Pilot Project Gets Underway in Syrian Refugee Camp; Nepal Program to Follow
ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan (Dec. 1, 2015) – The World Taekwondo Federation kicked off a new humanitarian program to assist refugees with a spectacular opening ceremony for a taekwondo academy in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp on December 1st, 2015. today.
The ceremony drew high-ranking officials such as Dr. Ahmad Samara Al-Zu`bei, governor of Mafraq; Colonel Abdelrahman Al-Amoush, head of the Zaatari camp; Mr. Hovig Etyemezian, Zaatari camp manager from the UNHCR; and Mr. Hong-ki Choi, Korean Ambassador to Jordan.
Another spectacular demonstration was performed at the Azraq camp earlier the day.
The launch marks the start of a two-part pilot program designed to gain experience before the WTF’s nascent Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, or THF, begins full-scale operations in early 2016.
At the Zaatari Refugee Camp, some 70 kms northeast of the Jordanian capital of Amman, a total of 14 members of the elite WTF Taekwondo Demonstration Team, who had flown in from Seoul, performed kicks, aerials, self-defense techniques and board breaks. Visiting WTF President Chungwon Choue then declared the Zaatari Camp “WTF Taekwondo Academy” open.
“The opening of this academy will, I hope, help improve the quality of life of refugees resident in this camp,” said Choue. “I invite anyone in Zaatari who has an interest in physical fitness, sport or self-defense – be they young or old, male or female – to avail themselves of this facility.”
The academy, which contains a taekwondo training hall and classrooms, will be manned by local instructors currently being trained by the WTF.
WTF Demonstration Team member Hong Shi-young will remain in Jordan for two months to train four Jordanian instructors in coaching techniques. The four, who were chosen from among 20 applicants, will then teach taekwondo to Syrian refugees at both Zaatari, home to 79,000 refugees, and at the Al Azraq camp, home to 28,000.
“Taekwondo is the perfect sport for refugees, many of whom have little to do all day, as it requires minimal equipment and minimal facilities,” said Usman Dildar, an Afghanistan-born taekwondo official based in Saudi Arabia who carried out the WTF reconnaissance prior to the academy’s opening. “However, as a demanding exercise, an Olympic sport and a martial art, it delivers physical fitness, self-confidence, self-defense and self-belief.”
Choue is scheduled to meet on December 2 three members of the Jordanian royal family – Prince Faisal bin Al Hussein, IOC member and president of the Jordan Olympic Committee; Prince El Hassan bin Talal; and Prince Rashid bin El Hussein, president of the Jordan Taekwondo Federation – to discuss on how to align the taekwondo program with the current refugee-assistance programs of the Jordanian government, so ensuring its sustainability.
The WTF’s second pilot program will take place in the earthquake-hit Nepal in late January. Choue is scheduled to visit the country with 15 members of the WTF Demonstration Team, who will demonstrate and teach in displaced persons’ camps. The WTF president’s visit will be preceded by the dispatch of a 30-person medical team affiliated with the WTF.
The Jordanian and Nepalese pilot programs are precursors to the full operation of a new body forming under the WTF auspices, the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation. The foundation is currently being formally established in Lausanne, Switzerland. Its aim is to dispatch teams of taekwondo instructors, as well as related educational and medical personnel, to refugee and displaced persons’ camps worldwide.
“The global refugee crisis is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity, and the plight of child refugees, as I have personally witnessed in recent days, is heart-rending,” Choue said. “As an Olympic federation, it is the WTF’s responsibility to be part of the solution, and the THF is our vehicle to do that.”