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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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[May 16, 2017] (TNKR) In-house Tutoring journal by Youngmin Kwon

[May 16, 2017] (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees In-house Tutoring

Youngmin Kwon, TNKR Assistant Academic Adviser, wrote: Had a great but challenging tutoring session with one of my new students! Her English level is still very basic, so I had to remain patient as she struggled to understand one sentence / expression / vocabulary after another. (* We are not allowed to use Korean. ^^)

As someone who did not join TNKR as a tutor, I am constantly amazed by how fulfilling each of these sessions can be. I have spoken out in support of the human rights of North Korean refugees before, but it was only after joining TNKR that I was able to form such close, personal, and direct bonds with my North Korean brothers and sisters. I cannot help all of them, but hopefully I am adding some real value to my students’ ongoing journey to find freedom and empowerment.

* Please consider donating!

#TNKR #Volunteering #WithRefugees

Tribute from Eben Appleton, TNKR Outreach Coordinator:

Youngmin, from one who rarely writes tributes, I must write one to you. First of all, I have always been aware of your dedication to Human Rights issues, particularly when it addresses the NK refugees. I have watched your dedication to the Freedom of Choice offered by you and the TNKR staff. Your patience in teaching does not surprise me. I realize you speak perfect English & perfect Korean. And I particularly appreciate the help you have given me with “automatic translations”. This feat is even more difficult than teaching English. I know that you are greatly appreciated by all, particularly by me.

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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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2017-05-01 “I can speak English now”

Yesterday at TNKR:

  • Feedback sessions with two refugees
  • International reporter visits TNKR
  • Refugee designs bag for TNKR
  • In-house tutoring
  • Children taking over TNKR

Feedback session 1:

One of the refugees who came by for a feedback session with TNKR National Director Eunkoo Lee talked how much confidence she has gained since studying in TNKR. She had previously studied at a language institute but she felt lost in the classes.

  • She never studied English when she was in North Korea.
  • In South Korea, she had taken English classes at language institutes, but felt lost. The South Koreans in the basic class clearly had studied English, whereas she was at the very beginning.
  • She studied on her own, but wasn’t really sure how to study.
  • Then, she saw Yeonmi Park’s One Young World speech. She thought about speaking out, but because of family still in NK, she decided against it, but continued cheering for Yeonmi.
  • She found out about TNKR, then she began chasing me, asking me to meet.

She joined TNKR a few months ago, she has been studying with three tutors since then. She has continued studying on her own, but feels she has some guidance after studying with native and fluent speakers. She says that her friends are amazed (“envy”) that she has three tutors who are helping her to improve her English.

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Feedback session 2:

When she first came to us, she only spoke Korean. She even seemed a bit suspicious of us at first. She hasn’t said it, but it seemed that she was wondering, “What’s the catch?” She began studying hard, then her tutor realized that he wasn’t helping her by speaking Korean to her. Then, a few few months later when their class was going to end because she was going to join the Matching program, she said the key thing for her was when her in-house tutor stopped using Korean to translate things for her. For the first time, she had to start thinking in English.

She says she is now active in her classes at school, that she has gained confidence her studying with two tutors.

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TNKR student Joseph has designed a new TNKR bag (on the left). He is one of the first refugees I met, we lost contact a few years ago when I lost my flip phone, but he later found me on Facebook!

He said he likes our current TNKR bag, but he thought he could add our new logo to a bag that we could sell at events.

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TNKR Special Ambassador Sharon Jang was interviewed yesterday by an international reporter visiting South Korea. Sharon has been with us for two years, it is always great to see her!

The reporter interviewed me also to find out about a bit about me.

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TNKR super volunteer Youngmin Kwon was at it again yesterday!

  • He arrived at 6:30 a.m.
  • He worked on Mr. Hwang’s “Bring My Father Home” campaign.
  • Translation work when we need it.
  • Plus, tutoring a student. In March, he and TNKR Assistant Director taught the most classes by any TNKR tutors and have raised the most money since we launched a new crowd-sourcing site.

 

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2017-04-20 Visit to UN office, TV interview

  • Yesterday morning:
    • I was delighted to be part of an interview with one of the Big 3 networks in South Korea.
    • Part of it included another visit to the UN’s Seoul office.
  • Yesterday evening (my next post)
    • I was honored to win an award from a Korean foundation.

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Hwang Cheol was being interviewed about his campaign to have his father released from North Korea. The TV team interviewed a few of us to provide perspective to his campaign. We then wrapped up with a visit to the UN office.

Yes, they also interviewed me. I usually have a love-hate relationship with the media. As it has been said, “The interview is the honeymoon, publication is the divorce.”

The host who interviewed me is so lovely. She seemed to enjoy the interview and wasn’t the least bit shy when it was time to take photos! Sometimes I think I am in the wrong field, so many of the volunteers who collaborate with me run from the cameras. I remember one day that I received an email complaint from one guy whining that I’m always in the TNKR photos. That’s back when I used to answer critics, I politely informed him, “You idiot, if you had joined any of our sessions, you would know that most volunteers run from the cameras and our default with refugees is not to show their faces unless they make it clear they don’t mind.”

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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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Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation honors TNKR co-founder with award

List of 11th Hansarang Rural Cultural Foundation Award Recipients (6 people)

  1. Category: Special Award – Social Contribution
  • Name: Casey Lartigue
  • Home Region: Seoul
  • Position: International Director, Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) Global Education Center

Contributed to the social integration of North Korean refugees by providing free English learning opportunities

Casey Lartigue, an American, is the co-founder along with South Korean Eunkoo Lee of the Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) Global Education Center, a non-profit that provides free one-on-one English learning opportunities to North Korean refugees and helps them discover their English voice. Lartigue serves as the organization’s International Director.

In the United States, Lartigue worked in various education-related positions as a policy analyst. It was while volunteering to help orphans and low-income children in Seoul that Lartigue became committed to helping North Korean refugees. Realizing that English is one of the primary barriers faced by North Koreans, Lartigue began focusing on helping them with their English language needs.

TNKR has created a system where volunteer English tutors help resettled North Korean refugees by teaching them English. More than 550 volunteers have assisted 266 North Korean refugees through one-on-one tutoring. The volunteer tutors act not only as English teachers but also as mentors for the refugees, by helping them find their own voices and becoming positive role models for other refugees.

For Lartigue, volunteerism is not simply a duty but a way to live his deeply-held principles. He hopes for a positive cycle whereby his North Korean refugee students, after successfully adapting to the South Korean society, will go on to live life as they choose, and that they will make the most out of their new found freedom..

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2017-03-25 “Hello, Konglish!” Hello, Jinhee Han!

The “steak” of Teach North Korean Refugees is our English tutoring project. The “sizzle” is when refugees in our public speaking project give public speeches. Yesterday, before a crowded room at Seoul KOTESOL, North Korean refugee Jinhee Han gave her first public speech in English. She was amazing, the crowd was really interested: She was an English teacher in North Korea before she escaped to South Korea.

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Jinhee first joined TNKR in 2013, back when TNKR was “English Matching,” and still just a hobby for the co-founders. Jinhee has remained in touch, although she has been too busy with her life teaching North Korean refugees. Plus, she is embarrassed to be introduced as an English teacher from North Korea because people will have high expectations about her English. I think because of it that she has avoided talking with people about her background. Yesterday, she gave her first public speech in English, discussing her English teaching career in North Korea and also discussing English education in North Korea. The crowd was clearly moved by her speech. She still prefers to remain anonymous, but last night she let us know how much she enjoyed it, and that she is willing to do it again. She has watched TNKR and stayed in touch over the years. She said she was crying as she listened to our speeches, she could truly see the impact that TNKR has had on North Korean refugees, and she thanked the many volunteers who have given so much of their time to help NK refugees adjust. We have encouraged her over the years not to give up on studying English because of the expectations some have and that she should ignore the quick-to-judge people.

She said that she felt so encouraged seeing that so many foreigners were so interested in hearing about her experience as English teacher, she would have never believed this could happen.

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Who was the hardest-working man not affiliated with the conference organizing team? TNKR Assistant Director Dave Fry! The co-directors were able to relax, think about their speeches, and provide support rather than having to lead at every moment.

Dave has the right personality to be the official TNKR Greeter!

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After we wrapped up our panel, it was then photo time! We got a lot of great feedback. People were moved by Jinhee’s speech. They also loved hearing what TNKR co-director Eunkoo Lee had to say–it was also her first formal speech in English at a conference. I had to talk her into it, she is a shy lady, but she presented great insights about what refugees tell her about TNKR. In my case, I was amazed that several people told me that they came out to hear me speak, that some of them are regular readers of my Korea Times column. A few who have heard me speak say they learn something new every time, even though I am always talking about TNKR.

Some of the people we met promised they would get involved with TNKR, as a volunteer or fundraiser. One of the attendees even pledged to sell some of her artwork, and to donate the proceeds to TNKR!

Assistant Academic Adviser Youngmin Kwon is not pictured many times, that’s because he was the man behind the camera yesterday!

It was a team effort and an enjoyable time informing so many people about challenges North Korean refugees face and the role that TNKR has embraced in trying to give support to some of them.

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2017-03-21 TNKR featured by Koreana magazine

Teach North Korean Refugees has been featured in the Spring 2017 edition of Koreana magazine (Vol. 31 No. 1). The author of the article is journalist Kim Hak-soon, a Visiting Professor at the School of Media and Communication at Korea University.

Koreana (PDF)

 

 

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2017-03-18/19 Active, not busy

A bit earlier, a friend I haven’t seen since September asked me if I’m still busy. I said: “I’m not busy. I’m active!” That means that I’m doing many things, meeting many people. But I can always squeeze fun into my schedule, no matter how busy I may look to some people.

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TNKR’s upcoming schedule.

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