12/20/14

Teach North Korean Refugees launches new project (2014-12-20)

In March 2013, Lee Eunkoo and Casey Lartigue co-founded Teach North Korean Refugees. The main goal was to give North Korean refugees opportunities to study English with volunteer English tutors. We weren't the first to do it, but we added a few twists to it by allowing the refugees to choose the tutors themselves, and to choose as many as they wanted. We didn't benchmark the program by studying others, we just did what we thought made sense based on the situation. So far, we have matched 147 refugees and 11 South Koreans helping NK refugees with 205 tutors. We recently expanded beyond English to add Spanish and Latin, and later may add more languages.

But we have now launched a project that promises to be really special. We are splitting TNKR into two main parts;

Track 1: Finding My Own Way
Track 2: Telling My Story

Track 1 will be the original project connecting refugees with volunteer tutors to study for standardized tests, employment, school, personal enrichment, travel, curiosity.

Track 2 will allow those refugees who would like to become public speakers to work with Coaches. Some of them should be ready soon, some will need some time, and some are long-term projects. I want everyone to be realistic and I think everyone got that point.

We launched Track 2 yesterday, with 8 NK refugees, 1 South Korean, and 14 Coaches. What a talented and interesting group of Ambassadors and Coaches.

Seven of the eight refugees were or are current students in Track 1. It was the first time I had seen a few of them in a while, and wow, what an improvement in their English. They thanked us so many times for setting up this project, I can see they are so determined to improve themselves. One said that her "responsibility' will be to study hard. Another thanked us all for being interested in helping NK refugees, and also doing something about it.

Special thanks to our first group of Coaches:
Hannah Acuña Nedrow, Josh Cole, Fiona Fong, Sean Varley, Danielle Solof, @Mairi Law, Marisha Saifulina, Craig Urquhart, Fatima Nicholson, Charlotte Hammond, Jean Chung, @Colleen Dougherty, Suzanne Atwill Stewart, @kelly Sue Jin

It seems that our Coaches got swept away in the moment. Some of them stated at the beginning that they wanted only 1 or 2 Ambassadors to work with--but by the end, had three or four each.^^ I guess after they heard the refugees trying to express themselves in English, and saw their eagerness to learn that they kept finding time in their schedules.

This is a pilot project. We won't be benchmarking other projects, we will, like we did with Track 1, do what makes sense based on the situation. So we will be relying on our Coaches to give us feedback.

Thanks so much to the TNKR team:
Co-directors Lee Eunkoo and Casey Lartigue;
Special Assistant Suzanne Atwill Stewart.
Academic Adviser Sodam Jeong

If you'd like to support TNKR, please consider making a donation. Thanks to the Atlas Network in Washington, DC, our donations will be DOUBLED if you donate through them. They will send 100% of the money to us, doubled, minus wire fees. All of the money wil go into the project, not into salaries or commissions.
http://teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/2014/12/donate-to-tnkr-via-the-atlas-network/

I think this project will be really special. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Some of the idiots who are sympathetic or protective of the North Korean regime started complaining about this project even before we launched it. So I guess they realize how incredible (terrible, in their eyes) it will be if we can have a team of refugees able, in English, to tell their stories and discuss issues related to North Korea.