Korean taekwondo masters teach refugee children compassion and discipline

Children at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan are learning the art of Taekwondo, thanks to a team of passionate Korean trainers who are teaching the sport as a means of instilling discipline and self-respect in kids who have faced trauma in their lifetime.

Charles Lee, who has lived in Jordan for over 10 years working as an acupuncturist, believes in the power of taekwondo in fostering the development of the refugee children, many of whom do not attend school or have any sort of mentor to guide them.

“I want to teach them to have more sportsmanship and to change how they think. I want them to be peaceful and to help their neighbors and communities,” -Lee, the founder of Zaatari Taekwondo Academy, told the Times of Israel.

The taekwondo program took off with the support of UN relief agencies. Lee also trained adult refugees, many of them sports coaches, so that they could run classes themselves and reach more children through the program.

According to Lee, the child refugees are often prone to violence, having grown up around it majority of their lives. Their favorite “game” to play is throwing stones at each other.

From the taekwondo classes, the trainers are seeing remarkable growth in the children.

“It has changed the character of the boys. They rely on themselves now, and the girls have stronger personalities,” - Mohammad Rashid, a physical education teacher, told AJ+.

“Taekwondo is what I like the most here,” said a Syrian girl. “Because I can defend myself, get to learn many things and care about my friends. I really like training a lot.”