Taekwondo school continues fundraiser

Campaign halfway to goal of supporting Syrian refugees

Kelly Sullivan

NW Sport Taekwondo staff in Monroe are halfway to their goal of raising $1,000 for the Zaatari Taekwondo Academy at the Zaatari Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.

The funds will help cover the cost of mats for the anticipated 1,000 students that will train in what is now considered one of largest cities in Jordan.

Master Michael Colver commenced the local campaign in early March. The idea arose after viewing the 2016 documentary, “After Spring,” which follows families living in the 80,000-member camp.

The USA Taekwondo National Champion recently checked in with South Korean master Dr. Moses Lee, project manager for the Zaatari academy and camp. They spoke right after President Donald Trump authorized the use of missiles on a Syrian government airbase, which carried out chemical attacks that killed dozens of its own citizens in early April.

“It was very hard to hear, because people lost family members and whole family lines because of it,” he said.

Colver first decided to make contact with Lee after talking with the “After Spring” production team. The Zaatari camp has one of the largest numbers of Syrian refugees in the world, and at one point ballooned to twice its current size since opening in 2012. More than half of the displaced people are children under 18.

Many youth were acting out. The roster swelled once the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees cleared Lee to teach in the camp, and cases of behavioral issues decreased, which is a commonly reported effect of martial arts training.

Colver and Monroe taekwondo school master Stacy Criswell agree the practice teaches competitive skills, as well as mental and emotional fortitude. It fosters inner strength, and consequently the knowledge of how to apply physical strength sparingly.

It will cost about $3,000 for Lee to purchase all the mats. Anything made beyond that will be put toward a second effort — purchasing shipping containers that will be used for changing areas.

Colver has reached out to other instructors within the state, as well as across the United States and other countries to encourage participation in the campaign. The NW Sport Taekwondo school is the first in the country to work with the Zaatari academy.

Tim Ghormley, head Taekwondo coach at Stanford University, pitched the need for funding at the Team Trials divisions at the 2017 National Collegiate Taekwondo Association Championships at the University of California in San Diego this spring. He will soon be starting his own campaign at the collegiate level.

To top off the local operation, a screening of “After Spring” is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, at the Galaxy Theater in Monroe. The theater agreed to rent out the viewing space at half price. Entry is free, and all donations gathered that evening will go to the academy. Once this part of his project is complete, Colver said he and staff will help create a model for others that want to start their own campaigns, and assist in getting those up and running.

After the film has aired, the taekwondo students in Monroe will make a video for students at the Zaatari academy. Colver said his pupils have already been pondering a list of basic questions to ask, what they have, what do they train on and how they live in the camp. He said some were surprised to learn whole families sometimes sleep together in spaces the size of their bed. Colver has also created a GoFundMe page for people to give donations.

Photo by Kelly Sullivan: NW Sport Taekwondo students practice at the Monroe school on Thursday, March 30.


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