“A Free Mini Boarding College-Preparatory Institution for North Korean Refugees”

Empower House, our latest project, provides a free and comprehensive service with the aim of bridging the gap between North Korean refugees’ current educational attainments and eligibility for four-year college programs.

The Challenge

Through our RealPal program and awareness events, we at ENoK encountered a tremendous thirst for knowledge among North Korean refugees. Due to their unique circumstances, however, many North Korean refugees struggle academically, finding entrance to college a particularly difficult challenge. While living in North Korea, most had not had access to the kind of education that would prepare them for academic life in the United States. In addition, many had been deprived of even basic schooling, forced to spend their early years hiding and avoiding capture by authorities.

After resettling in the United States, North Korean refugees are too often forced to sacrifice educational goals in order to meet basic needs. Due to poor English skills, cultural differences, and lack of credentials, refugees frequently struggle to support themselves and their families. In particular, younger refugees, because they adapt to the new environment faster than their parents, are oftentimes burdened with the responsibility of providing for their entire families. Commonly juggling long work hours and family responsibilities, they may struggle to find the time and focus to continue their education.

All of these factors – lack of prior schooling, lack of English skills (especially in reading and writing), financial difficulties, and lack of time to study – make higher education effectively inaccessible for many young North Korean refugees.

Our Goals

AHSOOur goals with Empower House are to:

1) Provide a supportive and learning-intensive environment that allows North Korean refugees to focus fully on their studies without having to work to support themselves in the meantime.
2) Provide targeted lesson plans and tutoring to bridge the gap between North Korean refugees’ skill sets and those needed for entrance into four-year colleges.
3) Aid North Korean refugees with all aspects of preparing college applications, including tutoring for standardized tests (TOEFL, GED, SAT, ACT) and college counseling.

Our long-term goal and hope for our graduates is that they would eventually use their knowledge and credentials to make a positive impact on their communities.

What We Do

empowerhouse-logo-letters_SKedit2Empower House currently assists five young refugees who aspire to pursue higher education but have been unable to do so because of immediate financial needs. Empower House operates both as a home and a tutoring center for the refugees, free of charge. Occupants receives daily lessons to help prepare them for entrance to four-year colleges. They also engage with the surrounding community through field trips, a mentor-buddy program with local university students, and other extracurricular activities as desired and/or available.


Hyde Park, Chicago, IL


North Korean refugees, 18 or older


ESL, GED prep, SAT/ACT prep, TOEFL prep, cultural & extracurricular activities, and college/guidance counseling


If you would like to participate in delivering this opportunity to the refugees and provide them with an experience that they could not have elsewhere, you may choose to:

VOLUNTEER as a teacher for the refugee residents of the House!

Description: 1) Tutor North Korean defectors students in English grammar, reading, and writing, 2) help them prepare for standardized tests (e.g. SAT, ACT, TOEFL, GED), 3) prepare quizzes and tests in the relevant subjects, and 4) grade quizzes and tests and complete reports on the results.

Time commitment: 2 hours per week for a minimum of 2 months

Eligibility: High school graduate.

Location: Hyde Park, Chicago, IL

This is the best way to provide direct services to the refugees.

To apply, simply submit a resume and a statement of interest (300 words or fewer) to enok.group@gmail.com


If you are unable to volunteer your time with us at Empower House, there is still another way to join us in delivering this program to the refugees!

Thanks to the help and contributions from many generous individuals and groups, we successfully met our funding goal for the 2014-2015 year! (see Empower House Budget 9.16.2015) Please help us keep Empower House going for many years to come. Your generous support and gifts are greatly appreciated.


Thank you for your support.

– ENoK Team

* Should you have questions about your gifts or any other aspects of the program, please do not hesitate to contact us at admin@enok.org, or refer to our Frequently Asked Questions section.