Posted by on July 16, 2014 in Blog

By Myles Teasley
Summer Intern, 2014

In July 2012, a Syrian refugee camp was hastily erected in northern Jordan. The statistics are staggering:

  • The Zaatari Refugee Camp was built in two weeks in July 2012
  • The camp houses roughly 100,000 people, though these numbers are constantly changing
  • 50%+ are under the age of 18 – that’s over 60,000 kids
  • If incorporated, it would be Jordan’s 4th largest city
  • 1 in 6 kids attend UN-run schools

The unrelenting tragedy of the camps deeply struck Mr. Lee, a South Korean humanitarian who has spent the last fifteen years living in the Middle East. Recalling the lessons of his childhood, he was determined to make a difference by using Taekwondo to help instill stability and discipline into the lives of a refugee society that has endured a tragic breakdown in personal stability.

In July 2013, Mr. Lee opened a Taekwondo School in Zaatari. What started as a group of 60 kids has gown to a school with classes everyday of the week and an extensive waitlist. “They said they were doubtful in the beginning. They couldn’t believe it!” says Mr. Lee.

Now, Mr. Lee believes his program can provide some opportunity and hope for Syrian refugees, especially children. “We must prepare for the future of Syria, right here,” he said. 

In March, Ellen Martinez and Steph Ching along with the crew, Jason Howell, Frank Weiss, and Brian Kang, took a three week trip to the Zaatari Refugee camp to film to capture on film this glimmer of positivity amidst so much pain and sorrow. The product, “After Spring: A Documentary Film,” delves deeper into the stories of Mr. Lee, his trailblazing students, and their families at the Zaatari Taekwondo School.

Speaking to AAI, Ellen and Steph said, “When the conflict began, we noticed coverage was mostly about the political implications for the region; there were few people talking about the humanitarian issues of the conflict.  We read about this taekwondo school and saw it as an interesting access point into the larger refugee story and the effects on the children and their families.”

Ellen, Steph, and their small crew’s work is not yet complete. The team is hoping to raise money for a two-month production trip back to Jordan in order to complete the documentary film and make sure that as they tell the stories of these individuals, they do their stories justice.

As Ellen and Steph say, “By sharing these stories, we hope to highlight the human faces who are affected by the Syrian conflict, not just the political side that so often becomes the main focus of attention.”

“Our goal is to paint an accurate, multi-dimensional portrait of the effects of the Syrian crisis and tell a story of hope and resilience.”

View the trailer below:


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