Student Spotlight: Myra and Samya Kheterpal Lead Initiative to Support Disadvantaged Girls
In the summer of 2021, two members of the ATA community Ms. Myra Kheterpal (17 years old) and Ms. Samya Kheterpal (12 years old), were invited to conduct a self-defense workshop for 65 girls at a shelter home in their hometown of Bangalore, India. Between the ages of 5-16, these girls had not had any opportunity for outdoor activities or sports of any kind during the pandemic. Although the first workshop was met with enthusiasm and appreciated by the administrators, who expressed interest in setting up a regular program, it presented several tough challenges for the two leaders. These included a lack of training space, language barriers, the necessity of wearing masks and avoiding direct contact. In addition, the large group with a broad age range saw the classes as a ‘fun’ experience and were reluctant to be disciplined in their practice. Reflecting on those early days, Ms. Samya shares, “We realized that despite the challenges, we could not walk away from the opportunity. Knowing how important it is for a girl, especially in India, to know how to protect herself, as well as seeing the excited and wonder-filled faces of the girls when we visited, it was clear to us that we had to work creatively to install a long-lasting Taekwondo program here.”
Over the next year and a half, the two leaders worked through these difficulties and created lesson plans that included basic forms, weapons, and self-defense moves. Training space was secured at a neighboring school, and a schedule was developed to make sure the outdoor stage space was free of dust or fallen debris prior to training. Frequent rains in Bengaluru make this space unusable for a major part of the year, so training on those days focused on indoor fitness sessions. Joint training between the shelter home girls and other students from ATA India were organized so that the girls could see what they could gain from giving their best to the class. After-class ‘fun’ games were used as bait to increase discipline during training time.
These two student leaders were supported and mentored by Master Thor and Ms. Vernon, who provided on-going guidance on teaching strategies for this large and unique group. Recently, all their hard work has paid off, as the first set of girls has completed their test and been awarded orange belts. Reflecting on this milestone, Ms. Myra shares, “Learning Taekwondo has been one of the most enriching experiences of our lives, mostly due to the multiple mentors and friends who have unknowingly empowered us to put our training to good use and spread the knowledge and joy that the sport brought us. Working with these wonderful girls has brought new challenges, new solutions, and most importantly, a new level of progress and joy.” Buoyed by the success of the first testing cycle, the girls are investing more into their training and counting steps to become an ATA black belt!
GET READY FOR SPRING NATIONALS!
Spring Nationals will take place in Dallas, TX
at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
March 1-4, 2023