Fighting a Merciless Opponent
Frances Watthanaya is a modern day saint. Realising her mission and her body of work with the at-risk youth of Isaan in North-East Thailand confirms there is no other way to describe her that could possibly be more fitting. She packed up her bags, left home and headed to Thailand to pursue a career in fighting at the tender age of just 19. Since finishing her degree and relocating from Canada to Thailand to take up the sponsorship offer provided to her by a prominent gym in Northern Thailand, Frances has found a husband who she has a daughter with and built her own gym to aid and support the kids of Isaan. She sits down with Whitney Tuna to share her inspiring journey on episode 10 of A Champion’s Mind.
Isaan is the largest area of Thailand and makes up a third of the countries population of 67 million. Covering an area of around 160,000kms, Isaan is also considered to be Thailand’s poorest region which provides very little opportunity for the children of the area. This often leads to drug and alcohol abuse for the kids and after visiting the area, Frances knew a change was needed. Frances and her husband, Boom, built their own not-for-profit gym in Isaan called Wor. Watthana Muay Thai Gym to give the youth a focus and a way to begin to change and improve their lives. They began to train the kids every day and offer to work as promoters for them whilst building a structure for them to save money and help build the community around them. Frances is so passionate about building the community that she also teaches in school and is the parent/guardian for each child she trains in Wor. Watthana. The work Frances does takes up every day of the week for her and amazingly she does all of this whilst still managing to train and compete herself.
Frances talks to Whitney about the quality of life and the overall experience of living in Isaan and it’s not for the feint hearted. She continues to describe the many battles she has had with herself over the years of living there and developing the ways in which she tries to improve the quality of life for the community. There have been many times she has questioned whether what she is doing is working, but the stories she shares that have confirmed the positive adjustments are unbelievably powerful. From getting fighters on shows that are shown all over the world to stopping young kids from fighting every day in school and focussing on improving their grades, Frances has had a huge impact on the kids of Isaan.
Frances is an incredibly hard working and caring individual and the best possible mentor for the youth she supports. Her journey in life so far is full of fascinatingly strong-willed decisions which have seen her follow a tough path and come out the other end shining. Perhaps the most incredible part of what she does in the region of Isaan is how focussed she is on ensuring that the benefits of the work she does stay in the community. Her largest focus is that the kids who learn the sharpest way to create some success do not use the powerful tools they have acquired to leave and never come back. Frances and her husband put all of their efforts in to seeing Isaan improve as a destination and hopefully the community can work it’s way out of extreme poverty and provide everyone with better living circumstances in the near future.