In this post:

Second time around:

  • TNKR co-founders at Korea Association for Multicultural Education 2019 conference
  • Casey Lartigue keynote address to 44th World Youth Rally (2019)
  • Joe Scorse fundraiser for TNKR

TNKR activities

  • Refugee school project
  • High school volunteer from the USA
  • Refugee visitors

Getting Away from TNKR

  • Art exhibition
  • Prince movie night

Second time around: TNKR co-founders at KAME


TNKR’s co-founders spoke at 11th Korea Association for Multicultural Education conference on Thursday. We submitted a paper and presented together for 20 minutes. In 2018, we introduced TNKR and its main activities. This year, we focused on getting refugees prepared for public speaking.

Getting invited to speak at an event is usually an honor. Getting invited back a second time? That’s a surprise! Many conference and event organizers want to bring in new speakers, make new connections, present new topics. As far as I know, we were the only repeat speakers from last year.

I’m never sure that we fit at such academic conferences, they are talking either theory or rounding up statistics about a topic. In our case, we are presenting about what we are doing.

Eunkoo Lee’s confidence level as a speaker has definitely gone up. When I invited to join her on the panel this time, she didn’t hesitate or find excuses as she used to do in the past. This time she agreed from the beginning.

We might be having a new problem, however. Eunkoo said she would only take 5 of the 15 to 20 minutes , but she spoke for 8 minutes. So next we may be fighting over the microphone.

In this case, it was okay, because we were told that we had 15 to 20 minutes, and when I hear that, I only heard “20.”

We spoke with the other speakers and took photos with them as well as audience members. When I am one of the main speakers at an event, then I like to go around the room, meet everyone present, give them a chance to ask a question. There wasn’t much time for Q&A, which is my favorite part. I hate the idea of someone thinking they could have challenged me, but they didn’t have a chance. So I give them the chance after the session is over! And that is really relevant to a different discussion I attended the next day!


One of the speakers discussed mentoring North Korean youngsters. During Q&A, I added context to what another questioner had asked, then asked my question. Well, one of the educators in the room didn’t agree with my question and point, so we went at it a bit.

I’m not surprised. Very often when I am at education conferences, it is like going to church and loudly proclaiming, “Your God is dead.” A lot of what TNKR does against mainstream thought in education.

After the session, several people came over to me, wanting to learn more about TNKR. But the person who slightly disagreed? She disappeared, losing a chance to talk during the coffee break.

I like the speaker. She wanted the title and information in the photo–which you can expect me to do from now on. I wasn’t sure if including the screen in the background would be okay because sometimes my head will shine, but I guess my new phone can deal with such things.


Second time around: Casey Lartigue keynote at World Youth Rally


On Thursday, we returned to KAME. In July, I will be returning to the World Youth Rally. Last year I delivered the keynote address, to thunderous applause. The organizers immediately asked me if I could return in 2019. I didn’t take it seriously because I have been invited back many times when organizers are in the heat of the moment, then later I never hear back from them or someone on the team decides to find a new speaker.

So getting invited back is a double honor! The organizers visited yesterday to seal the deal. I will deliver the keynote on July 18, I will try to get Eunkoo Lee to come on stage with me, then three refugees will give short talks. After that, we will open up the event to a panel discussion before having Q&A.


Second time around: Fundraiser by Joe Scorse


We have had more than 900 volunteer tutors and coaches, countless other volunteers who come to us saying they will do anything to help TNKR, that joining us is a life-changing moment.

Then when we mention that we are not a financially strong organization and that it would help if volunteers at least attempted to raise money or set up fundraising events, then we sometimes don’t hear from them, or they complain to their friends about being pressured to raise money.

And then on the other hand, there are volunteers like the ones who organized a fundraiser at Phillies near Itaewon. The main organizer was Joe Scorse. We do have some volunteers who talk about having a fundraiser, even about connecting all of their co-workers, rich uncles, friends from college, so many plans that even I get dazzled.

Then we never heard from them. Or they apologize, they got busy with other stuff, such as starting a class learning how to make tacos or they had to go to a mud-wrestling festival instead.

Joe just organized his second fundraiser for TNKR. He worked with the TNKR process, kept us updated, organized it without requiring staffers to do too much, found an external partner, and raised money!

TNKR volunteers did join yesterday, Jackie Cole and YJ were recruiting passers-by to come in, Sungin was helping out with setting up and organizing. But the man of the hour was Joe Scorse!

Joe, Sungin and Eunkoo were going table to table to talk to people, while Jackie and YJ were recruiting passers-by to come in. It takes a team make these events possible.


Refugee School Project


TNKR co-founder Eunkoo Lee is in charge of a side project for TNKR–teaching English to North Korean refugee adolescents. This is part of the USA English Access Microscholarship Program, the first time this program has been done in South Korea (or perhaps it is the first time for North Korean refugees). Anyway, TNKR is the administering the program. We visited the school along with US government officials, watching one of the teachers lead the class.


She’s visiting Korea to volunteer with TNKR!!!


Sungin is visiting from the USA, spending about 10 days interning in our office. Here she is with Youngmin, translating a document for Eunkoo, then after that, helping with choosing which parts of the videos get uploaded on my Instagram.


Refugee visitors


A special moment for me is when a refugee visits the office, then tells me that she is honored to meet me. Of course, anybody can say anything. But in her case, she watched many of the TNKR videos and read many articles about me. It seemed like I was a movie star, not the co-founder of an NGO that apparently will survive another year.


Getting away from TNKR


Yes, I do get away from TNKR sometimes, but it doesn’t really seem to be relevant. Do people (besides Eben Appleton!) really want me to start talking about my non-TNKR meetings and activities? Could the people who want me to talk about non-TNKR meetings talk to the whiners who think I am spamming the Internet. Whatever those two sides agree, I will do.

A few days ago I went to an art exhibition by Eun-sun Huh. It is difficult to get me to an art museum, but you can get me to an art exhibition if the artist is there! I am not into deconstruction. Others can interpret what they see in a painting or hear in a song, but I want to talk directly to the artist, or to hear what the artist was thinking or motivated by! Others can have their own interpretations, but the artist was doing that painting (or song, or writing that book with something in mind that had nothing to do with those analyzing). I’m sure there are artists just trying to draw pretty pictures, but there are many artists who are trying to say something through their paintings.

Eun-sun was kind enough to spend quite a bit of time explaining each painting to me. She wanted to hear what I thought, but I was mute, just listening!


Prince Movie Night, June 7


Speaking of an artist with something to say, I will be holding movie night on June 7, to celebrate the birthday of the late singer Prince. We will be watching the movie Purple Rain, so come by if you have seen the movie at least once (or at least 50 times I have), want to see the movie, or have no idea who Prince is and are wondering which country he was a prince to…

I never met Prince, I’m sure he would have been quite bored and not taken the time to explain his music to me. Despite that, on June 7, I will do my best to answer any questions that people have about the movie Purple Rain and will stay all night talking about Prince or listening to his music along with anyone else who is interested. RSVP here, all proceeds will be donated to TNKR.