In March 2013, Lee Eunkoo and Casey Lartigue co-founded the Teach North Korean Refugees Project–at that time, we called it English Matching. The point was to match North Korean Refugees with volunteer English teachers. This grew out of my experience with being 1) part of the team cheering for Hyeonseo Lee as she developed into being an international speaker and 2) being the International Adviser to the Mulmangcho School. Since then, we have matched 156 North Korean refugees with 216 volunteer English tutors. In addition, we have also matched 12 South Korean volunteers (who help North Korean refugees) with volunteer English tutors.
Yesterday we had our 22nd English matching session (we have also had 1 Spanish & Latin and 1 “Track 2” session). Our team has grown beyond just Eunkoo and myself.Suzanne Atwill Stewart is our Special Assistant, her presence has really allowed us to expand our activities/allowed me to go wild. Sodam Jeong is our Academic Adviser.Angela Miller is taking over as our Party Planner (or as I say, “Minister of Fun”). Others who previously have been part of the TNKR volunteer management team have been Joo Yeon Cho, Victoria Oh, Yeonhee Han and Yeonmi Park, each helped us expand TNKR to make it what it is now. Our honorary development team is highlighted by Andrew Soaresand Pam Davidson. Sung Hee Ko and Julie Ouziyo have been supporters from the moment they heard about us. Mike Ashley has never been one of our TNKR tutors, but that doesn’t stop him from donating money and computers The Mulmangcho School has been allowing us to use their space since June 2013. We now have numerous people donating to us, talking positively about the project, and adding value.
I am thankful and honored by the praise we get, but I know I couldn’t do this without the team members who have volunteered. And of course, for all our magical organizing, we certainly couldn’t do it without the volunteer tutors. Yesterday we were joined by Ren Haynes, Van SD Hur, Ben Engel (returnee), Ashley Zelina, Audie Wilkinson, Renee Kardel, Kristi Cashin, Seán Brophy, Julie Meyer Super, Clair Devine, Laughlin McKee.
Some misc things about yesterday and the future:
* 3 of the 11 volunteers are from Minnesota.
* 7 from the USA, 3 from the UK area (Ireland and Scotland), 1 from South Korea (as a reminder, we welcome different nationalities and accents and bilingual speakers are always welcome).
* We ask for disclosure–one volunteer is interested in doing a video project out of this. We welcome such as long as we are informed and I’m not asked to do too much about it.^^
* Ben was our one returning tutor. If I recall correctly, four of the 8 refugees were also returning.
* In the future, we are planning to do separate orientations in advance. This will give the tutors more time to discuss the project with us, so we don’t have to rush to get to the matching session. As I said yesterday, our orientation is like the process of waiting in line at an amusement park, and then the two minute ride off matching which happens rather quickly.
* All of the tutors got selected yesterday. We worry every time that someone might not get selected–although, from what I have heard, the tutors worry even more than we do! We try to let in as many tutors and refugees as possible, but have the reality of space and time…
We still have many challenges and are always looking for help. This started as “English Matching” because we wanted good pairs for studying. It became “Teach North Korean Refugees” because (eventually people will catch on that) we want people to teach what they know, what they can, or what they think they can help North Korean refugees with.
Check out our Website: http://www.teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/
Supporters without borders just wrote a love note about us.
to support us
TNKR Speech contest on 2/28
TNKR Facebook group
wrap up in Korean (at Dream Makers for North Korea site)
wrap up in Korea (Mulmangcho Website)
Volunteering for Mulmangcho (to teach NK refugee adolescents)