Empowering refugees through taekwondo
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The Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF) has created programmes for refugee children, training them in taekwondo and helping them empower themselves.

The Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF) aims to empower refugees by training them in taekwondo. It has created an educational program specifically designed for refugees and thereby tackles sport for development objectives. THF coaches are trained in how taekwondo can serve as a tool for social inclusion, social cohesion and mental health. The practice of taekwondo can improve significantly the self-esteem and the decision-making abilities of refugees. Such acquired skills are life skills which are transferable to many other areas, e.g. in the professional domain.

In order to make sure that the rights of refugee are preserved, THF is also active in the field of advocacy. For instance, the Foundation signed the UNHCR pledge for sport and refugees. In addition, the protection of children and safeguarding are treated as key topics and form part of the training for THF coaches. 

Taekwondo for social inclusion, social cohesion, mental health and gender equality
Sport is an educational tool which helps children to deal in a constructive way with their needs and expectations. However, for this to happen, physical activity must consider three important aspects: 

  • Development of individual characteristics/personalities: some children have been traumatized and these individual experiences need to be considered carefully in the way taekwondo is taught 
  • Training for global citizenship: the child learns the 5 tenets of taekwondo and by following them, they become a global citizen
  • Orientation for social practice: through the activities, classes and games proposed by THF, each child should discover social practice. This theory seeks to determine the link between practice and context of social situations. Emphasized as a commitment to change, social practice occurs in two forms: activity and inquiry

Taekwondo has strong assets for physical and mental education, and for refugees and displaced people it provides much more than just a physical workout. It supports the acquisition of values and principles, which are essential for developing the human spirit and for fostering social inclusion, social cohesion and mental health. 

Regarding gender equality, THF believes in diversity as a premise for a healthy and ever evolving society. The Foundation promotes and facilitates the development of opportunities for girls and women. 

Risk mitigation in sport for refugees
THF uses Taekwondo as a tool for mental growth and development, self-improvement, and as a mechanism for coping with difficult life transitions.

Coaches must be careful not to only focus on physical and technical performance, but consider that refugees have been exposed to disruption, loss, and violence, all of which increase significantly psychological and social strain in children and adults, their families and communities. It must be absolutely prevented that children feel incapable or victimized and therefore turn away from sport. Sport must provide for positive experiences.

In order to minimize related risks, THF has produced reader-friendly, accessible guidance and tools for people working with taekwondo in the field. Advice is provided on how to conduct Taekwondo classes and how to protect young people in order to maximise the positive effects for them. 

The future of sport for development
In line with the Sustainable Development Goals, THF attributes great attention to the creation and strengthening of partnerships. Forming synergies with other stakeholders and expert organisations can make a significant difference across all dimensions of the projects for refugees. Action coordinated between and carried out by several partners usually delivers better results and greater impact. 

In this spirit, the THF has signed MoUs with both Olympic and non-Olympic international federations as well as with NGOs as part of its commitment to tackle the global crisis of displaced people and refugees. It aims to extend these kinds of partnerships to even more sport governing bodies. Sportanddev can provide for the important bridge between all sports stakeholders and offer a channel to discuss and promote sport for development practices.

The role of the pledges signed at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum
A clear vision lays the foundation for long-term strategic actions, which lead to a desired future scenario. This is particularly important in an ever-changing world with endless opportunities and challenges. THF works towards understanding the challenges in adapting sports practice to migrants and refugees needs around the world.

THF Chairman Dr. Chungwon Choue strongly believes that “Taekwondo can play a leading role to enhance the livelihood of the refugees. We live in an era where sport has great potential to contribute to world peace, especially now with the global pandemic.”

Marcos Simões is the THF education advisor and an expert in sports for development.

Sophie Roduit is the THF project manager. 


All the countries
Sustainable Development Goals
10 – Reduced inequalities
Target Group
Displaced people

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