Get Active: Barking’s youngest boxers run crime out of borough
PUBLISHED: 13:00 02 May 2015
When I arrived at Box Up Crime, I anticipated boxing rings, punch-bags and lots of muscle.
What greeted me was far more impressive: about 50 children piling into the Ripple Centre screaming “fit and strong!” in response to trainer Stefan Lloyd shouting: “How are you feeling?”
Stefan, 27, then told me that these children, who were mainly under the age of 10, had just completed a run around Barking town centre – not that I’d have guessed given the inexhaustible enthusiasm they went on to display in the main hall.
There, the well-disciplined boys and girls lined themselves up into four teams before racing forward to jab at Stefan and other trainers with upper cuts.
I have to confess, I was slightly amused to see five-year-olds punching with adult boxing gloves.
But this was amusement was quickly replaced with astonishment as they performed endurance-testing strength exercises to see who could plank and squat the longest.
While the children lined up for healthy refreshments, served by teenage volunteers, I was introduced to 18-year-old Jonathan Efionayi, who joined Box Up Crime to escape his troubled past and now volunteers as a trainer.
“I think the best thing about this is the fact that I’m making people happy and giving back to my community,” he said. “I’ve seen a definite change in the kids who come here – they’re more well-behaved and more energised and respectful.
“They’re motivated to go to school and come in telling us about what they’re learning.”
Box Up Crime was started by Stephen Addison in 2013 to reform teenagers involved with crime using the discipline of boxing.
“I was involved in crime myself,” he explained. “I did what I did because I lacked confidence.”
After building confidence in teenagers like Jonathan, he enlisted some of them to help prevent young children from going down a similar path.
Barking-born mum Sarah Knight, 41, told me that this was her daughter’s first class.
“I heard about it because her class mate comes here so we thought we’d come down,” she said. “It’s fantastic – all the staff are young so the kids can relate, and the ratio of staff to children is great.”
Box Up Crime’s children’s class is held every Thursday from 5pm-6.30pm at Barking’s Ripple Centre and is open to all abilities.
More details at boxupcrime.org
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