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Fighting for peace on London's streets

IN 2007, charitable organisation Fight For Peace (FFP) expanded its outreach to the UK at a time when youth violence was sweeping across the capital. In a bid to tackle the detrimental impact of violent crime on the lives of the younger generation, founder Luke Downdey launched the academy in Newham, east London.

Head of programmes Jacob Whittingham said: “London was chosen because of its tremendous levels of deprivation that exist and also the high levels of knife crime. About 10 years ago it was a really serious time for a lot of young people.

“There was a real need for support and the need for a different approach to deal with the way violence was affecting young people’s lives. Luke developed the project from Brazil, but introduced the initiative to London.”

Using the physical activities of boxing and martial arts, FFP incorporates the hobby into a youth work setting. “Many boxing clubs that exit have strong ties and are well respected within the community.

“We wanted to take the relationship coaches have with those young people, such as the discipline and hard work that is involved in boxing and transfer for that to a code young people can live by,” Whittingham explained.

With a number of success stories, FFP considers the needs of its young people irrespective of how long it may take. Their devotion in offering support “can take a few months or a few years but it doesn’t matter how long it takes to work with that young person”, Whittingham said.

REACHING THE YOUTH: FFP works to build a foundation of trust with young people

Trustee Audrey Bampoe, who has been involved with the organisation since 2012, said: “I have been fortunate enough to see all those pillars working in action and seeing the transition and progress of a lot of the young people and the change in mindset.

“Young people are the core of FFP, they are integral to the decisions and how the organisation runs, which I think, empowers them.”

Whittingham spoke about the barriers affecting young people that can cause them to feel displaced in the wider world after completing secondary education.

He said: “There are some young people who don’t achieve what’s considered to be five good GCSE’s and that’s a real problem. It disqualifies you from a number of different employment opportunities.

“The idea behind one of the sectors known as Pathways creates a programme that is holistic and supportive as possible for young people.”

FFP incorporates boxing and martial arts into its programmes for young people

He added: “It shows that if the delivery is right and you create the necessary environment and necessary impetus, you can achieve fantastic results in a reasonably short period of time.”

To reach young people, FFP has developed a project for its UK setting. One approach is to explore young people’s known social spaces, locating where they “hang out on the street to then approach them and then work with them”.

Undoubtedly presenting its dangers, the process requires sustained work over a period of three months. By interacting with the youth where they are known to socialise, FFP builds a foundation of trust where the young people are encouraged to go to the organisation or attend gym sessions.

As one of its unique perspectives Whittingham said: “The idea behind the project is that the young people give up whatever illegal activity they are doing on the street and then agree to engage into an educational programme, support and employment for the following year.”

With a 360-degree perspective, the team has taken steps forward to make their approach as inclusive as possible Bampoe said: “It's very refreshing to know that FFP continues to review the way in which it works with young people, it’s not static.”

They are always renewing what they’re doing with a view to engage with young people. There’s also a drive in engaging young ladies as well.

“Typically boxing is a male oriented activity but we’ve also looked at the need for young women to be apart of the facilities and we have adapted because we know it's not just an issue for guys, it is for girls too.”

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