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2018-04-28 Matching session 74: I wanna choose first!!!

The non-profit organization Teach North Korean Refugees held its 74th Language Matching session yesterday. We had 11 North Korean refugees and 18 tutors participate (1 tutor canceled and another was a no-show). The session started at 2 pm–the first refugee to register for the session arrived at our office at 9:50 a.m. That’s right, slightly more than 4 hours in advance!

Why was she so early? Simple! First-come, first-choose! The refugees get to choose their tutors based on when they arrive to the session. So the refugee who arrived first was able to choose first. She is a returning student with us who first joined us in 2015 at the ABC level.

The others were so disappointed, especially the ones arriving three hours early who found out they were already sixth and seventh in line.

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2018-03-17 A new record: 1:15 am!!!!

A special feature about TNKR Matching sessions is that refugees get to choose their tutors. The refugees do the choosing based on when they arrive at our office. In our early days, we hosted sessions at other offices, so we usually weren’t allowed in before noon for our 2 pm sessions.
Then we moved to our current office in July 2016, so refugees started arriving earlier, with the record earliest arrival getting to our office at 9:20 a.m. Yes, almost 5 hours early.
As of 2018-03-17, we now have a new record: 1:15 a.m.

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How many people show up three hours early for meetings?

Today TNKR will be having its 67th Language Matching session. It will be a Track 2 session, allowing refugees who want to learn and practice public speaking to choose coaches who will assist them.

The session starts at 2 pm. The earliest arrival: 10:40 a.m. Based on resumes, she has already identified 3 coaches, she will choose first, then hope at least one of the other coaches will still be available when she chooses at the start of the second round.

Not many people show up three hours early for a meeting, but in this case, she gets to choose first! So here she is! She is a TV personality, in Korean, often telling funny, serious and interesting stories about life in North Korea. Her English is at a low level, but she’s eager!

The TNKR co-founders were both here to at the TNKR office to welcome her.

So many people ask us: “How do you find the refugees?” Answer: We don’t! They find us!

Others who complain about refugees not being diligent in other programs ask why refugees show up early to our sessions. Answer: They have freedom of choice and get to choose based on when they arrive!

She arrived first so she will also be choosing the winner of the first autographed book that we will be giving away as part of the TNKR Book Club offer for monthly donors.

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2017-11-26 TNKR Matching 66: Sitting-room only!

On Sunday 2017-11-26, Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) just held its largest ever Language Matching session: 10 refugee students, 21 tutors, 1 South Korean student. Instead of standing-room only, it was sitting room only. During the week, we were on pace for a somewhat typical large session, with 16 tutors and 9 refugees signed up. Eunkoo Lee hasn’t checked recently, but we probably have more than 70 refugees on the waiting list to join the program. And with refugees saying at the orientation that they wanted to select several tutors, we decided to hold an emergency orientation session to accept five more tutors.

The question became: What if everyone shows up? We have been on a hot streak recently, with every tutor showing up. We could expand because Janice Kim has taken over as Manager of Track 1. In the past, 15 tutors was all that I could handle alone, in addition to my other many duties for TNKR, and I greatly regretted the time that we had 19 tutors at a session. It isn’t just the session, but the follow up when some tutors disappear knowing I can’t chase them all. Whereas I tend to be grumpy in teaching applicants how to fill out the resume, Janice is delightful, patient.

So we decided to have our biggest session. We only have 22 chairs, so if your figuring ain’t bad, you can guess that about 35 people (including staff) were going to have trouble squeezing into 22 chairs. So we made the decision to move all of the chairs out of the room, and to have everyone sit on the floor, like we were back in elementary school.

Support TNKRhttp://teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/donate/

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2017-11-26 Five hours early!

(TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees Language Matching session #66 will be held today from 2 p.m. Students get to choose tutors based on when they arrive to our office, first come, first choose.
As of this morning, we have a new record: 9:20 a.m.
Yes, she arrived almost 5 hours early.
I occasionally have some experts, mainly South Koreans, telling me refugees are passive. My response, as I have been saying since I was a grad student at Harvard, and said when I helped create a school voucher program for low-income parents in Washington DC, have been saying to education experts I encounter, and said again in my TEDx Talk recently: If the people who benefit from your program or activity are passive, then it means you didn’t design it well.
I can’t account for all 30,000 NK refugees who have escaped to South Korea in the last 20 years, but the ones who find us are certainly motivated.
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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.

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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/

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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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2017-07-02 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)

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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.