantastic Language Matching session yesterday. Below are some of my notes.

Participants at TNKR’s 60th Language Matching session:
6 refugees, 10 tutors.

When did refugees arrive in South Korea?
2008 (1)
2009 (1)
2013 (2)
2015 (2)

Read more

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2017-07-02 English Emergencies

I arrived at the TNKR office early this Sunday morning. The reasons?
 
* Two study sessions starting at 11 a.m.
* Skype call at 11:30 am.
* Waiting for refugees who may arrive early for the matching session.
* Orientation by TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee for a student who couldn’t make it yesterday.
* Another study session at 1 pm.
* Matching session from 2 pm.
 
Thankfully I arrived even earlier than I had originally planned. As I was starting to type this post, one student arrived at 10:50 a.m.! Yes, for a 2 pm session, she arrived more than 3 hours in advance. This beats the previous record of 11:30 a.m. Some fans wait in line to buy new tennis shoes or video games. Refugees in TNKR show up hours early so they will have the chance to choose tutors.
 
I think it was more than two years ago that TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee suggested that students choose based on when they arrive, and since then we have eliminated the problem of students showing up late. The issue now is that we must arrive early enough to meet students as they are arriving.
Eunkoo admits that she once thought that refugees were passive, but that if a program is designed properly, then even people who seemed to be passive can be actively engaged. We have a waiting list of 70 refugees eager to join TNKR, which is why we had an emergency orientation and will have an Emergency Matching session later today.
 
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Emergency Tutor Recruitment session (70 refugees on the waiting list)

A great and terrible thing is that TNKR has 70 North Korean refugees on the waiting list to get into our program.

The good news is that our program is in demand. Every day we have refugees asking us when they can join the program. Refugees already in the program are asking us when they can join again (after their tutors have returned to their native countries).

The bad news is that it is hard to meet the demand because we can only accept refugees into the program based on the number of available volunteer tutors.

Who is on the waiting list? I asked TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee to give me a few cases:

* One refugee who contacted us says he has an opportunity to study overseas but needs to improve his English.

* Two refugee dancers have opportunities to perform internationally, but they need English so they can answer basic questions.

* Two refugees who are singers are on our waiting list, they hope to improve their English so they can introduce themselves properly.

* A couple of refugees say they can’t graduate yet until they can score at a certain level of English.

* A housewife finally has time to study, but we aren’t sure when we can let her into the program, and we worry that when we can accept her into the program that she won’t have time to study.

* A couple of refugees with children hope they can improve their English to speak it with their children. Their children are all getting support to help them learn English, but there are few opportunities for adults.

* Several NK refugees have come to us asking if they can study English during the summer.

If you or anyone you know would be interested in tutoring, please let them know about our emergency Teacher Recruitment session this weekend.

We need a few more tutors to sign up to help refugees waiting for their opportunity to study 1:1.

Apply here: http://teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/volunteer/

Minimum 3 month commitment, twice a month.

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2017-06-11 “I appreciate that volunteers help North Korean refugees” (TNKR Matching session 58)

Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) started in March 2013 as a hobby for TNKR co-founders Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue Jr.. Although it is still operating with a small budget–$18,000 in 2015, $40,000 in 2016–it has become an internationally known NGO that has been featured in major domestic and international media.

Earlier today we held Language Matching session number 58. The attention is naturally on the refugees, but I think it is easy to forget that today we had 8 new volunteers sign up with the agreement that they will tutor refugees twice a month for a minimum of three months for 90 minutes each session. With tutors on average accepting two refugees, it means they will be tutoring at least once a week for free.

For Eunkoo and Casey, it is all so beautiful to see that after four years we still have many volunteers coming to TNKR to help refugees. Many organizations fail or go bankrupt after three years, but we have held on, have a solid reputation, and are continuing to grow with new supporters finding us. We never get tired of it despite the struggles in building an organization from nothing into something. We now have some volunteer staffers who are seeing all of this for the first time. One began crying as he was making a presentation, getting choked up as he discussed tutoring students. Two other new volunteers attending their first Matching session also said they got choked up listening to the refugees discuss why they needed English and they were impressed with volunteer tutors explaining why they wanted to help.

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Overall, about 55 percent of students in TNKR are college students, but today was an exception, 80 percent of the refugees joining today are working.

Reasons students stated for joining: Read more

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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.

 

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TNKR Matching 57: “TNKR are superheroes”

Teach North Korean Refugees began in 2013 as a hobby for its founders Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue. They were matching North Korean refugees with volunteer tutors willing to help them practice English. From its humble beginnings, TNKR has now had about 280 refugees study with more than 580 volunteers. It has been featured in both domestic and international media. Volunteers from around the world seek it out.

Yesterday 9 refugees, 14 volunteer tutors, and 4 volunteer staff members squeezed into the largest room at TNKR’s office for the organization’s 57th Language Matching session. There were so many poignant, fun, and inspirational moments.

First, the data: Read more

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2017-04-02 Track 2: Refugees taking charge

TNKR started in March 2013 as “English Matching.” It was a hobby for the co-founders, as they did this on the side. TNKR is now an emerging NGO with its own office. We still have no paid staff, but despite this, we have held 55 Language Matching sessions with about 270 refugees and more than 560 volunteer coaches and tutors. Yesterday’s session was special because it was a Track 2 Matching session. Whereas we hold at least one Track 1 session per month at which refugees choose tutors for English study, we only hold Track 2 sessions (public speaking and other communication) when enough refugees request it.

Yesterday 7 refugees chose among 9 coaches (3 had last minute scheduling and other problems so there were 9 instead of 12). TNKR is a self-study project, with the focus being on refugees finding their own way and telling their own stories. We connect them with volunteer tutors and coaches to help them with that. After having orientation and discussing their projects, the refugees are really eager to get started.

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