Stacy DeVries doesn’t mind a few bruises for a good cause.
DeVries was among the many taekwondo athletes taking part in the third annual Breaking Boards Breaking Chains, a fundraising event held Saturday afternoon at Trafalgar Middle School. Devries, one of the event’s founders, broke 50 wooden boards last year and was excited to snap some more timber.
“I figure it’s a small price to pay,” said DeVries, who has a brown belt. “The people who we are raising money for go through way more hardship than a few bruises, so it really doesn’t matter if I break my hand or my foot. I don’t really care.”
Young athletes from Kootenay Christian Martial Arts collected pledges of $20 per board in donations for South Slocan-based Martial Arts For Justice, which on its website says its goal is to “mobilize martial artists and school owners on a global level to fight for victims of violence, and against slavery and human trafficking.”
All proceeds from the event, which raised $4,462.95 on Saturday, were funneled by MAJ to International Justice Mission, a Christian organization that works to assist law enforcement in 17 communities throughout African, South American and Southeast Asian countries.
“Here in Canada, if someone calls 911 we know the police are going to be there. In these countries that are so destitute, there’s no help,” said MAJ director-at-large Abby Napora.
“If someone is being killed or raped, they can call 911, but even then police officers are trapped by the limitation of not having vehicles. So [IJN] go in and they say, ‘what prevents you from doing your job?’ And [police] will say, ‘well we don’t have a motorbike.’ So they get them a motorbike or get them a phone and they make justice accessible to the people.”
Dean Siminoff, the president of MAJ and a fifth dan master, said he hoped by the end of April the campaign will have raised $50,000 by the organization’s 14 schools throughout Canada.
“Each year it’s just growing and growing,” said Siminoff, who recently returned from a trip to Rwanda. “We can just feel, with Toronto coming on board this year, more Vancouver schools, we can feel the traction just getting ready to explode.”
The event’s opening ceremony included councillor Bob Adams breaking a board of his own to applause. Adams joked in a speech that one day of judo in his youth prepared him for the moment.
(Correction: An earlier version of this article stated IJM works in Rwanda and South Africa. That is no longer the case.)