tvN did a full-length special about Teach North Korean Refugees! Check it out:
TNKR had three orientation sessions yesterday, from noon to 6 pm.
- Session 1 had 16 tutors, mainly with tutors who will be at the October 24 Matching session with 10 refugees ( 8 newcomers, 2 returnees).
- Session 2 had 13 tutors who will be at the October 31 Re-Matching session with 7 refugees returning to the program.
- Session 3 had 8 refugees who will be joining on Oct 24 (6 of them went through our new in-house tutoring program we launched last month).
- Some of the most common questions we are asked about TNKR: "How do find refugees?" My response: "We don't. They find us." A related question: "How do refugees find you?" Based on yesterday: "Referrals." All eight refugees at yesterday's orientation were referred to the program by current or previous students. When we first started TNKR in March 2013, we did search, but not now. We have a waiting list of 50 refugees.
- One of the refugees said that she wants to work for TNKR. She was praising us so much, saying that 1) she can't believe we don't charge refugees anything 2) we should market more so every refugee can join, to which I said "no, we do this as volunteers." 3) she hopes she can work with TNKR so we can help even more people.
- Assuming they all make it to the upcoming matching sessions, 29 new tutors will be joining the program. They are from all over the world (USA, South Korea, England, Canada, Canada/Scotland, Germany/Netherlands, Australia). In addition, they are coming in from all around Korea (Wonju, Gongju, Gunpo, Sangju, Bundang, Gimcheon, Gangseo, Suji, Suwon).
- Of course, we worry about the political ones or researchers with an agenda, but it seems that most of them are teachers who just want to contribute their time.
- We had many lovely comments from tutors. Several said they are fans of the program, some even expressed great admiration for the co-founders. One said that she loves how everything is in "black and white." Communication is a key part of the program. for several months now we have been using Kakao to communicate, it has made the program much better. It is harder for tutors or refugees to hide from us, although some insist on having side conversations without us. By having a refugee in a Kakao group with all of his/her tutors and the co-directors means we all know what is going on, and it is a team effort.
- Several of the tutors also said they are eager to teach adults who are motivated to learn. But a few did express concerns about whether or not they would be chosen. In two years, we have had only 2 (out of 280) tutors who did not get picked. So we encourage the tutors to focus on what they can do rather than mentioning what they can't do.
- At the end, the refugees were asking questions about me. Some had heard about me because of some of my other activities with refugees, but they wanted to know more about me. So I popped in my ppt showing my various activities over the years. It is then that they understand that I am devoted to freedom, opportunity and individual autonomy. I should not be surprised that they want to know about me, but it surprises me every time.
- Winding down, Eunkoo and I realized how crazy it was that we had six hours of orientations on a Saturday. So I suggested to her that we should take the day off. Of course, even Sunday morning, we are getting many messages and requests, and I'm writing this...
- When we first started TNKR, we had orientation and matching sessions the same day. And we tried to squeeze them both into two hours. After a while, we decided to divide them in half. We will never go back to doing it the way we had before. We meet the tutors in advance, we give them time to ask questions, we get to hear their questions and comments..
Yesterday I was one of the speakers at a special event at George Mason University's campus in Seongdo (Korea). Charles Cousino, an 84-year-old Korean war veteran, discussed his connection to Korea.
I discussed Teach North Korean Refugees.
And North Korean refugee Sehyek Oh talked about what freedom means to him.
Special thanks to Roland Wilson and Michael Dunne for making it happen!
Very often when I visit TNKR tutoring sessions, I will tell the tutor and learn to ignore me. Thursday morning, it actually happened! They ignored me!
The class was from 9:30 am-12:30 pm. This particular duo has been meeting once a week, so this was their 8th session. Refugees and tutors are expected to meet twice a month, but as with this duo, many exceed that. I have heard about a few meeting two or three times a week.
What I liked about Amy's class is that in addition to instant correction, she led the learner to the answers without immediately telling her. She lets her work her way to the answer or the understanding of a particular text or word. Even though she is studying Korean these days, she did not use any in teaching (although, like a lot of expats and Korean language learners, she often says "Yes" in Korean).
I have a special feeling about particular refugee. Even though her English was not strong, she contacted me on Facebook months ago, asking if she could join TNKR. So it was so great to see her long vocabulary list she is studying, to watch her so eager to learn during class, and to see her celebrating herself whenever she understood something that had been a mystery just moments before!
It was a fun class, it was clear that they get along and enjoy the time they are studying and learning together. So much so that they ignored me pretty much for all 3 hours! I'm not complaining, because it gave me a chance to catch up on messages and to revise my PPT for a speech the following day...