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2018-10-17 We agree! Do not iron while wearing

When we hold an orientation for volunteers joining TNKR, I take a few minutes to give the "Do Not Iron While Wearing" warning.

I hate doing it, because many people applying for TNKR are sensible, professional and caring people who really want to help refugees. But then, in any group, there are 10 to 20 percent of people who need to be warned not to do stupid things. And for many, one warning is not enough!

During that part of the orientation I sometimes even apologize, knowing that 90 percent of the people will wonder why I am giving them such nonsensical warnings.

I will ask, "Have any of you ever seen the warning label: 'Do not iron while wearing?' Where does that kind of warning come from? Yes, from people ironing shirts while they are wearing them. Lawyers and safety experts have seen many ways that people have hurt themselves, and in our case, we must warn all volunteers not to do the stupid things that a handful of people have already done. I don't name names, I just discuss the warning label: "Do not iron while wearing."

Despite those warnings, we do have to occasionally kick out volunteers for doing the equivalent of ironing shirts while wearing them.


Yesterday, I was on the receiving end of "do not iron while wearing" warnings. Because TNKR is a registered non-profit going through the process of being able to offer tax-deductible donations, it means that we must engage in more paperwork rather than real work. It is great news because it means that people in Korea who have already donated since we first began the process will be able to get the tax deductions retroactively.

That means there are more laws and regulations that can get us into trouble, so Eunkoo Lee will be working even harder and dealing with even more paperwork than before. Running a registered non-profit is more than just holdings seminars, parties and meetings, there is a lot of paperwork that wastes a lot of time.

Listening to the lawyers, I was amazed by some of the things that some organizations have tried to get away with. I even laughed out loud a few times, although it probably wasn't appropriate. ( Youngmin Kwon assures me that it wasn't inappropriate and actually helped lighten the mood.)

I also felt kind of naïve, recognizing how uncreative we are when it comes to our activities. We have eliminated socializing, hanging out, just tried to focus on building a serious organization. We don't download free programs, we don't engage in dubious activities, we will pay so we can avoid downloading viruses or breaking copyright or intellectual property laws. I don't want to be looking over my shoulder hoping the cops or regulators aren't catching up to us. I prefer telling them: "Go ahead, take photos, search our records, I hope you don't mind that we will continue working as you are investigating."

I always make the point to staff that we must have a clear process for our activities. The day can always come that a volunteer or refugee will do something unethical or illegal, and we will have to explain how we do what we do and what the process is. So we take a few minutes in the orientation to give the "do not iron while wearing" lecture in addition to develop processes that are as transparent as possible.

We deeply believe in building an organization that we can always be proud of--and so we can laugh out loud when lawyers and regulators give us "do not iron while wearing" warnings.


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