One of the most important pieces of advice we give at Boxing Saves Lives is "Walking away is always an option". When young people collide as they sometimes do, we tell them to take some time and think, and retreat from conflict to prevent harm. So imagine my shock this week when I had to take that same advice, but rather than walk away from an argument, I had to step away from my laptop.
On Wednesday I had a chance to pop into The Stockwood Park Academy and I brought my camera along so I can begin to show the impact we are having with their boys and girls. Stockwood as we call it, is a special place for me as it was the first ever school to welcome us through their doors to deliver a Boxing Saves Lives program. That was the 19th of April last year. Mr Humayun and his team continue to demonstrate their faith in what we do, by inviting us back each term to work with their young people.
With the camera and microphone set up, I sought out someone to speak to and noticed someone I had recognized from my last few visits. Enter Demi, a Year 9. I won't give anything away but suffice to say our interview was incredibly heart warming, hope inspiring and emotional. I still get anxious getting in front of a camera, and I was blown away by Demi's confidence, honesty and positivity in what can be a very nerve wracking situation.
So......... back to that walking away thing. When I got home I switched on my laptop. I clicked on our interview and guess what? Some of the interview had been lost to the sound of the other pupils training away in the background. Don't get me wrong, it was amazing to hear them all working so hard, but that wasn't quite what I was thinking as I took a few minutes away from the screen.
What to do? Go back next week and do it again? How do you try and replicate an interview where a young person speaks their truth. We always teach young people to think critically and to be resilient and so it was time to practice what we preach (again). So decision made, I got the headphones on, turned them up, found a way to hear every word and got it all written down.
So here's Demi. A true inspiration and a shining light for all girls and boys. Testament to what we do, testament to how innovative her school is, but most of all testament to what can happen when amazing young people are given a chance to shine.
JP Smith: Demi, it feels like you’ve been with Boxing Saves Lives for a long time , but it’s only been since September. What was it that made you come into the boxing sessions for the first time?
Demi: I wanted to keep my fitness journey going. I didn’t want to give up and I wanted to try something different. I needed to keep going and set new targets for myself
JPS: What was it like that first time you came into a Boxing Saves Lives session with Tysie and Des?
D: It was really fun, because you are working with professionals and someone who fights professionally. It was very challenging because you’re trying to get up to speed, but eventually I got it!
JPS: I remember the first few days with your group, everyone trying to figure each other out. There was definitely a sense of ‘Oh no I may not come back’, did you feel that?
D: Definitely, there was a lot of hesitation because I didn’t know if I’d enjoy it or if it would be too tricky. Yet the more I’ve been coming the more I’ve enjoyed it.
JPS: So, what differences have you seen in yourself since you started your boxing training?
D: My health in general, simple tasks. In my physical education at school, I can do more things and get more involved in stuff. I can do so much more now.
JPS: At Boxing Saves Lives we do the physical work, but we have great emphasis on the mental side. What difference has it made to your mental health?
D: It’s helped me out a lot as I suffered with bullying. It’s helped me to toughen up. I feel more confident in myself, that I can stand up for myself more now.
JPS: Is that something you’ve ever felt you needed to do or is it more that you feel you don’t need to get involved now?
D: I just wanted to feel better about myself and if I ever needed to defend myself I could.
JPS: At Boxing Saves Lives we talk about Violence Against Women and Girls, and the best way to stop violence like bullying is boys or girls not harming each other to begin with?
D: Definitely, it is. However, feeling able to defend yourself does still make you feel safe.
JPS: Of course, and once it’s happened to you, it’s your world isn’t it?
D: Yeah, you have to experience it to understand it
JPS: Do you feel that the boxing training has helped you push through that?
D: Definitely. I struggled with my mental health as well, a lot of trouble with my body and the way I looked. Now I’m doing something to better myself, so eventually I can say ‘right I’m happy now’.
JPS: You’re already doing that. I said when I saw you today you look different!
D: I can say to myself that they (Boxing Saves Lives) helped me. The support from Tysie, Des and Miss Dagnall has helped me to come back, keep testing myself and improve.
JPS: You even said you wanted to join a boxing gym?
D: Yeah, it’s something that stands out for me, something I want to do.
JPS: I can’t believe the changes it’s made. What has stood out for me is that you stood up. You showed up. Even in the winter when it’s cold, we have to train inside because it’s dark outside and it’s easier just to go home. You stepped up, you’ve got involved and we absolutely love that. Thank you, Demi, you’re a perfect role model for boys and girls, for Boxing Saves Lives and for Stockwood Park Academy
D: Thank you!
JP Smith (www.boxingsaveslives.org)