Nepal: Broken country, unbroken spirit
In spring 2015, Nepal was rocked by one of the most catastrophic earthquakes in recent history.
The mountainous nation shook from 300 aftershocks. Much housing and infrastructure was reduced to ruins. Over 9,000 Nepalese lay dead. Many, traumatized, remain in despair.
“This earthquake was a very devastating moment for us,” said Mr. Deep Raj Gurung, 58. “People are suffering badly, living in camps and homeless; the government is trying to help, but they are big numbers.”
Yet, amid this landscape of destruction, hope is rising. One sign of Nepalese resurgence is the country’s new national taekwondo training center.
Deep Raj, an 8th dan black belt with 36 years of experience in taekwondo, is the secretary general of the Nepalese Taekwondo Association, which will be responsible for the new center. It will open in two phases. The first phase will open in April 2016; the second phase will be complete in April 2017.
The decision to create the center was made two years before the earthquake struck and naturally, that impacted the construction plan. The center was downgraded from eight stories to three stories. Even so, the center will encompass two fields of play; seating for 1,000 spectators; a training hall; and office facilities. A neighboring building is to house a cafe, boarding facilities, and a gymnasium.
But the center represents physical infrastructure. Deep Raj – whose own family reside largely on the ground floor of their home, fearing to sleep upstairs – is more concerned with the degraded health of the Nepalese population. The earthquake has left countless physical and mental casualties in its wake, he noted. “They need rehabilitation programs,” he said.
This is where the WTF comes in.
During Deep Raj’s visit to the WTF headquarters in Seoul on October 27, 2015, WTF President Chungwon Choue said that the WTF will dispatch instructors and doctors to Nepal. The teams will arrive and operate as early as in January or February of 2016. These Nepalese activities will act as a pilot program of the nascent Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, an organization designed to teach taekwondo and related skills to refugees and displaced persons.
The WTF also plans to send taekwondo instructors and other educational teams to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan as a pilot project of the THF, which will be established under the Swiss law at the WTF office in Lausanne, Switzerland possibly this year.
“If a humanitarian group goes and teaches taekwondo, it will be very good for moral support,” said Deep Raj, whose Nepalese instructors will work alongside the THF team.
Beyond that, the Nepalese Taekwondo Association is planning an iconic event to prove that their national spirit has not been broken.
“Nepal is a mountainous country and we want to hold a symbolic event,” said Deep Raj. “This will symbolize that taekwondo people are strong and disciplined, with stamina, strength and power.”
The event, a poomsae championship, will take place on the slopes of Mount Annapurna. Competitors, in partnership with invited Alpine athletes from around the world, will trek up to the site. There, the championship will take place against one of the world’s most awesome backdrops: the mighty sweep of the Himalayas.
In addition to symbolizing the Nepalese spirit, the “Adventure Taekwondo Championships” will send a positive message to the world, Deep Raj said: “That Nepal is a good destination for tourism and sport.”
The championship will also provide an effective showcase for taekwondo at a time when the country is planning to designate a national sport.
In 2014, taekwondo was added to primary and secondary educational curricula as an optional subject. Parliament has now shortlisted three sports – taekwondo, cricket and volleyball – as a potential national sport. A decision is anticipated by the end of 2015.
Sport can be an effective vehicle for disaster recovery. “Sport gives many things,” Deep Raj said. “It gives us unity, it gives us discipline and passion and relations with other countries.”
Naturally, Deep Raj and his association are doing all they can to make sure that the sport chosen is taekwondo.
“Taekwondo is a well disciplined sport, it’s an individual sport, it’s a way of life,” said Deep Raj. “It is educational also. That is why we hope to do this.”