On my most recent trip to visit Maison de la Gare, a very special activity took place at Maison de la Gare’s center, organized and funded in a very special way.
The Douvris Cup Classic was a karate tournament organized to show off the karate skills of the karateka of Maison de la Gare. The competitors were forced-begging talibé children who have been training in the Maison de la Gare karate program in their limited spare time away from begging, for between three years to as little as six months. The tournament was conceived and funded by the Douvris Karate Tournament Team in Ottawa, a group of Canadian youth who care about and support their forced-begging counterparts in Senegal.
The Douvris Karate Cup and The Douvris Young Guns Karate Cup were the grand champion prizes for the senior and junior divisions at the Tournament, provided by the Canadian youth. And, the Canadian dojo of the Douvris Tournament Team donated medals for all competitors. The karate kids of Maison de la Gare were invited to compete, to demonstrate their skills and passion for karate, and to vie for gold, silver and bronze medals. The junior and senior overall champions have their names engraved on the trophies, their glory permanently displayed.
The Douvris Young Guns Karate Cup was conceived in honor of the efforts of junior members of the Douvris Tournament Team to support the Maison de la Gare karate kids. Robbie Hughes first founded the Maison de la Gare karate program three and a half years ago. Since then, others in our Douvris dojo family have become involved, sponsoring kids to enroll at the dojo in Saint Louis, sponsoring tournaments, and contributing to the supplementary nutrition program.
For the past two years, two young Canadian karate students, Kaylie and Keagan Goosen, have saved their allowances all year long, saving enough money to sponsor at least one Maison de la Gare child to join the dojo each year. They were inspired by their teammate Robbie Hughes’ dedication to the Maison de la Gare karate kids. The story of the forced-begging street kids touched them, calling them to take action themselves. Recently, Kaylie requested donations to Maison de la Gare instead of birthday gifts for herself at her seventh birthday party. As a result, enough money was raised to help sponsor this special karate tournament for Maison de la Gare.
Word of the Douvris Cup Classic had reached the karateka of Maison de la Gare a few weeks in advance. The competitors had been working hard to prepare, staying late at the dojo each night, working on kata routines, and practicing sparring. The desire to win was strong. Glory and Fame were to be the rewards. And, the title of “Champion”. An almost impossible dream for forced-begging street children who have neither families, education, nor role models apart from Maison de la Gare and their karate senseis.
The day of the tournament, the excitement at the center was palpable. Competitors set aside their street clothes, donned their white karate gi and tied their belts. The kids gathered in small groups, warming up, stretching, or running through a kata one last time in search of perfection, or perhaps just in hopes of remembering the right moves. As the Douvris Cup trophies and medals were laid out, the tension in the air increased and all the kids of Maison de la Gare gathered around in admiration. The sanctioned referees, dressed respectfully in suits, gathered around the competition mat. Crowds of spectators, Maison de la Gare staff and hundreds of talibé children, gathered in anticipation.
As the center judge bowed to the competitors, it was time to begin. In pairs, the competitors donned blue belts or red. One by one, they presented their prepared katas. Then, the referees made their decisions with the wave of their flags. Blue, or red. On the faces of the two competitors, triumph, or despair. Then the winners of each pair competed again. As the competition advanced through the day, the crowd cheered on their favorites.
Finally, down to the last pairings, the tension was awesome. The prize was Grand Champion, the Douvris Cup, and Glory. The expression on the face of the winner said everything. And soon, even the face of the loser changed, breaking into a vast smile as it sunk in that he was the silver medalist, after all. Two trophies were awarded, one for younger kids and one for the older ones. And, medals were awarded all around, for sparring as well as kata, and for kihon for the younger competitors. The champions were carried around on the shoulders of their teammates and the onlookers as heroes. The revelry lasted well after the last light had faded. No one wanted this glorious day to end.
The tournament was evidence to the Maison de la Gare karateka of the peer support of Canadian karate students. Kids the same age, who share the same passions, helping each other. Hands reaching out across the ocean, the sharing of a special passion among children from two different worlds. Different, but the same.
Donations to the karate program through GlobalGiving can help to bring more karate tournaments to the talibés of Maison de la Gare. More opportunity to feel seen and supported by the world. And, more opportunity to shine and be celebrated as individuals, to become heroes and role models to other talibé children.
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