For ten year old Krisana Padsawai and Arithat Nilsarika aged eleven, giving their best certainly did not go unnoticed. As participants in one of Thailand’s social projects, they were granted the option to travel to Buenos Aires as a reward incentive for good behaviour and contribution to society. The boys were accompanied by Chewin Waenrungroj who spends his weekends teaching Muaythai and guiding disadvantaged children at one of IFMA’s street projects as a part of the globally successful initiative Sport Is Your Gang.
Krisana and Arithat both come from challenged and low socio-economic backgrounds in the city of Bangkok. For these boys, owning a passport with their name, being onboard an aircraft for the first time and being able to meet the elite leaders of the sporting world, witnessing the spirit of the Youth Olympics was more than a dream.
For both boys this was to be a life-changing experience. The Olympic journey of the boys did not begin in Buenos Aires, they had been a part of the IOC patronised Bangkok United Through Sports Festival which was a part of the 2018 SportAccord Convention. Here they had the chance for the first time to meet with so many personalities from the world of sport including the IOC President and also other children from displaced and disadvantaged centres. IFMA provides an ongoing program where youths are given incentives for good behaviour, performance and for their contributions. Over 10,000 children worldwide are a part of the Sport Is Your Gang Initiative, with the aim to engage in sport towards a healthy lifestyle and participation in cultural sports.
The initiative began in 2004 when the Tsunami struck South-East Asia leaving devastation.
The campaign “Kids Help Kids” was established and 5,500 care packages were distributed. Back in 2008 when 12 children were chosen to travel to Jamaica, they met L.A superstars and performed with the objective to raise funding for disadvantaged schools in Jamaica. Every year children are invited to major IFMA events motivating them towards good behaviour. The Buenos Aires trip was a part of this incentive, where 200 children entered the competition.
Between admiring the city, watching the spectacular opening ceremony in the heart of Buenos Aires where the Olympic flame was raised with pride, the boys received much attention from delegates who wished to congratulate them.
Krisana and Arithat had the opportunity to sit with our late President Patrick Baumann who joked with the boys making them smile and feel at home. IOC Vice-President Ng Ser Miang, GAISF Vice-President Raffaele Chiulli, IOC Sport Director Kit McConnell, ASOIF President Francesco Ricci-Bitti along with Unesco’s Alexandra Shishtig all made time to welcome the boys into the sporting world. The boys had the opportunity to meet other delegates including Nenad Lalovich IOC Executive Board member and President of United World Wrestling, President of the International Judo Federation Marius Vizer, Kirsty Coventry IOC Executive board member and Zimbabwe Sports Minister. All members of AIMS came show their support and meet with Krisana and Arithat including Olympic Champions such as Koji Murofushi and others.
On the 8th of October, a charity event was hosted by the Argentinian Muaythai Federation, IFMA and United Through Sports themed “Kids help kids” aimed to raise food and hygiene donations for the street youth of Argentina. Special guests attending the event was Thailand’s Youth Wild Boar Football team who were rescued by a global effort in July after spending weeks trapped inside a cave. Krisana and Arithat happily mingled with the team and the Argentinian youth where they then performed a beautiful traditional Wai Kru and Muay boran dance for all the guests. Thailand’s IOC member Khunying Patama was in attendance to give her support and Patrick Baumann gave a highly inspiring speech to the 500 youth present.
Arithat was inspired by the event and stated “ I feel so lucky to have this chance, to travel abroad and to inspire other children who have a difficult life. I want to thank Sport Is Your Gang, IFMA President and team. Practicing Muaythai gave me the chance to see the Youth Olympics and to participate in this special event. I also want to thank my parents for letting me come to Argentina and for believing in me”.
Krisana added “ I can’t believe I am here, I can’t believe I meet with so many top people in sport and I can share all my stories from this trip when I go home like the Olympic Forum and seeing Buenos Aires. We went to so many cool events and I loved the breakdancing. I know my friends will want this opportunity too, so they must do well at school, work hard to be a good person and give their best. I got to meet the Wild Boars who are so brave! Thank you to everyone who helped to make my dreams come true. I will try even harder and train my best, so I can come to compete in events like this one day”.