Skip to main content

TNKR FAQ

I often get questions about TNKR. We had a page but somehow I keep losing track of it on our main website, which isn't very Casey-friendly. I will start answering questions on this page, then when we get a Webmaster for the TNKR page, the person can upload this there.

Q: Do you provide a curriculum for tutoring/teaching or does the tutor plan out what the student needs? A: We have a fantastic curriculum designed by one of our tutors, but most refugees have their own learning goals and are able to follow that path (that's a key reason they want to join TNKR!). Refugees have a variety of English learning needs--and our tutors are ready to respond and work together with them. We call them "tutors," but "study partners" is actually more accurate. Tutors naturally feel the pressure to teach as much as possible, but we are trying to foster a culture of self-directed education so that hopefully after refugees have been with us for 3 to 6 months that they will be joining classes with tutors with each having an active role. Q: Do you ever turn down a person who wants to volunteer? A: Rarely! Some give up during the application process, I have had people complain at me for expecting them to design a customized resume for TNKR. They complain a bit less when they realize that the resume is for refugees, not for me. Some also give up when they realize that we mean it when we say that TNKR is not a social club, that the focus is on education, and partnering with refugees to help them reach their goals. Q: You have offices in Seoul and Busan, correct? A: Seoul is where the TNKR office is located. We have a mailing address and organization in the USA. But we don't have an office in Busan. We have had activities in other cities and countries, but at the moment we can only afford an office in Seoul.
Q: Not sure but I feel like I heard that Korean person can't be a tutor. Or maybe my memory is wrong! I checked the tutor page, and I can't find anything like that. So as a Korean, can I  be also a tutor?
A: Thanks for asking directly! We have had more than 1,000 volunteer tutors, coaches, and mentors participate in TNKR over the years as we have gone through many changes to keep TNKR refugee-centered. Additionally, many have applied but not joined, but seem to consider themselves experts anyway.

So naturally that means there is some misinformation, some misunderstandings by people who don't check for details, and even some former volunteers are referring to previous practices in TNKR that are out-of-date as we have updated our approach to keep TNKR as learner-centered as possible.
But one thing is clear: We welcome volunteers who are willing to tutor in English only, regardless of nationality.
A problem we have had with bilingual tutors is that they insist on using Korean with students in TNKR or keep giving excuses about why they must do so. After years of trying different methods, in 2017 we decided to go English-only.

To be clear:
Scenario 1: A nice person born in the USA who is a fluent Korean speaker and insists on using Korean in tutoring sessions with refugees in TNKR. TNKR's response: Talk with , then we will boot the person out.
Scenario 2: A nice person born in South Korea who is a fluent Korean speaker and insists on using English in tutoring sessions with refugees in TNKR, then we will hope the person never leaves TNKR.

In addition, Janice Kim, TNKR's Academic Coordinator, was born in South Korea. She started as a tutor in TNKR, then was so fantastic that she moved into a leadership position. We have had other South Korean tutors participate in TNKR as tutors. Youngmin Kwon has been another special volunteer for TNKR. After he embraced our English immersion process, he had a special role as an in-house tutor for North Korean refugees joining TNKR for the first time.

I hope it is clear that we accept tutors willing to accept our approach (English immersion, respecting the privacy of refugees, not treating this as a social club) regardless of nationality. Having said that, in addition to tutoring, we are thrilled when South Koreans join us because they have networks, connections and other ways to help TNKR that visitors and non-Koreans can't help with in most cases.

Q: ... But I have a few questions, so I’ve decided to contact you and ask. First of all- my first language is not English, but I can speak English fluently, I even have an experience with English tutoring, so I wanted to know, if you see it as a problem when tutor’s first language is not English?

A: 1) We accept second language speakers, as long as they demonstrated fluency.

My second question is, if you provide accommodation and meals for your international volunteers as some organizations do?
2) We don't provide any accommodations or meals, we can't even provide this for our staff or volunteers here. Some people mistake us for being a large organization, when the reality is that we are a grassroots organization relying on donations. 

And my last question is what are the conditions and requirements I must meet in order to became a tutor in your organization?
3) To be eligible, go through our application process, present yourself before refugees. We do give first preference to volunteers who become members.

Q: "I have some teaching experience but I was wondering if you all hire people and have a travel/flight pay/place to live or anything like that or if it is just volunteering for people who already live in South Korea."

A: One day when we have a large budget we may be able to provide such things. For now, TNKR is a grassroots organization relying on donations from fans and volunteers giving their time.

Q: "Can a TEFL certified English teacher from non native country apply for the vacancies you have for esl trainer ?"
A: We don't currently have an ESL trainer, but certainly anyone could help us create this volunteer position, demonstrate competence in handling it, propose how this would add value to TNKR, then get it done!

Q: "Are volunteers able to get a work visa or do they have to leave after the 90 days and come back?"
A: TNKR doesn't get involved in visa issues. You need to be in the country legally; that's about it. For payment issues, contact immigration directly at #1345. Immigration and the tax office are very interested in anyone receiving payment, but that has nothing to do with volunteering with us.

Q: "Does the teaching/tutoring take place in Seoul or at another location?"
A: 1) Students and tutors come to agreements on this. Of course, it would be a bit chaotic to throw people together and have them work it out, they would try to move things in their favor, so our process is to have tutors state in their resumes where it is most convenient for them to tutor. Refugees then include that as part of their decision-making process. 2) We prefer places of study such as business centers or study rooms, to keep the studying professional. One day, we will raise enough money to have our own office so most of the studying can occur at our office.

Q: "How many hours do you like your volunteers to volunteer for?"
A: To join, we require tutors to be ready for a minimum of three months, twice a month, for 90 minutes each session. We do ask volunteers to be ready for the possibility that they could be chosen by two different refugees (for a host of reasons I am sure I will answer when more questions come along), so that could mean a minimum of three months, four times a month, 90 minutes each session.

Q: "Prior to moving to the ROK, are there any suggestions you can provide to help prepare for a new life?"
A: I would recommend going on social media and trying to get enough sensible suggestions from others who have moved to South Korea.

Q: “Can you add virtual English tutoring so English speakers outside Korea can tutor nkr via skype-video cam?”
A: 1) Key point: We rarely have refugees asking for Skype. TNKR is a learner-centered program, so we avoid pushing refugees to engage in activities for the convenience of volunteers. We are building an organization based on the needs of refugees, and so we stay true to that. We have found that refugees will go along with us when we ask, but that isn't very student-centered, is it? When they had a choice, they chose local language helpers. We even developed a nice project with Ivy League students who came to us asking if they could help, and can you guess what happened? Every local volunteer was chosen by refugees. In contrast, only about 4 of the 12 Ivy League students were selected, and those connections ended quickly. Can we have at least one program in the world where the students are truly at the center when we say they are at the center?
2) I have heard there are some Skype programs for North Korean refugees, so you might want to find one of those.
3) We tried Skype a few times (in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018). For a while, we even had a Skype coordinator. Our latest attempt was a Skype program with Seoul City Government. We received an "A" rating from the city, but we did an internal evaluation, and refugees told us again that they want face-to-face tutoring in person, and that they can get online tutoring from other organizations and government. Once the grant money ran out, almost all of the online tutoring ended, and most of the tutors stopped contacting with us. The other Skype tutor who has remained in contact with us started as a face-to-face tutor.
4) Refugees come to us for face-to-face, in-person tutoring. We have developed a strong reputation for that. Local tutors will start talking about online tutoring, sometimes indirectly when they are in South Korea or when they are about to leave. Refugees will go along with it, but when we check, they don't want it but will go along with it for the convenience of tutors.
5) We are an official organization, so we seek to have programs or organized activities that can be conducted adequately with enough staff or infrastructure, not just one-off measures from kind people who pop up on the Internet or from volunteers who are local but would prefer online sessions.
6) I hate to profile, but the reality in my observation: Students and tutors weren't as committed when they used Skype. Tutors were less likely to submit reports or to be connected with us, and after a short time they would ignore us unless we chased them. And from what we heard, those online tutors were less likely to follow our process, for example, they were more likely to ask refugees about their personal stories.
7) There seem to be all kinds of logistical problems that degrade the process, such as people not adequately preparing for classes, not preparing in advance to be at a stable noise-free location ("Hi, I couldn't get back home in time, so I stopped at a coffee shop. Oh, but it is too loud here" or "The reception here isn't good" or "Can you hear me? Can you hear me? It seems the connection isn't good here, I will head home.")

We are delighted that people want to help! 

We are planning to have online tutoring later this year (2020), but in an organized way that makes it an effective part of what we do. Because of the virus that is destroying the world, we accelerated those plans somewhat but online tutoring is still just one small component of our process.

Q: “I don't feel prepared to teach English, but I would like to ask you if you would accept the teaching of other languages ​​in your center, such as Spanish.”

A: In March 2013, TNKR began connecting North Korean refugees to volunteer English tutors. In 2014, we had volunteers asking whether they could use other languages. We heard about volunteers using Chinese with students, teaching them some Spanish or French in addition to English. We decided to have a session focused on other languages, namely Spanish and Latin: Spanish because we had a volunteer who was willing to take the lead; Latin because we had a student who was studying law as an undergraduate and wanted to go to law school.

The Spanish program fell apart quickly. When I tried to find out what had happened, we learned that the students didn't take it seriously. English is something they MUST learn for university classes, the workplace, even every day conversation. Spanish? That was just a fun thing they didn't take seriously. Without the refugees taking it seriously, there was little reason for the tutors to take it seriously. And vice-versa, without the tutors taking it seriously, there was little reason for the refugee learners to take it seriously.

At some point TNKR will be a fully-funded organization with our English language program fully established. At that point, we can start to dabble in other languages. But for now, English remains and a clear and present emergency situation for many refugees, whereas other languages, for better or for worse, remains a luxury. As a student-centered program, we respond to the needs of students. There are some students who will occasionally pop up expressing interest in other languages, but that doesn't begin to compare to the desperation many refugees express about needing English right now to pass a test, survive in university classes, or to help with their jobs, etc.

Q: Could you provide some info on how one can apply to become a volunteer teacher? I wanted to become one before, but I failed to find anywhere any info on how one can join your organisation.

A: You can start with our application page, www.lovetnkr.org/tutor. We prefer tutors who can commit to 1:1 tutoring of North Korean refugees for at least three months, get to Seoul a minimum of twice of month for 90 minutes each tutoring session, understand this is an English-immersion program, and will respect the privacy of North Korean refugees. Applicants are expected to be present at an orientation demonstrating they understand and will respect our process. After that, they can be invited to a Language Matching session. To get an understanding of what we are doing, we recommend that you check out this interview on Arirang TV's "Heart to Heart." We also give bonus points in the application process to tutors who become members or who engage in fundraising to help us build the organization.

Q:  Hi I was wondering how I could volunteer while I stay in Korea. I will be staying for about 5 weeks so sadly I will not be able to tutor but I would love to help with any technical problems, logistics, or event help.
A: Great! We are thrilled when people want to tutor, but we often need help with other things. Our name makes it clear about our main mission, "Teach North Korean Refugees." But while KFC is about chickens, not everyone cooks chickens! There are many other people filling other roles at organizations and companies, such as delivery, sales, marketing, accounting, finance, planning, organization, social media, graphic design, audio, video, etc.
Similarly with TNKR, we need people with a variety of skills, not just tutoring, to help build a vibrant and sustainable organization.
The first thing you can do as a volunteer, especially a short-term volunteer:
1) Set up a fundraiser. TNKR is moving to become a Membership organization, even for short-term volunteers. Every person coming to us can help us build TNKR. You can set up your own fundraiser at our crowd-funding Website, set up your own Facebook account, become a monthly donor of any amount. We have had some short-term volunteers who dropped in, volunteered, asked for a certificate, then we never heard from them again. At the least, leave a mark by raising money for the organization and showing us from the beginning that you are concerned about the organization surviving past the time you are involved.
2) Study about our organization to figure out how you could get involved. As Frederick Douglass used to say: "The tools to those who can use them." What are your particular skills that could help? Some people are looking for the magical way to help, but if that magical way had been discovered, then someone would have already set up the "How to Help" Foundation and gotten volunteers and donors from around the world.
3) Join our Volunteer Leadership Academy after you have thought about how you could get involved (but be sure to follow up). We have many drive-by questioners and curious people, so please demonstrate your seriousness.
4) Then start agitating to have an Open House for volunteers. If at least 5 people are available for an Open House, then TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue is willing to hold an orientation to talk about ways volunteers can get involved.

Q: I'm a high school student, can I tutor refugees in TNKR?

A: Sure! But we have a different process for high school students.
1) A parent or guardian must contact us to confirm they agree with you volunteering. We will have both of you sign a waiver before you are allowed to volunteer.
2) You can apply as a volunteer tutor or join our Volunteer Leadership Academy, but must clearly mark that you are a high school student.
3) TNKR is moving to become a Membership organization, so set up your fundraiser so you can be eligible to volunteer immediately.
4) After high school students volunteer in other ways and prove themselves to be reliable, we can usually find opportunities for them to tutor North Korean refugees at our office.


Q: I'm currently teaching English in public schools in Daegu. I was wondering if there are any opportunities to volunteer for teaching North Korean refugees in Daegu? If so, what does the application process involve?
A: We don't have an office outside of Seoul and can't give any specific information about tutoring opportunities there. We are often asked to provide tutoring opportunities around different parts of Korea as well as in different countries, but we are still a humble organization so we have decided to focus on Seoul. We have connected with volunteers in other cities in South Korea, and in 2017 we traveled to the U.K., at the request of North Korean refugees there. We concluded that we should remain focused on South Korea, and in Seoul in particular.

Q: We are students from [university name and located deleted], more precisely of the faculty of International Relations. We are currently conducting studies on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and, while researching, we found your organisation that really impressed us. We are writing, because we want to prove that the truth comes from the experience of who has lived in first person, focusing on the nuclear issue. We would like to know if is there some possibility to have some questions-answered or even to establish a contact with someone.

Everything is obviously for educational purposes, in full respect of privacy and anonymously. 
Thanks in advance for your time and consideration,
A: Thank you so much for being in contact. We are delighted to share your questions with North Korean refugees studying in our program, but they get so many requests from so many reporters, researchers, government officials, churches, non-profits and students that they don't answer most requests.

If some of your school members became associated with us, such as holding an event, fundraiser there or online, did some kind of campaign that highlighted TNKR, then we could make a special request and they would be more likely to answer when they knew the people asking are associated with us.
Q: Hello! Are the tutoring sessions during the week or on the weekend ?
A: During our application process, prospective tutors identify when they are available. Then at the matching session, refugees choose tutors they want to study with, based on a number of factors, including availability. That means we have classes in the mornings, afternoons, evenings, weekends.



Written by Casey Lartigue
Proofed by Julian Warmington


Popular posts from this blog

Deliver directly to undertaker!
According to
AP: "Worshippers at black churches in 20 states will be urged this weekend to consider organ donation. The program, Linkages to Life, is aimed at raising awareness about organ donation among blacks, who suffer higher rates of diseases that damage the liver and kidneys."

This is not going to work. And it isn't because the religious leaders and others aren't trying or don't care.

1) Altruism motivates some people, but not enough to donate their vital organs. Thankfully we don't rely on altruism to motivate people to get up every day to go to work, to sell food to us, to play pro basketball or football, or for medical breakthroughs. We know that altruism doesn't work in most endeavors in life, but for some reason we believe (or foolishly hope) that it will work when it comes to people agreeing to have their bodies cut up after death or loved ones having to make that decision shortly after that loved one has expired. …

2019-11-02 Hana Foundation Youth English Speech Contest

The Hana Foundation held its third Youth English Speech Contest. I was delighted to be a judge for the third consecutive year and for TNKR volunteers to also mentor many of the contestants.

TNKR's Matching Challenge: https://give.lovetnkr.com/en/awesome