KUALA LUMPUR – Handling problematic youths with unresolved issues and helping to turn them into strong and accountable individuals through Muay Thai, a combat sport of Thai boxing, is a big task for 27-year-old Imran Harith.
However, since he started his Discover Muay Thai programme in 2014 with his partners, he has strived forward with a single aim, which is to leave a meaningful impact on people.
After three years, the programme has now managed to produce several professional Muay Thai athletes such as Chen Wee who is currently a rising star in the field, and Faizal Ramli who appeared in The Challenger Muay Thai, a reality show that featured 16 world-class fighters from across the world competing for the Muay Thai World Champion title.
“My target is to help underprivileged kids and youths, especially those expelled from school. I want them to know that it is not the end of the world yet,” he told Bernama.
The project started with eight students chosen from all over Malaysia within a span of four months. It was not a big number but it was the best start for Imran and his team.
Not only they were taught to be good in Muay Thai and physical fitness, they were also taught financial literacy as well as English.
Now, five out of 16 have become certified Muay Thai trainers, with two of them having reached international level and most of them could generate their own monthly income of above RM2, 000.
“One of our students, Shahmi from Kayu Ara, Selangor is an only child. He had dropped out of school three times due to disciplinary problems and now is the breadwinner for his family by being a certified trainer and working at a Celebrity Fitness centre,” said Imran.
Imran, who founded the programme, said he was inspired to do the same here after visiting a village in Chalong, Thailand.
“I went there in early 2014 to practise and also to accompany a friend of mine for a match. Upon arriving at the airport, I was greeted by several kids and I was wondering who they were as they were so disciplined,” he recalled.
Upon arriving at the village in Chalong, Imran met with the village head who told him that the boys were victims of crime including human trafficking and sexual abuse.
“The kids were taught the true meaning of respect, honour and discipline. Seeing how the boys had turned out for the better despite their dark past, I decided to do the same here. I want to contribute to good change in society and to leave an impact on people,” he said.
The programme which partnered with Dragon Muay Thai in Jalan Alor, Bukit Bintang, received a grant from MyHarapan to kick-start it.
“At the gym, they do not only train to be world-class athletes but also stay and work there, where they learn how to cook and to engage with the public, and we hope they will change to be better individuals. We have succeeded so far and we are grateful for that,” he said.
Besides Dragon Muay Thai, 1M4U Muay Thai Gym also uses the students under the Discover Muay Thai programme to run the entire operation, and is currently collaborating with a private university where they conduct classes every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
“Those who want to see what we do, can watch our YouTube and Instagram channel, Discover MuayThai. I hope many others will be inspired to help such kids as they deserve a second chance,” said Imran. – BERNAMA