In late 2020, TNKR (now FSI) leadership made the difficult decision to suspend its English tutoring project. From 2013-20, we had more than 450 North Korean refugees and more than 1,000 volunteers study together, mainly in our Track 1 English tutoring program. We hope to resume the tutoring project, if we can get adequate funding to run it as a first-rate program.
The main reasons we suspended English language tutoring:
* COVID. The changes brought about by the virus destroying the world also harmed our organization and special approach.
* Finances: With a decrease in fundraising, it was going to be more difficult to simultaneously operate three programs.
* Organization growth: With COVID and with an anticipated drop in grassroots funding, it made sense to downsize our programming and to focus on what we could do well.
* Expertise: The co-founders are not experts in ESL or EFL, but one co-founder is a public speaker and a professor teaching public speaking. Even with no volunteers, he could run that project on his own. With the English language program, however, we were relying on volunteers when we should have had paid professionals. And that goes back to finances, we are not wealthy enough to have a paid staffer managing the English language tutoring project.
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The main reasons we are considering resuming our tutoring project:
* We survived COVID! We had so much uncertainty during 2020, we weren't confident we could survive as an organization. Several organizations that we have partnered with have died, and that was a real possibility for us. Before our cheerleaders get out their pom-poms, we won't operate as we did in the past. In our naive days, we would do the work, then go online to raise money later. That was fine when we were still in our formative years, but the second time around, we will operate as most organizations do: Raise the funding, then do the work. (Kind of like most employees in the world won't keep showing up for work unless they know they will get paid.)
* North Korean refugees are still coming to us. We were known for being picky--and those higher standards are what also attracted many North Korean refugees to us. They knew they weren't joining a social club and that the focus was on them as individuals. In the last year we have had to turn away some North Korean refugees who were eager to study English, had tried other places, met people online, or were just beginning. With those many options, they were still coming to us after hearing how great our project was.
* Potential volunteers are still seeking us out. It has been almost a year since we suspended our tutoring project, but we still have potential volunteers coming to us. Many people assume that we have a huge budget already (Ha!) and that we should be like a delivery service sending refugees to anyone who asks. Hopefully, some of them will help us to get strong enough financially that we can restart programming. The help can be with fundraisers, donations, and also we will be applying for larger grants to help us with the re-boot.
* Our Keynote Speakers have asked for us to resume tutoring. While many of our speakers are great English speakers, a few lack confidence. We would like to help boost their confidence and ability by working with tutors committed to helping them improve their English.
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Not everyone, even our fans, reads messages carefully, so I am sure there will be some misunderstandings and we will probably have some people saying that we have already re-started.
Nope! When we are able to raise funding, then we will resume the tutoring project, with a paid staffer (without the benefits typically offered to English teachers in South Korea, we can't compete with the language institutes).
If you believe that it is important to have a professional and well-organized English language tutoring program for North Korean refugees, then please support this project as a monthly donor and set up a fundraiser to help us raise money. We hope to raise enough money to pay at least one coordinator as well as to raise funding to support the project overall.
Here are some reminders about why our tutoring project was so valuable and why we hated to suspend programming.
TVN (Little Big Heroes feature on TNKR)
Testimonials from North Korean refugees
Fundraisers by North Korean refugees
The truth about North Korea's medical system (Dr. Choi)
FSI changed my life (Songmi)
Hyosim's fundraiser for FSI (Hyosim)
Yeonmi Park's fundraiser (Yeonmi Park)
Help North Koreans Find Their Voices (Yeonmi)
Please Donate to my 25th Birthday for a cause - (Yeonmi Park)
Thank you volunteers and FSI - (JeongCheol Lee)
Sharon Jang (Sharon Jang)
TNKR IS A LITTLE BIG HERO(작지만 큰 사람 TNKR) (Ken Eom)
Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee (autograph) (Sungju Lee)
Help bring TNKR to the UK - (Jihyun Park)
"Dear Leader" author recommends TNKR (Jang Jinsung)
탈북민 영어교육프로그램 모금 - (Cherie)
당신이 바로 탈북민들의 운명을 바꿀수도 있는 멋진 사람이란걸! (Eunhee)
탈북민들에게 무료로 원어민영어 가르치는 TNKR을 격려 해 주세요 (Chanyang)
#신지은의 통일공감 11회 케이시 라티그 (TNKR 창립자) - YouTube (Interview in English)
Testimonials from volunteers
Testimonials from refugees to FSI's co-founder