When he passed away, my mother, my three younger brothers, and I left Aleppo and took refuge in Turkey. Just like these children, I managed to smile. I, too, should keep my chin up and stay strong.” These are words of Ahed Abdullah, a 26-year-old Syrian refugee who teaches Taekwondo classes to young refugee children at the Al Farah Center in Gaziantep.
In 2015, one year after she came to Turkey, she started working as a volunteer while she was taking Turkish language courses at the center. Two years later, she became an activity support personnel and Taekwondo instructor at the same center. She couldn’t complete her education in English Literacy in Syria because of the war, but she is very happy to be teaching children and showing up strong for them.
Evidence shows that when children are supported and encouraged by caring adults, with access to spaces and services attentive to their needs, they have the potential to break long-standing cycles of poverty, discrimination and violence. With the support of UNICEF and with generous funding from the United States government, ASAM’s Al Farah Centers throughout Turkey provide children and young people with these safe spaces and the services they need to adapt to their new circumstances and reach their full potential. Among many services for children, such as counseling, life skills training, Turkish and English lessons, the Al Farah Center in Gaziantep also offers Taekwondo lessons to refugee children, so they can grow stronger both physically and mentally in a fun and safe environment.
Building Resilience Through Taekwondo
Ahed’s passion for Taekwondo started when she was a young girl. It was not common in her culture for girls to practice such sports but she managed to learn it through movies first and practiced at home with her brothers. When she came to Turkey, she started taking Taekwondo lessons at a small gym. “I researched where I can learn it. When I found a small sports center in my neighborhood I was very happy. Taekwondo helped me build my resilience, I can keep smiling because of it. I am so excited to teach it now. I have a red belt and 30 students who are eager to learn every day.”