SEOUL, Korea (April 6, 2016) – Thailand is one of the most deeply Buddhist nations on the face of the earth and it was a religious urge – the urge to build good karma – that convinced Thai Taekwondo Association President PimolSrivikorn to take taekwondo to orphans and refugees.
“Because we are Buddhist people, we believe that, ‘What you sow is what you reap’ – good karma comes to you if you practice good karma,” said Srivikorn, who is also vice president of the Asian Taekwondo Union and a Council member of the WTF. “We have won here and there, we have Olympians and world champions so our good karma will run out if we do not cultivate some! I thought, ‘Why don’t we build karma instead of donating to temples?’”
From thought – action. In 2009, Srivikorn decided to sponsor weekend taekwondo classes – instruction, uniforms and equipment – at a Bangkok orphanage for boys aged 8-16.
“The results were quite amazing these boys became better kids through taekwondo,” he recalled. “And by better kids I mean they are more responsible, more stable, more consistent; all the bullying stopped.” As skill levels rose, Srivikorn sponsored the orphans to compete on the local circuit. “They gained medals, self-esteem and self-confidence,” he said. “This can be testified by the local social workers. They told me, ‘This boy used to be a big bully, but now he helps his juniors… this kid used to give the finger to the head master, but now he is very courteous.’”
The positive outcome led to a second project. “I thought, I could take it further – so we took it to an orphanage for girls in Lampoon Province in northern Thailand,” Srivikorn said. “In this particular orphanage, most girls had parents who died of AIDS and they got rejected by their communities, while some had problems with stepfathers and sexual abuse and so on.” That program started in 2012. Similar results occurred.
The Taekwondo Association of Thailand’s latest project is at a refugee camp for hill tribes people whose home region straddle the Southeast Asian nation’s rugged borders. “It started with an instructor doing research on education among hill tribes, and she happened to be a taekwondo instructor,” he said. “That is how it all started.”
The program got underway in 2014. “It is sort of an orphanage, sort of a refugee camp, they take on refugee kids who are not accepted as citizens of the neighboring country; they don’t have nationality there, they don’t have citizenship or passports; they have nothing.” The hundreds of children at the camp have not yet reached the competitive level, but look forward to their taekwondo classes and are doing well.
On a courtesy call to the WTF offices in Seoul in April 2016, Srivikorn was surprised to hear that the WTF was also sponsoring a program to take taekwondo to refugee camps: the nascent Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, or THF.
Looking ahead, he sees future synergies. “Dr. Chungwon Choue said that the THF will do some fundraising so I will donate to start off with, then I am happy to share our experience with whoever is going to be running this program,” he said. “Funding is easy, but the experience of maximizing the effectiveness of the program is probably most important.”
Sounds like good karma all round.