2016-09-25 Freedom Speakers International (previously Teach North Korean Refugees) quietly started in March 2013 with a small session including 5 volunteers, 5 NK refugees and 2 volunteers.
We now occasionally have larger sessions like this past Saturday, with 8 learners, 16 tutors, and 3 volunteer helpers for the session.
It is also an example of the way we have changed so that each session:
1) Provides refugees as many choices as possible in choosing several tutors.
2) Doing our best to make sure every tutor gets selected.
3) Trying to end the session as quickly as possible, because everyone wants to get in, but once they are in, want to pull up the ladder from others.
4) Two refugees canceled at the last minute, one tutor canceled the day before but one tutor happened to pop up so I gave her a quick orientation in the morning between other meetings.
The refugees gave the following feedback and comments:
* I arrived in 2009, I am now a university student studying TOEIC and TOEFL so I can study abroad and one day work for a foreign company. Thanks to TNKR, I was able to win a scholarship to study abroad for seven months.
* I arrived in South Korea in 2008, I will probably study in Canada in the future. I am now focused on conversation and speaking. I am happy to be in TNKR because I also have had the opportunity to work with coaches helping me tell my story.
* I arrived in South Korea in 2006, I hope to study abroad in the future. I am focused on writing and listening. I am always thankful to TNKR for giving me the opportunity to study with native and fluent speakers.
* I arrived in South Korea in 2002. I have time to study, but weekends are best for me. I have a car, free time, I will follow the teacher. I hope to go to graduate school next year, so I need help with essays, interviews, discussion. Thank you to TNKR, it has given me so many great opportunities.
* I arrived in South Korea in 2009, I am now a university student. I need to improve my speaking and writing. I joined TNKR in 2014, it was a great experience, I studied with six teachers durin that year.
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I warn tutors (and others watching humble project) to be very slow with their conclusions. I have met so many people who meet one refugee, then base everything they know about NK and refugees on that one refugee. This particular session had refugees who have previously studied in the program and have been waiting for a chance to study again. The only two newcomers dropped out the morning and afternoon of the session.
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The tutors mentioned different reasons for wanting to join:
* Help refugees adjust
* Interest in NK.
* Love teaching and volunteering, heard about TNKR more than a year ago, now she has a chance to join.
* Heard about TNKR from a professor, wanted to join at the "perfect time," then realized there would be no perfect time so he just joined.
* Interested in NK and the refugee situation. First-time teacher.
* A returning tutor, first heard about it from a friend.
* Interested in human development, skills training. Found TNKR through a google search for NGOs in Seoul.
* Learned about TNKR through his research. Thought about applying earlier, studying Korean now.
* Heard about TNKR from a friend, sounded inspiring. Great chance to help with the adaptation process.
* Wanted to do volunteer work, this seems to be a great chance to make a difference.
* Interested in NK human rights. Learned about TNKR through a google search.
* Studies Korean history, wants to "give back" to Korea.
* Interested in volunteering for refugees. Found TNKR thorugh Facebook, attended July 31 "Stories from the North" TNKR forum at Seoul University of Foreign Studies.
* Read about TNKR on Korea4expats. Helped with refugees at an embassy, this is now her chance to teach directly.
* Learned about TNKR from a Facebook article, returning to TNKR for about the 4th time.