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2017-06-19/21 Be a magnet

Years ago a former supervisor of mine gave me a fantastic compliment. He told me that I was an energy center. He added: “Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad, but there is always SOMETHING going on around you. You seem to be a magnet.”

These days, that SOMETHING is Teach North Korean Refugees. We are attracting volunteers, donors, fans, media. It has gotten to the point that we have staff volunteers rotating shifts in the office because we don’t have enough space to accommodate them all at the same time. I am amazed that we get so much done with such a limited budget and office space.

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2017 Report on TNKR tutor reports

Based on reports sent by TNKR’s volunteer tutors in 2017. Numbers are subject to change based on when additional reports are received.

2017 Tutors Refugees Sessions Minutes Hours Classes per day (Overall) Classes per refugee (monthly) Classes per tutor (monthly) At 50,000 won per class ($43.62 US), free tutoring
Jan 61 39 154 13,137 236 5.0 3.9 2.5 11.8 million won ($10,294)
Feb 67 45 210 19,475 324.5 7.2 4.4 3..0 16.2 million won ($14,154)
March 65 55 221 21,905 365 7.1 4.0 3.4 18.25 million won ($15,921)
April  64  60 187 18,011  300  6.2  3.1 2.9  15 million won ($13,392)

 

Notes: The increase in refugees is due to more studying in in-house tutoring as they transition into the regular study program.

  • Slight bump in classes in Feb and March because of the speech contest.
  • April was mid-term exam time so there were fewer classes.

Support TNKR so it can keep TNKR tuition-free for refugees!

 

 

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2017-05-18 TNKR presentation to Australian students

Thursday was one of those days we could really appreciate how much TNKR has grown. With very little money, we have created an NGO that provides practical learning opportunities for refugees and has gained respected internationally.

We have had more than 570 volunteer tutors, but just a handful have committed to us long-term. Of the 270 refugees who have joined us, the same is true, just a handful have stuck to us. Having people around us has taken a lot of pressure off us. And now a new thing is happening–we are no longer at the center of every activity.

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TNKR presentation to Australian students

Two TNKR Ambassadors and TNKR co-founders Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue spoke to a group of MBA students visiting from Australia. Here’s our group photo after the session.

Some venues have standing room only. Ours included sitting on the floor and standing. My math isn’t great, but 20 chairs, 24 visitors, 6 volunteers=not everyone will get a chair.

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TNKR Special Ambassador Cherie Yang was the winner of our fifth English speech contest, so now expectations are higher every time she speaks. And she meets the challenge!

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Eunhee has gone from being anonymous to a regular speaker with great confidence.

The students had many thoughtful questions and said they learned a lot.

 

We had a full house!

TV stations often have a “Green room” where guests wait for their chance to go on the show. The TNKR green room is a study/storage/waiting room.

Support TNKR

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Standing with TNKR

Over the past few years, we have had almost 600 volunteer tutors and coaches volunteer with TNKR. An important thing for us is having volunteers commit to us long-term. Last year Youngmin Kwon joined us as a full-time volunteer, taking on various roles (assistant academic adviser, project manager of the Bring My Father Home project, translator, office manager). More recently, Dave Fry has joined us as Assistant Director of Publicity and Professor Tony Docan-Morgan has joined TNKR as a Senior Fellow of Communication and Advocacy. The Professor evaluates speeches by TNKR ambassadors and speakers and gives them specific feedback. He has been teaching communications for 15 years, he is so good that I have been recruiting him to become my speech coach. He has conducted three 1:1 feedback session for refugees who participated in our speech contest in February. We want the speech contest to be a learning opportunity in addition to the other benefits.

The Professor going line by line with Cherie Yang over her prize-winning speech.

Feedback session 2 with another refugee who has competed in TNKR speech contests. After the session, he declared, “I learned so much, I think I can win next time!”

Speech feedback session 3: She said aspects of public speaking that she had never considered, that she will be able to use the techniques in her classes. She doesn’t show her face, but she said she has gained confidence in giving a public speech even though her English isn’t that strong.

 

TNKR discussion about our upcoming brainstorming session. Anna Martinson (seated) and Dave Fry (arms folded) will be leading the session. Spencer has joined TNKR as a fundraising intern and Chansook is a South Korean fan of TNKR who dropped by to volunteer for a few hours.

 

TNKR Assistant Director Dave Fry is a tutor, fundraiser, donor, motivator and office comedian who is helping us develop long-term strategy.

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One of the important developments about TNKR is that refugees in the program have been standing by our side. The ultimate test of a program is: Do the people who are benefiting from the program have a connection to what you are doing? Are they willing to stand by your side?

TNKR Special Ambassador Cherie Yang has taken on a leadership role within TNKR. She is always ready to help, even shooting a promotional video for TNKR.

Joseph is one of the first refugees I met years ago. He brings us gifts and could eventually partner with us on a business project.

Support my fundraiser for TNKR

 

 

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2017-05-14 “A Woman is a Flower” TNKR Global Leadership Forum 2

TNKR held its second Global Leadership Forum on Sunday May 14, featuring speakers discussing the lives of North Korean women. The event was co-sponsored by the Working Group on North Korean Women.

Lee So-yeon kicked off the forum by discussing the brutality that she and other North Korean women suffered in the military, such as being raped by military leaders. It was another reminder about a brutal regime that does not respect the rights of individuals.

Eunsun Kim, author of A Thousand Miles to Freedom, then discussed her escape from North Korea. Many of the attendees began crying when she discussed the conversations she had with her mother when they thought they might starve to death.

Lee Juseong, author of Sunhee, wrapped up the forum by discussing specific statistics related to North Korean women and calling on the South Korean government to do more to rescue North Korean refugee women from China.

TNKR Speech Fellow Tony Docan-Morgan kicked off the event, TNKR co-directors Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue briefly introduced TNKR, then after the speakers and Q&A, TNKR Assistant Director Dave Fry issued a call to action.

The room fit about 60, and we had about 70 or so in attendance, with a few latecomers having to stand.

 

 

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2017-04-28 “Dear Leader” author visits TNKR

We had a nice meeting then dinner with “Dear Leader” author Jang Jin-sung. He was a poet propagandist for NK dictator Kim Jong-il, his role was to convince South Koreans to support the NK regime. He later escaped to South Korea, he worked with a security agency connected to NIS, then later founded New Focus International.

He has made it clear that he is a fan of TNKR! He has proven it not only with his words, but his actions!

  1. Here’s a nice interview he did with TNKR’s co-founders a few months ago. (English, Korean)
  2. On June 24, he will be the featured speaker at TNKR’s third Global Leadership Forum. This will be a great chance to ask a question to a former member of North Korea’s elite and someone whose role it was to be sympathetic about North Korea.
  3. We will be announcing another update soon, TNKR’s Assistant Director Dave Fry is drafting the press release.

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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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Random thoughts, rainy Friday morning

Some random TNKR stuff this Friday morning:
* Who can spit in the face of someone who is smiling? That’s an old Korean saying. This morning, a refugee who recently joined our program was late for her class, again. I was going to read her the Riot Act, but she had such a big smile on her face, greeted me with such a happy “Good morning!!!” that even the grumpy TNKR co-director laughed, decided to save the lecture for another day.
* Volunteer doesn’t have to mean low quality: We have had 50 people apply to join TNKR since March 11. That’s even though we have raised our expectations for volunteers. I’m happy to report that I have failed, once again, to destroy TNKR!
* Big Day Tomorrow: I emailed all of the applicants accepted for tomorrow’s orientation for Track 2. I hope others will join the Open House, but the Orientation is invitation-only for those who have already fulfilled all of the items on the application checklist.
* Reality: Some people whine that I mention TNKR’s pathetic budget too often, but I have learned when I mention it that we get some donations, when I don’t mention it, we don’t get any donations. So what should I do? Give in to the whiners?
* Resumes: TNKR is volunteer, so perhaps applicants don’t take it seriously. But you would not believe how many resumes I receive with the title “Resume” or “TNKR resume.” What ends up happening is that the resumes get labeled “Resume (1)” and “Resume (2).” If your application has ever gotten rejected by HR or managers at companies, sometimes it is because of the screening process. As one executive VP told me years ago, “If people don’t use common sense when applying for a job, they won’t use it after they get hired, either.”
* All alone: Eunkoo Lee, Youngmin Kwon, Dave Fry and Tony Docan-Morgan are all out of the office today. I’m the only authorized staff member here today. So everyone messaging me should understand that I might be slower than usual in responding.
* Be careful what you ask for: I sent out a reminder to tutors a few days ago to send in their late reports, so it has been raining reports on my head ever since then! Sometimes I think I would be better off just turning TNKR into a hiking club. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with so many reports and other administrative tasks. It is now the end of the month, so I will be going through all of the reports (more than 200 again) from this month.