Parfait, in red, is a refugee who now instructs Para-taekwondo ©Tretyakov Alexander/World Taekwondo

Para-taekwondo is celebrating World Refugee Day by highlighting the work done in promoting the sport by the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Rwanda.

Working in two of the biggest refugee camps in the country at Kiziba and Mahama, Para-taekwondo has been inspiring people to participate in the sport.

With refugees mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, the THF partnered with the Rwanda Taekwondo Federation and UNHCR to showcase the sport.

THF project manager Sophie Roduit said: "For the refugees, it is to improve their daily life.

"Research suggests that taekwondo training has many psychological benefits, such as enhanced self-esteem, self-concept and reducing aggressiveness decrease scores on anxiety and increase scores on personal independence and ability to take a leadership role."

The project started in 2017 with Para-taekwondo becoming part of the programme in 2019 after learning that many refugees had disabilities.

There are more than 17,000 refugees in Kiziba, of which 200 participate in the sport, while Mahama houses nearly 60,000 refugees with 0.5 per cent of them having a disability.

The project also allows able-bodied and disabled athletes to practise together.

Olof Hansson, Para-taekwondo director at World Taekwondo said: "The rules for competition are very similar between taekwondo and Para-taekwondo.

"Most Para-taekwondo athletes in the world train together with their able-bodied counterparts. 

"Taekwondo can be practised almost everywhere with very little or no equipment. 

"These factors make the sport accessible to all, almost everywhere in the world, regardless of age, nationality, ethnicity, religion or ability."

One of those refugees participating is Parfait from the Mahama camp - a former Burundi Para-taekwondo athlete who now teaches others how to do the sport.

Hansson added: "Up until recently, Parfait was the only refugee with an impairment whom we knew of.

"We have since been informed of an additional four male and one female practitioners with an impairment taking part in the THF programme in Rwanda. 

"Parfait has been an inspiration as a taekwondo instructor with the THF project in Rwanda."

From figures in 2017, there are an estimated 172,000 refugees in Rwanda with it being estimated that there are over 30 million worldwide, according to the United Nations.