Box Up Crime founder awarded British Empire Medal in New Year's Honours List
PUBLISHED: 09:00 01 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:21 02 January 2019
The founder of a social enterprise steering kids away from crime has been awarded a British Empire Medal in the new year's honours list.
Stephen Addison was recognised for his services to young people in Barking and Dagenham.
The 28-year-old, who lives in Dagenham, turned his life around following the loss of a close friend to gang violence.
Founded in 2013, his organisation Box Up Crime now works with more than 600 young people each week teaching non-contact boxing skills in schools, pupil referral units and community centres across London.
Speaking to the Post, Mr Addison described himself as “very proud” and “humbled” to receive the honour.
“People don’t really get awards like that where I’m from,” he said, referring to the “mistakes” in his past that saw him kicked out of school and drawn to gang culture.
The former Barking Abbey pupil criticised the capital’s ongoing problems with knife crime and youth violence, admitting his work came with a heavy emotional toll.
“I don’t want to see young people get killed or murdered,” he said, adding: “I’ve been to four, five funerals this year.
“You know, it’s been a hard year – and this has been young people that I’ve known and that I’ve been connected to.
“In the space of two years I’ve known seven kids that have been murdered.
“So, for me, this award is great, it really ends off the year. But, really and truly, I want this award to do something – not just give me credibility or make people feel Box Up’s been recognised by the Crown – but I really want this award to do something in the sense that it motivates and inspires a generation of young people that they can get this award too.”
It was a dream that made him leave crimes including credit card fraud behind for good.
In it, he and his friends were serving time behind bars for murder.
“I told my mates the dream; they kind of laughed at me,” he explained.
“Two years later, I ended up changing my life around.”
He found religion and turned his attention to sport, joining Barking Amateur Boxing Club and becoming an amateur boxing champion.
“I was in the newspapers for winning gold and my mates were in the same newspapers,” he went on.
“They got sent to prison for life.”
His Box Up initiative had humble roots, based for much of its life at a hired hall in Barking.
The project only moved into its permanent home in Dagenham earlier this year, offering youngsters a mixture of boxing training, educational programmes and mentoring.
Mr Addison credited the scheme’s success to looking beyond his young visitors’ backgrounds to see them as they are “meant to be”.
“It’s about not looking at these kids as naughty kids but taking time out to say: ‘You know what, I’m going to make you a leader’,” he said.
“Because when you look at these kids and you see them for what they are, you don’t want to work with them.
“But if you take time out and give that young person love, you give that young person time and patience, that young person will be a leader.
“Because, once upon a time, I was that young person that would have been barred from a youth club. I was that young person that got told I couldn’t come back to my school.
“But now I’ve gone back to my school and I’m actually a governor.”
Personal experience, he believes, is the key to reaching youngsters in danger of falling foul of the law.
“It’s not going to take someone that’s studied at a real great university that don’t live in our borough, who’s never been involved in crime and never worn the t-shirt,” he said.
“It’s going to take somebody who’s messed up, hit the floor.
“That person can only come from the problem we’re dealing with today.”