Anyone who practices Muaythai has a special place in their heart for Thailand, the country which gave the world this beautiful martial art. A visit there is a reminder that Muaythai is more than sport, and for Belgian Muaythai it was a reminder that giving back can be as rewarding as learning.

The Belgian federation BKBMO supports two charities with promotions for fund-raising. One of these is the Muaythai 4 Orphans programme, set up by trainer Nick de Cock. Having worked with the sport for more than ten years, Nick says after a few visits to Thailand he began to notice a sad poverty hidden behind the smiles and welcome for Muaythai fans. He had found a second family in the Thai gym he trains at, and decided it was time to give back to the surrounding area.

He says: “I heard about Baan Gerda in Lopburi, it’s an orphanage that accommodates about 80 children. All these children are between one and 22 years old, they live with HIV or AIDS. All employees here do a great job. They ensure the children receive the necessary medication, go to school, receive a loving education and have a place where they can feel at home without being judged.”

In 2015 Nick and some friends offered Muaythai seminars and lessons to Belgian Muaythai students to fundraise; there was no fee but the students could donate as much or as little as they could afford. They also sold MT4O T-shirts (below on Team Vendeta). That year they collected €3,000.

Other gyms heard about the initiative and joined in with their own ideas. Well-known names in Belgian Muaythai like Lode Vercauteren did sponsored walks of up to 100km. And in a nice touch, the campaign partnered with Thai gym Simonchai to increase awareness, as well as building a partnership with BKBMO.  Araik Mirzoyan, an artist and Muaythai referee, donated a sculpture of a Muaythai ring for auction, bringing in €250.

Now coming to the end of their fourth year, the charity has raised almost €13,000 with this year’s tally yet to be added.

Nick says this money has had a significant impact on the orphanage with improved access to medication and education among the benefits. Repairs to the building, and better transport to take the children when they are sick to hospital all add up to a greatly improved quality of life for these children.

He says: “I travel to Thailand under the motto: we can’t change the world, but we can make a difference. No matter how small the collected amounts are, the extra help is greatly appreciated.”

Learn more about Muaythai 4 Orphans in Belgium here.

Find out more about the BKBMO and muaythai in Belgium here.

BKBMO are on Instagram at IFMA Belgium