Aikido Lessons in Bangladesh for the Rohingya Refugee Children

This message is from John Fox Sensei, Aikan Dojo Director and Chief Instructor  

For many years I have been greatly saddened witnessing the news of people around the world having their lives devastated more and more by violence, creating more and more victims. Women, children, the elderly, and families have all been simply labeled as 
collateral damage. In the latter part of last year, I became aware of the horrific experiences that drove Rohingya refugee families out of Myanmar into refugee camps in Bangladesh. For me, this was the last straw. In November of 2017, I begin making plans to go there to develop an Aikido program for refugee children. I want to create Aikido instructors within the refugee camps so that classes can be ongoing during my absence. If my efforts there are well received and productive, regularly scheduled return trips will be planned which will allow me to continue growing the skills of the Rohingya Aikido instructors.

UPDATE: My flight landed in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Dec 4, 2018, just past midnight. Due to poor planning on my part, getting through immigration took almost 4 hours, sometimes making it doubtful if I would be allowed into the country. I arrived in Cox Bazar on December 5th at 3:30pm. I made my first visit to refugee camps Kutupalong and Bhalukali 1 & 2 on Dec 8th. It was a 90 minute ride in a small van which was arranged by my Bangladeshi guide/translator/fixer, Mustafizur/Jewel (age 23, a college student studying business). Once at the camp, we waited outside for Tofail, my Rohingya translator that I met online, Osman another Rohingya camp resident came along. 

Up until now, I have not been able to gain any affiliation with any NGO in Bangladesh, though I continue to work to create some partnership, or at least a relationship which can offer some guidance. Operating solo made it very difficult to make progress toward my goals. I was, however able to develop an relationship with the Hope Foundation Hospital in Ramu, outside of Cox Bazar, in route to the refugee camps. It is headed by Dr. Iftekhar Mahmood. He established HOPE Foundation for Women & Children of Bangladesh, Inc.’ in 1999 in the USA as a charitable organization whose mission is to provide healthcare to the poor and needy mothers and children in Bangladesh. In January 2000, the outpatient clinic of Cox’s Bazar Hospital for Women and Children was opened in a rented room with one doctor providing medical care to the poor people of the area. The outpatient clinic ran successfully for 5 years during which time over 60,000 patient visits were made. Meanwhile, Dr. Mahmood began a fundraising campaign among friends, colleagues and the expatriate Bangladeshi community in America to raise money to build a fully functioning hospital that could provide more services to the poor. During 2004 a series of fundraising events helped raise money to build a 40-bed hospital in a rural area just outside Cox’s Bazar. The hospital construction began in 2004 and the hospital was inaugurated in April 2005. This hospital, including a training center, provides much needed service to the community at nominal expense and free to those who cannot afford to pay. A total of eight additional satellite clinics were established in nearby rural villages to better serve those who cannot afford to travel to the hospital for varying reasons, as well as refer patients with more complicated and severe cases to the hospital where they can receive the appropriate treatment they need. HOPE is serving over 25,000 patients a year and aims to continue growing to reach as many destitute Bangladeshi and Rohingya people as possible. Pictured below is the under construction Maternity & Fistula Center with Dr. Iftikher in the foreground (shot Dec 2018) which will be 6 stories high, 45,124 sq ft, with 75 beds, 2 operating rooms, 2 delivery rooms, and 1 laboratory.

On April 23, 2019, Hope Foundation was included along with Doctors Without Borders as the recipients of 100% of all proceeds of our 3rd annual Fundraising Benefit / Self-Defense Training, this year raising $1,365, $835 went to Hope Foundation and $530 went to Doctors Without Borders. This will help to compensate for the seemingly increasing level of violence created by man and nature.