Young Syrian women find potential through taekwondo at refugee camp

Hajar Al Nabilsi, 19, a Syrian refugee valedictorian based in the Za'atari camp, poses with a medal during the third edition of the Hope and Dreams Sports Festival in Amman, Jordan, May 3. Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

ZA’ATARI, Jordan — Seventy kilometers from the Jordanian capital of Amman and only 30 kilometers from the Syrian border, the Za’atari refugee camp is home to some 80,000 Syrians.It is where Hajar Al Nabilsi, 19, has lived with her family since the outbreak of the civil war in 2013 when she was only nine. At the age of 12, she started taekwondo as her friends introduced her to a taekwondo academy.”As a person who likes adventures, I decided to go to taekwondo academy to try new things,” she said. Among the 300 trainees at the camp’s taekwondo academy, which the Korea Refugee Project (KRP) has operated since 2013, one-third are girls like Al Nabilsi.

“Some people in my culture don’t expect the idea that girls practice sports … However, taekwondo helps girls in many different ways, starting from increasing their self-confidence and abilities to socialize with others,” she said, highlighting the connection between sports and her academic achievements.Having graduated high school as a valedictorian at the camp last year, Al Nabilsi plans to go to Canada through the World University Service of Canada’s Student Refugee Program in August. Her dream is to study medicine and become a doctor because she wants to come back to the refugee camp and help those in need, like her father, who has been struggling with pituitary tumors for over two years.Inas Khasawenah, 22, the most senior among women trainees at the academy, is studying translation at nearby Jarqa University. Years of taekwondo training helped not only the physical and mental health but also university applications and studies of young athletes 메이저 like her.

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