2021 was a huge year for Boxwise, with some considerable success in the design and implementation of our 13-week program across the UK. We delivered over 270 classes, graduating 16 programs and placing over 20 young people into full time employment and further education.
However it is important to recognise that the true work has only just begun. The youth violence epidemic is greater than ever, with 2021 bringing the grisly toll of the highest number of teenage killings in London on record. Indeed the threat of youth gang violence is a national one, with many metropolitan cities such as Manchester and Birmingham seeing an explosive rise in knife and gun crime last year.
This rise is not limited to large cities; many rural towns are seeing the deeply troubling impact of county lines and its related toll of suffering when you look at the violence and impact related to the sale and transfer of drugs.
Some of our most vulnerable in society are getting drawn into this vortex of crime and misery due to a lack of opportunity and pressure, with a number of other components such as addiction, trauma and poverty playing a factoring role.
However the outlook isn’t all bleak, Boxwise is delivering some real meaningful change and opportunity within these very communities. We have been working with not only England Boxing affiliated gyms but also support services up and down the country to make the change, supported by youth offending teams, local authorities and Police forces.
We have recently partnered with a community interest company called Street Doctors who have a network of volunteers throughout the UK to deliver a critical trauma 45 minute first aid session. This is aimed at teaching young people the absolute core essentials to keep someone alive in the event of a traumatic injury i.e. a knife wound. The necessity for these skills is a damming reflection of our society that young people have to grow up in, however it is critical that we at Boxwise are also part of the voice that provides the solutions.
However creating meaningful opportunity takes time, and it is imperative to have the infrastructure and support in place to manage young people through that change.
That support can take a number of forms; mentoring, coaching, signposting, these are all areas we look to work with young people on. The Boxwise journey is about so much more than just boxing, whether it is helping a young person to complete a housing application or assisting with job interview skills or something as basic as lending a young person a tie for a job interview, the pastoral care we provide starts on day one and only ends when we have delivered what we set out to do - help, transform and change the lives of young people
Covid continues to play a daily role in our lives and communities, reinforcing uncertainty and a level of anxiety with our young people. We have worked tirelessly to support the mental health of our young people through this time and continue to do so. Local communities and business have also been heavily impacted, yet we continue to support them through ensuring that all our food, approx 3000 meals last year, is sourced and provided to each venue from a local business to the gym.
2022 is a key year for Boxwise, we will be further expanding our program across the UK and taking our first international steps with the launch of our Boxwise program in Ireland and South Africa. This will be a huge challenge logistically, however with the fantastic team that is Boxwise I have every faith we will achieve it.
Disability in boxing will also be at the forefront of how we operate, with an aspiration that 10% of all our programs will be disability led. We will shortly be launching in a number of specialist disability schools and I am hopeful that we will be able to provide the same opportunity and outcomes for everyone regardless of disability. In order to promote equality, diversity and inclusion it is imperative that we strive to continually improve how we deliver and offer our program to make it accessible to all.