Lottery windfall helps pack a punch for youth empowerment

Colin Jackson, 27, who has turned his life around with the support of Monkstown Amateur Boxing Club, is pictured with club worker Paul Johnston. INNT 11-201-CON
Colin Jackson, 27, who has turned his life around with the support of Monkstown Amateur Boxing Club, is pictured with club worker Paul Johnston. INNT 11-201-CON

A NEWTOWNABBEY project bringing together sports and education to prevent young people turning to crime has been awarded a major grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

Monkstown Amateur Boxing Club has been awarded a grant of £377,690 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching out: Empowering Young People programme, which supports young people most at risk in Northern Ireland, including those who have been disengaged from education, involved in crime or in care.

The club, based in the heart of the Monkstown estate, will work with young people in the local area who are not involved in education, employment or training (NEETs) and are at risk of getting involved in anti-social behaviour and crime.

The project will give young people the chance to be mentored and coached in boxing and fitness activities, and it is hoped that this will then encourage them to get involved in courses and activities that will improve their education, boost their self esteem and self worth and improve their future employment opportunities.

The project is in two parts - the ‘Kids Gloves’ scheme will support young people aged 11 to 16 who have been referred from local schools in the area because they are at risk of dropping out, and will provide an after schools homework club and boxing coaching to improve educational attainment.

In addition, the ‘Box Clever’ scheme will support young people aged 16 to 20 who have been referred to the project by the likes of the PSNI and youth justice organisations, and will be offered bespoke support to get work placements as well as receiving interview training and the opportunity to gain qualifications to find employment.

“This is an area with high levels of disadvantage where educational attainment is low and many young people drop out of school, with many falling into the trap of anti-social behaviour,” said Chairperson Billy Snoddy. “Sport, and boxing in particular, is a great way of harnessing the energy and passion of young people, teaching them about self worth, respect, hard work and dedication.”

He continued: “It’s a great way of impacting on young people, building their confidence and trust, and showing them that they can make a positive difference to their lives and communities.

“We are not just helping to improve young people’s health and fitness, we are supporting them to find jobs, improve their skills, boost their self worth and showing them they can do anything they put their minds to. The sky really is the limit - sport and education really do go hand in hand.”

Colin Jackson, 27, first came to the boxing club at the age of 13. “I was hanging about with the wrong crowd at the time and to be honest it could have gone either way. I was drinking and getting involved in anti-social behaviour. When it came to school it was lucky if I went there twice a week,” he said.

“Then I came along to the club in Monkstown and the coaches helped me realise that I was capable of bigger things. I’m now about to finish a degree in Structural Engineering at Queens University. I’m really proud with what I’ve achieved and it’s down to the support of the boxing club.”

Frank Hewitt, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said: “I am delighted that we are announcing these grants awarded through our £20 million Empowering Young People programme to support the most vulnerable and isolated young people in our society.

“The grants are supporting a range of vital projects to improve the lives of the most at risk young people in our society including young people at risk of crime, anti-social behaviour and offending, vulnerable young people in care and young people who are not involved in education.”

To find out more about the Reaching Out programmes visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk