Fighting for peace

A North Woolwich charity is offering hope to youngsters with its unique blend of boxing and education.

A SMALL charity in the shadow of London City Airport is providing hope of a future to marginalised young people.

Since its launch three years ago, Fight for Peace (FFP) – a unique project in North Woolwich offering free education, sport and employment programmes to youngsters who have fallen out of the system – has gone from strength to strength.

Former boxing champion Luke Dowdney came up with the idea for FFP while working for a charity with disadvantaged people in the slums of Brazil.

Luke, 37, who comes from West London, said: “It soon became very clear that we were not reaching the most at-risk groups.”

The former amateur champion saw that his sport of boxing offered a way of leading young people away from a life of drugs and crime.

Beginning as a small boxing club and education centre in 2000 in Rio de Janeiro, FFP in Brazil has gone on to attract thousands of young people to its programmes and recently had its first national boxing champion crowned.

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After his success, Luke came back to London where he set out to recreate his successful formula.

He said: “We do not have the same level of violence but there are similar exclusion issues with the young. We chose Newham because of its high number of adolescent murders and postcode gang issues.

“As an Olympic borough there was also the opportunity for sport investment.”

Luke was grateful to Newham Council for providing the Woodman Street site for FFP in November 2007.

The project relies on private foundations and business for its funding with the Big Lottery and Credit Suisse among its backers.

The FFP formula seeks to realise the potential of its kids through its “five pillars” model – boxing and martial arts training and competition; personal development and education; youth support services; job training and work access; and youth leadership.

While being open to young people from all backgrounds, the charity also targets those not in education or employment through going out into the community and by partnering with pupil referral units and youth offending teams in the borough.

Deji Olumoya, of North Woolwich, is a member of FFP’s youth council, which mentors the project’s students.

The 17-year-old said: “The courses here offer the chance for kids to get off the streets and gives them a sense of motivation and personal development.”

Clearly, the formula offered by FFP is striking a chord in Newham.

More than 1,500 young people have come through its programmes so far.

Leslee Constable, of Stratford, is currently taking a Pathways course. The scheme for 16 to 23-year-olds, which is equivalent to four GCSEs, includes numeracy and literacy, personal development classes, job training and workshops, career guidance and advice, and boxing and martial arts coaching.

Leslee, 20, who heard about the course through a friend, said: “Doing this has opened different doorways for me. I would otherwise just be sitting at home.” He hopes to become an electrician.

Producing a boxing champion from Newham remains one of Luke’s goals.

“We have a number of people coming through and we want to produce a 2012 hope,” said Luke.