I became aware of Nick’s project, “Muay Thai 4 Orphans,” through a share on the Sitmonchai Gym page. When I looked at what he was doing, I was really excited about it. Thailand, like many places in the world, has a wide gap to fill in educating lay people about HIV/AIDS. The pandemic hit Thailand hard in the 90’s and public campaigns did very well to slow the spread of the infection through sexual transmission and drug use. The public health campaigns are largely a success. However, getting people to use safer sex practices is vastly different than educating people on how to care for family members who are infected with HIV/AIDS. In many rural areas around Thailand (and many other countries), families who are unable to care for their infected members, whether because they don’t know how or are unwilling to because of stigma and fear, may send HIV/AIDS infected persons out of their communities. Some of these persons end up in temples or shanti-town type communities of infected individuals all grouped together. In most cases, these persons are not getting the medication and care they need, as well as living in isolation from their social networks.
So, when I heard about Baan Gerda through Nick’s Muay Thai 4 Orphans, I cheered the existence of a functioning organization to help children affected by HIV/AIDS – when there are big causes that have been in the public eye for a long time like HIV/AIDS or cancer, our eyes tend to glaze over, but these are real systematic issues that require systematized altruistic responses. The organization depends on funding from supporters in order to pay for medication, food, treatments, housing and education for the orphans. All of this is important for survival and is more than many of those affected are offered in their circumstances, but what’s greatly important about Baan Gerda is that it’s a social community for these kids, where they can stay healthy and supported in a community that doesn’t stigmatize them. It makes a world of difference in these kids’ lives to have a support system and to be getting an education. What is most interesting is that Nick had a personal response to Baan Gerda. He discovered it and set about doing something through the creation of Muay Thai 4 Orphans. The plan is to use Muay Thai events and merchandise (key chains, T-shirts) to raise money for the Baan Gerta orphanage, helping to cover all the variable costs of supporting these kids.
The following is Nick’s own words on how he came to found Muay Thai 4 Orphans and what we can do to help:
My name is Nick, training and living in Antwerp Belgium. I would like to tell you about my little project I started last May. I decided to do something back for everything I got from Muay Thai.
I chose to name it MuayThai4Orphans. I’m trying to collect some funds to support a orphanage in Lop Buri Province called Baan Gerda. This place takes care for orphans infected with HIV or AIDS and tries to give them a “normal” life and make sure their health is taken care of and they have education and ensure them a positive future.
Until now we have done various kinds of fundraising : muay thai demonstrations and workshops in Thai Events in our country, organizing Thai dinner, selling key-chains and mainly T-shirt sale. I think it takes only a small effort or investment from us to generate some funds. Next month I’ll be heading to Thailand to hand over the collected funds. If anybody has ideas or tips to share or want to support they are more than welcome.
Thanks for reading and please visit our page on Facebook to stay up to date : www.facebook.com/muaythai4orphans
Also check the website of Baan Gerda : www.baangerda.org
My 5 Questions for Nick:
How does your experience with Muay Thai connect you to this particular project of supporting orphans affected by HIV/AIDS?
Starting training Muay Thai my life changed totally, in a positive way. I finally quit smoking cigarettes (and others…) I got myself back in a healthy shape, got to know lots of interesting people at the gym, and for training I made my first trip to Thailand where I found my second home and got to know my wife. It made my life have a purpose again.
One day I started realizing how lucky I was but also how many people or children are less lucky. So I decided that if I could raise funds by way of Muay Thai I just had to do it. That way I can do good by doing something I love. I choose to support Baan Gerda because being an orphan isn’t “fun” and these kids are infected with a disease so they have double bad luck.
They often have no family or one that cares for them, get bullied or avoided by other children. My opinion is that everybody has right to have a hopeful future.
What are some of the particular challenges that kids and their families with HIV/AIDS face in Thailand?
Like I mentioned above, these kids done nothing wrong and they get avoided or bullied, not accepted by “community.” I think for some of these boys/girls every day is a challenge. Keeping their heads up, getting education, getting their medicine and food…
In your various Muay Thai fundraisers, how have the people involved in the fundraising responded to this cause?
The people who helped me are mostly friends, family and teammates. One of my friends who runs a gym in the city organized a seminar with a multiple World Champion and donated all the joining fees to my project. Another sponsored the food we cooked when having Thai Food dinner benefiting the orphans, made possible by our local Monk by allowing us to use the Temple as location for the dinner. The Thai Embassy gave us the possibility to give a workshop and boxing demo on their events and paid us for it. Teammates helped by attending these workshops and shows. Most of my team mate’s also bought a T-shirt [the proceeds for which go to Baan Gerda].
How do you want or anticipate your organization to grow?
I truly want my project to grow and attract people who want to make a difference and want to make an effort, not only words but action. I also hope we can inspire people to start their own little project and make the world a better place.
What is the number one thing that these kids need right now?
Number 1 thing the kids need is a future, because they are the future. If I can be a part (how small it may be) of the process of lifting them up to a better and more hopeful life, and a bright future, then I’m satisfied. Even though I just can make a little change and maybe get some other people started its better then “Doing Nothing.” They deserve happiness too.
How to help:
If people want to help,then can by send money by PayPal to me and I’ll get it there or straight to Baan Gerda (check their website www.baangerda.org) also any other help is welcome contact me or baangerda. People who want to support by buying a T-shirt can contact me at my email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through the MuayThai4Orphans Facebook Page.
If you’d like to discuss Muay Thai 4 Orphans with Nick publicly jump in on the Muay Thai Roundtable thread Nick started.
a note: Muay Thai 4 Orphans is not a licensed charity, and my knowledge of it and Baan Gerda comes through correspondence. I’m passing along something which sounds valuable and inspiring – a person trying to make a difference through Muay Thai. If you’d like to get involved I suggest you reach out and talk to Nick and get a personal feel for what he is trying to do in a local sense.