The Fight For Peace academy stands proud just off a housing estate in E16. The charity provides a unique system of support and mentoring for children and young adults who feel alienated or hostile to society.
Jacob Whittingham, Head of Programmes at Fight For Peace London Academy, 38, said: ‘We run specialist services for young people who are either the victims of violence, who have issues with education or employment – youths who generally feel alienated from society. We work with young offender teams, probation, and we do outreach work where we go out on to the streets and try to engage young people.’
He added: ‘I think our methodology is really unique. We teach boxing and martial arts as a way to use those disciplines to hard work, individuality and reaping what you sow.’
The charity has been up and running since 2000, although it was originally set up in Brazil. The UK version has been up and running since 2007.
Lethius Charles, 23, started attending Fight For Peace sessions when he was a teen, he now works for the charity as a Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Officer.
Charles said: ‘I think it’s important because it’s helped so many people over the years, some of them with really hard backgrounds and it has supported them to turn their life around. I started coming to Fight For Peace about eight years ago. It was a hard time, my parents had just left the country. I was 14 and lived with my sister who was two years older. We had to fend for ourselves, we were living in a house on our own, paying rent. At that age you don’t have a lot of options, I was looking for anything to survive, really. The area that I grew up in, in east London, a lot of people turned to the illegal side to make money. You get such a large amount of money in a short time, you don’t have to mess around with a CV or go for a job interview. So many of my friends were doing it and making so much money, it would have been a very easy option for me to do that. At that time I was on the fence. I could have gone either way, and one of my friends was a youth councillor here and suggested I come down. That initial session was so hard, I remember walking out and the coach came to me outside and passed me a banana and told me to come back inside.’
He added: ‘I had a mentor and he helped my situation at home. If it wasn’t for Fight For Peace then I could have easily gone the other way. That’s why I kept coming back. It’s completely free. Some people come to us with no qualifications and they leave with their maths and English qualification at the end.’
Athena Bashar, 15, said: ‘I’ve been coming for about a year and a half. In the beginning I was kind of shy, but the more I came the more welcoming they were. I was eventually able to do boxing, Muay Thai and stuff. I think the social aspect is really good. Some of the people I have met here will be lifelong friends. It’s not only for the gym, they have personal development, the office work and they help me with school work. We have debates when everyone gets together and hear other peoples’ perspectives.’
While Kenny Udenwoke, 18, joined when he was nine out of curiosity. He said: ‘It was the family feeling. The more I trained and the more I got involved, the better it was. And now I work here. I wanted to be part of the team that helped me change.’
Fight For Peace bosses insist the club is not simply a boxing and martial arts academy – they also offer education and employability programmes for youths who do not feel confident or qualified to apply for vacancies on the job market.
The social and development side of the club aside, Fight For Peace have enjoyed major success in competitive combat sports.
Last year Fight For Peace’s Mohez Khan was named a national Olympic weightlifting champion and Milambo Makani became a British universities and colleges sport championship boxing champion. While Ryan Walker, who has recently turned professional after attending Fight For Peace for years. Walker is so far unbeaten after five fights.
The club works with around 1,300 young people every year, though sadly they are beginning to outgrow their current existing space. Due to the wide range of issues they offer help with, the group require a dynamic space that can be used for demanding exercise and afford private areas where youth workers can discuss issues that require privacy. The group are actively seeking partners to support Fight For Peace to grow along with their demand.
Source: The Metro