Radio- Research-Redemption-Recovery 22/11/20
With a new lockdown upon us I took to the airwaves last week to talk to Chris Milligan on BBC Three Counties radio. My concern even during Spring lockdown was how do we find a way to create that distraction for young boys and girls while they lose the safety net of meeting friends and peers. It is always in the forefront of my mind just how vulnerable our young people can be at the best of times, but lockdown brings a new level of exposure for those who need our help most.
A huge worry for me as far back as March was what will happen to those children who are even more open to exploitation during lockdown. Staying at home is just not an option for some children, where home is a mixture of abuse, neglect, violence or just an absence of any parental support.
This report by the University of Nottingham sadly proves my fears were well placed.
Criminals have adapted to the new environment and ramped up their social media presence to target young people and groom them for drug and gang activity. They have pounced to fill the void of missing professionals and social workers who are unable to deliver their much needed support in person. Exploited children going missing for longer is yet another heart sinking thought as we move further into winter and the darkness further hides criminals operating in plain sight in our county.
Exploitation was a key theme this week as I attended a launch event for the Modern Slavery Pathway in neighbouring Hertfordshire. Now more than ever it is vital that agencies work together to share information on slavery and exploitation, and ensure that victims are identified at the earliest possible opportunity. It was harrowing listening to case studies of children being trafficked from Vietnam through Russia and Europe, to be used to sell drugs on the streets of the UK. Closer to home, there were gut wrenching tales of children in care
being repeatedly targeted by criminals to carry out County Line activity and their feelings of being trapped as they tried to escape a life where the only certainty was fear and harm.
But there is hope.
This week we began working with a young person whose life had spiralled out of control having been exploited into 'that life'. Having suffered major injuries, he has found his way out and we are helping him rebuild his confidence, self respect and self esteem through boxing. It's vital to note that the scars of Adverse Childhood Experiences can be etched on a young person's memory for decades, but we are unwavering in our belief that we can help draw a line and build a bridge to a better life for any person we work with.
In this spirit, on Friday we hosted our first ever zoom meeting having been asked to create a session for Alcohol Awareness Week. We were delighted to be contacted by Charlie Clark of SSG Services and worked in partnership with Community Led Initiatives and Bedfordshire and Luton Recovery College to produce a recovery and Boxfit session.
Boxing and Recovery may not seem likely bedfellows, but we are nothing if not ambitious.
With only a few days to prepare, I worked with the ever excellent boxing coach Michelle Nelson to combine my theory of recovery with her boxing experience straight from the gym. I used the session as a type of experiment to see if I could convince the service users, support workers and professionals in attendance that boxing could aid someone going through recovery.
Between fun rounds of fitness I outlined my 5 principles of how boxing and recovery combine
1. You don’t come to a boxing gym by accident. You don’t worry about your drinking or end up in recovery by accident.
2. It’s an inside job. Only you can make that first step. But it’s worth it.
3. You’re not alone. There is always support in a boxing gym, much like a 12 step meeting or alcohol counselling session
4. Boxing and recovery both bring structure to a chaotic mind.
5. No matter what's happened before, you can use the mental health benefits of boxing and recovery to draw a line, rebuild yourself and start again
I have to say Michelle and I were blown away by the response. Michelle has been asked to deliver some further Boxfit sessions over zoom and we will take our new Boxing/Recovery session on the road when lockdown eases. It's testament to what we do at Boxing Saves Lives that we are always looking to see how the sport can advance the lives of people from every walk of life, and beyond the walls of the gym.
With that in mind I will be joining the Tackling Child Exploitation seminar on Monday (23rd) to learn of Bedfordshire's response to what is an often misunderstood and equally frightening form of criminality within our county. Bedfordshire has the UK's only Violence and EXPLOITATION Reduction Unit and it is a great demonstration of how forward thinking the VERU is that they are working to treat the cause and not just the symptoms.
I hope you have enjoyed our first ever blog. If you have any feedback or questions please feel free to email at firstname.lastname@example.org . There are a few irons in the fire at the moment and our roll out in schools is on hold during lockdown, but rest assured we are working to make things happen and there are some really exciting projects that are just within hands reach. We'll get there.