As fellow members of the human family, we face a crisis.
There are about 20 million refugees in camps throughout the world. This figure does not include those internally displaced inside their own nations, nor those seeking asylum. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), one in every 122 of our fellow humans is now a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum.
If this number were the population of a country, the UNHCR reports, it would be the world’s 24th biggest nation. Most heartbreakingly, half of the world’s refugees are children.
It is time to act. The World Taekwondo Federation, which administers the Olympic sport globally, is doing just that. We have helped establish the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF) in April 2016 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Its mandate is to deploy taekwondo coaches to refugee camps worldwide, bringing the benefits of fitness, sport, self-defense, self-belief, and self-respect to those who need it most. Taekwondo is an economical, easily deployed deliverable that can help raise the quality of life for refugees in camps worldwide, both children and adults.
As an International Federation of the International Olympic Committee, the WTF is fulfilling its social responsibility. And our sport has precedents for helping people overcome adversity.
Taekwondo was a core curriculum item in Korea, building a resilient national physique and a determined national attitude at a time when the devastated nation was birthing an “economic miracle.” Now a globally popular Olympic sport, it will, in 2020, enter the Paralympics in Tokyo. And since 2008, the World Taekwondo Peace Corps has been dispatching coaches on missions to developing nations worldwide.
I hope you will consider joining us and becoming one of the founder sponsors of this new NGO ? one that is needed now, and will be needed more urgently than ever in the future.
Yours in the spirit of sport and humanism --
Zero to Hero : Nation Building and TaekwondoModern taekwondo (“the way of fist and foot”) originated as a Korean martial art in the 1950s. Then, following a brutal war, Korea was divided, devastated and demoralized. Nation building started in the 1960s. Leveraging foreign aid and alliances, and underwriting these assets with floods of sweat equity, a new country rose. An infrastructure took shape, industries sprouted and technologies were created – a process that was dubbed an “economic miracle.” Today, Korea is the world’s 14th largest economy, a democratic polity and a benchmark for developing nations.This extraordinary achievement would have been impossible without an educated, energetic, disciplined and determined populace. A key tool used by Korean authorities to build this asset was taekwondo. Taught to children and soldiers, it was a method of combat in which the weak overcame the strong, a method of physical education that strengthened he national physique and a method of discipline that forged a “never-say-die” national psyche.
Going Global : The Rise of an Olympic SportOriginally introduced overseas during the Vietnam conflict of the 1960s, taekwondo’s first world championships were held in 1973. In 1988, taekwondo featured in the Seoul Olympics as a demonstration sport. In 2000 in Sydney, taekwondo became an Olympic program sport. In the 1950s, few people outside Korea had even heard the word “taekwondo.” Today, it is one of the world’s most widely practiced sports, with 80 million practitioners training under 206 national federations.
A Sport for All : Para - taekwondoTaekwondo is not just for the strong and healthy, the sport is also appropriate for those with disabilities, from upper limb amputations to cerebral palsy. The first World Para-Taekwondo Championships were held in 2009 and taekwondo para-athletes are now gearing up for the ultimate sporting glory: parataekwondo will be contended under the Olympic flag in Tokyo in 2020.
A Helping Hand : The Taekwondo Peace CorpsIn 2008, taekwondo decided to give something back to the world: The Taekwondo Peace Corps. No time was wasted: Coaches were deployed to 25 developing nations the same year. Between 2008 and August 2015, the Taekwondo Peace Corps deployed 1,315 volunteers to coaching projects over 100 countries. The Korean experience demonstrates that taekwondo was an important intangible asset in nationbuilding. The Taekwondo Peace Corps demonstrates that taekwondo has the administration, the will and the track record to act in a humanitarian cause. Now, we want to take a further humanitarian step.
War, conflict and persecution are driving record numbers of peoples from their homes. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees “Global Trends” report found that in 2014 alone 13.9 million people became newly displaced – four times the number of the previous year. Worldwide there were 19.5 million refugees (up from 16.7 million in 2013). In addition there were 38.2 million people displaced inside their own countries (up from 33.3 million in 2013), and 1.8 million people awaiting the outcome of claims for asylum (against 1.2 million in 2013).
And according to the UNHCR, approximately half of all refugees are children.
Compounding the uncertainties facing countless refugees – “ When will I be able to return home?” “Will I be able to return home?” “Where will I be granted asylum?” “Will I be granted asylum?” – is their everyday existence. Many refugees are physically weak and mentally traumatized even before they arrive in the refugee camps. Once there, their frail health may be further degraded by hostile climactic conditions and poor food, water and sanitation. These conditions are often exacerbated by bad hygiene and substandard medical facilities. Moreover, many refugees have little or nothing to do all day, due to a lack of educational and recreational facilities. This can be particularly devastating for children who are given few outlets to express their energy, improve themselves or to otherwise gain self-respect. Many times, they lack the opportunities or the facilities to exercise that most basic right of any child – the right to play. Such a life can be uncertain, joyless, demotivating and hopeless.
Many international organizations and NGOs exist to help refugees with food, medicine, educational access, asylum counselling, etc. These are good programs and organizations. We do not aim to replicate their efforts. However, we do believe that taekwondo provides a unique and cost-effective vehicle that can solve some of the problems faced by refugees, simply by adding quality to their daily lives. These benefits include :
Within 2015, an NGO will be established in Lausanne, Switzerland:
The Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation. The aim of the foundation is to send teams of taekwondo coaches to teach in refugee camps, granting refugees superior physical fitness, upgraded mental attitudes, self-defense, self-belief and self-respect.
But this will cost money.
Over the next three years, we require seed funding for :
• The establishment and administration of the foundation ;
• The travel and living expenses of coaching teams ;
• The travel and living expenses of visiting champions on motivational visits ; and
• Uniforms, mats, protective gear and kicking pads for the refugee trainees.
If you wish to donate, you will, first and foremost, enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you are giving back to humanity by helping refugees upgrade their quality of life.
Moreover, the Foundation will – if you wish to be identified as a sponsor – prominently feature your name and/or organization and/or country on printed materials, website and promotional materials (such as text articles, film clips and photo galleries).
Special benefits – such as branded uniforms and equipment – can be discussed. Perhaps most importantly, you will be one of the founding sponsors of a new NGO that has a practical mission and that is, given the rising number of refugees worldwide, likely to be called upon ever more in the future.