2017-11-10 “English is my forever homework”

Catching up on recent activities…

Individual Education Plans

When refugees join TNKR, Eunkoo Lee and I do our best to conduct interviews with them. This past week we had four new students visit the office. Every one of them says something inspirational to remind us why we are constantly trying to upgrade this humble little project.

  • My favorite was a refugee who has already lived abroad and realized how important English is to his future. “English is my forever homework.” Tutors won’t have to wonder if he will be motivated to study. He found out about TNKR recently, he immediately applied to join us.
  • A refugee repeatedly told us how “impressive” TNKR is. She previously paid to study at a language institute, but she didn’t feel that her English was improving enough. Then she heard that she could study English 1:1 with as many tutors as she wants. So she applied!
  • A refugee who has followed TNKR for quite a while finally decided to apply. She said that she is impressed by our “new approach” putting students at the center. She has heard about other programs saying that they focus on the students first, but she can see that we really do so. She said she can feel that she has responsibility for making the class successful, so she will think deeply about ways to have a class that is self-directed.
  • A fourth student made it clear that she is “very eager” to study. She wants conversation, conversation, conversation. I asked her about using Korean in class, she said she really hopes teachers will use only English, she can already speak Korean! She has studied English in many situations in Korea, but this has the potential to truly push her to learn more.

All four of these applicants learned about TNKR from other refugees–three are former students, 1 is another refugee familiar with TNKR.

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2017-09-22 Volunteer Training Workshop, Day 1

2017-09-22 Volunteer Training Workshop, Day 1

Lecture 1: “North Korean Refugee Resettlement System” by Ye-eun Song,
Social worker, Seoul Southern Hana Center

Lecture 2: “Recent NK Situation and Escape Routes,” Young-seok Lee, NAUH (Now Action & Unity for NK Human Rights)

2017-09-23 Volunteer Training Workshop, Day 2

Lecture 3: “North Korean Education System” Jinhee Han, Yeomyeong School

Group Discussion with NK Refugee Students (College)

Lecture 4: Roles and Professionalism in Volunteering with NK refugees

Group Discussion: Tony Docan-Morgan (Prof. of Communication, Univ. of Wisconsin-La Crosse) and TNKR Senior Fellow



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2017-09-04 Are you Christians?

To get prepared for our Track 1 Matching session on September 17, we held small orientation sessions this past weekend. If you would like to join, apply here!

One of the refugees wanted to know if TNKR is a Christian organization. We explained that we are a non-religious, non-political organization. She wasn’t satisfied by our explanations about why we are helping NK refugees, then she explained why she was baffled:

I have seen people volunteer in South Korea, but most people volunteer just once. I don’t understand why people at TNKR volunteer long-term, with such a strong commitment to refugees.

She is not the first refugee to ask that. We had another say that she sees people get interested about NK after there is a big story in the news, but not long-term commitments.

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2017-08-31 TEDx prep

TNKR Senior Fellow Tony Docan-Morgan and Assistant Director Dave Fry stopped by today to help TNKR co-directors Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue get prepared for their TEDx Talks next week. That begs the question: Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

In one corner, Professor Docan-Morgan has been teaching public speaking and communication for 15 years, so this is old hat for him.

In the other corner, TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue, who has been giving public speeches for about 17 years. He certainly has many bad habits that it will be tough to unteach by September 9. If you want to watch me fall off the TEDx stage next weekend, be sure to reserve your tickets in advance.

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TNKR Speech Contest 6 Guide for Attendees

Thank you so much for your RSVP to TNKR’s 6th English speech contest. Please join us in helping the speakers to feel comfortable, it isn’t easy for some of them to speak out publicly about sensitive topics. Because of some recent activity by the North Korean regime both targeting and inviting North Korean refugees to return to the country, some of the speakers at the contest have requested that they be allowed to shield their identities and not to show their faces.

After getting feedback from them, we agreed on the following:

  • Privacy: No recordings (video or audio) or photographs except by media and TNKR staff. Even then, a few of the refugees will speak on the condition that there will be no photographs or recordings.
  • Off-the-record: Several of them will be discussing sensitive aspects of their stories that they have never discussed publicly. Therefore, several of them have also asked attendees not to write blog posts or articles about what they hear from specific speakers.
  • Contact info: Don’t ask the speakers for their contact information. You can meet them–by becoming a volunteer with TNKR or working with us to arrange future speech opportunities. Before the contest, if you arrive early, please allow the refugees and their coaches to have quiet time getting prepared for the contest.

Other Notes:

  • Venue: Check the Eventbrite invitation for the map and directions. Here’s an easy to follow, step-by-step video showing the route. Myeongdong station exit 4, walk for about two minutes, State Tower, Namsan will be on your left
  • Where do I check-in? Check-in at reception on the first floor, tell them the password, then they will direct you to the 8th floor. The elevators don’t have buttons so staff at the building will have to help you with getting access to the 8th floor.
  • What’s the password? TNKR.
  • To expedite registration: Be sure to bring a print out of your ticket or have it ready on your favorite mobile device that you will turn off and hide during the event.
  • First-come, first seated: We have sold all of the seats at the contest and anticipate a few people showing up at the door to pay. We can hold seats until 1:50 pm, but after that, we will open up all seats to everyone present. We plan to start promptly at 2 pm, our volunteer team will be arriving from 12:30 pm to have things set up.
  • Wrapping up: We plan to finish the contest by 4:30 pm. We would like to take a group photo, so please stick around for that so we can show how many people were in the room (the refugees will hide their faces then).
  • Following-up: After previous contests, we have had some volunteers who wanted to join. Check this link, get involved as a tutor or general volunteer in other ways. In particular, we are seeking translators, social media junkies and fundraisers at the moment..
  • Parking? Yes, parking is available! Send me the last four digits of your license plate to my email CJL@post.harvard.edu. But before you leave, you will need to inform reception that you’re leaving.

2017-08-24 Tutoring, featuring Youngmin Kwon!

In baseball, a utility man is a player can usually play several positions, always ready to step in when necessary. That’s the case of Youngmin Kwon​! This week he has been tutoring North Korean refugees at our office, translated several things, and tomorrow he will be the Floor Manager at TNKR’s 6th English speech contest!


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2017-08-23 Planning for the speech contest

Most of TNKR’s leadership team got together last night to discuss the agenda for Saturday’s speech contest. We checked out the room, confirmed some final details, and Eunkoo had a great idea about inviting a refugee to give a testimonial.

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Four Hour Class!

Refugees entering TNKR go through an entrance interview with the co-founders. The newcomers often ask us if the tutors will accept them as students and if the tutors will get bored with teaching lower-level speakers and even some at the ABC level.

I tell them, based on feedback from refugees in TNKR now, that the tutors are really patient, even gentle. As long as the students are trying, then the tutors seem to go beyond our basic expectations. The times that I’ve seen tutors bothered is when students cancel classes at the last minute or are repeatedly late. So I tell the students: Be on time, try hard, then your tutors will love you and be patient.

Yesterday was an extreme case. One of our new tutors had a four hour session with a North Korean refugee who is new to English. This wasn’t chit-chat at a coffee shop with a refugee who can discuss a number of issues in English. This was repetition, correction, review. Then repeat process. As a reminder, this is volunteering.

They were both focused. As you can imagine, the refugee was really pleased. The only time they seemed to get bothered was when I came in to take photos.

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2017-08-24 Individual Education Plans–We Learned and Laughed

Note: The text got lost during maintenance of the site. I will be writing it again a bit later.

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