“I think they have many things to figure out in their heads. They want to fight. It is great that they channel their energy in this sport, which prevents them from being on the street getting into trouble”
The social project also expanded and you are no longer the instructor. Now the instructor is Renato Mansilla, seven times national Muay Thai champion and four times South American champion.
Yes. At the beginning, it was a pilot project, although one of the kids did participate in the national championship. While I was training him, I was also planning the next steps to make the project sustainable and scalable.
Why did you do it? You were working on your agency, your own enterprise. I assume that you had no time.
I don’t know. I like doing everything; that is a problem of mine. Well, actually, it is not a problem. I am addicted to new things. I like doing new things. That and the fact that it has a positive impact on kids motivated me to carry on.
Why did you choose Mansilla?
Because he is my friend and a very good fighter.
You found the perfect role model, since he is closer to their reality.
He managed to make a living from this sport, that is enough. Renato is perfect for this. He is!
“Now, even people from other neighbourhoods come. This has never happened before: kids from different neighbourhoods, who in theory are enemies, get together in the same place”
In February, you mounted a ring on the main square, organised a festival, and both kids and professional boxers participated.
‘Pega el barrio’ festival marked the before and after of the project. We organised this festival so that the community understands what we do. See kids in the ring, bring international fighters and give concerts is everything we are doing in Callao: arts, music, integration, community. After the festival, the gym was full. We have many brands that support us. The project is currently sustainable because the management is adequate.
At the beginning, only boys participated; there were no girls.
Now, even people from other neighbourhoods come. This has never happened before: kids from different neighbourhoods, who ⸺in theory⸺ are enemies, get together in the same place.
Neighbourhoods whose fights would end up in deaths…
A change is happening. These kids train together, it’s great. We had not realized that until I asked a kid, who had just knocked on the door, where he was from. “I’m from the neighbourhood of Atahualpa”, he said ⸺kids from that neighbourhood are very good. Then, we noticed they were training with kids from Castilla. And they get along very well! That is a change… a change that encourages me.
The project is getting bigger: you are planning to give academic support, English classes by teachers from Roosevelt School, food supplements…
We will select a team to represent us. That team will receive those benefits and, in theory, this will start on April. We already have the necessary financial support; all the deals are closed. We will start with ten kids who will receive daily food to compensate for their bad eating habits. Our alliance with Roosevelt was made for students to teach, not teachers, which is still great. When the group consolidates and expands to 15 children, and then 22 and so on, the project will be very fruitful.
You have a rule: who wants to come cannot miss school.
That is the condition.
There has been drop outs.
Yes, and they will continue to happen. It is a difficult neighbourhood. Moreover, we work with kids aged from 10 to 16 years, an age range in which everything can happen. It’s a stage where we define what we want do with our lives.
And some kids decide to join a gang.
Many kids choose that, but others also come back to the gym and we welcome them. Some kids have left the project because they have to work. That is why our progress is somewhat slow, because we do not work with people who stay with us for good. We work with one kid ⸺with an amazing future⸺ for six months and when he is about to start fighting, he abandons the project.
That must be tough emotionally.
Yes, it is. It makes us wonder how far we are going to go with this. But we must carry on, don’t we?
“Can you imagine if we all from our jobs did something to change somebody’s life?”
That happened with one of your first students.
Ítalo stopped training for almost a year, but participated in “Pega el barrio” festival and has already started to train again. Justin too. I trained them both by myself. I took Justin to fight in the national championship, and I told him I would get two more fights for him, but then he disappeared. After that, he would call me to say he was coming to train, but he never did. However, after the “Pega el barrio” festival, he has not missed a single training. Something must have happened. He fought in La Punta yesterday. He is stronger! I would put my head in the lion’s mouth for my kids… and my heart. We will always welcome them in the gym, but I cannot make them stay. That is tough.
Your agency must surely demand most of your time; in addition, you are developing a career as a musician. I bet you do not have much free time. Why do you do this?
Because I do have time (laughs)… Monotony can destroy us. If I were only a publicist, I would have lost my mind already. I need things that make my mindset change; Thursdays are for Monumental Muay Thai, and, on Saturdays, I also come to teach and hang out with the kids.
What do you get from this?
It makes me feel well and that is enough. One must build his life doing good things.
The gratitude from parents must be special.
You know what? Many people don’t understand why somebody would want to help, especially for nothing in exchange. “He must want something”. That is the idiosyncrasy of our country. It is weird for them that somebody from another place with his life all figured out wants to help without asking for anything in return.
Are you aware you are changing lives?
Yes. Can you imagine if we all from our jobs did something to change somebody’s life? As a publicist, you sell milk, insurance, telephone lines, but do not generate changes in society, which everybody thinks is fine. But if you spend a lot of time to generate social change, then people start thinking you want to take advantage of them! That is very hard!
So, you are just doing what any citizen should do.
That’s right. If everybody channelled their energy to do what they know and are passionate for an engineer, architect, or any other profession based on a positive approach to generate change, everything would be different.