The historic Pat Benson Boxing Academy in Birmingham is an inclusive and welcoming establishment, transforming the lives of people of all ages, with a positive impact on everything from mental wellbeing to knife and gang crime. The club focusses on educational and personal development as well as physical health and achievements.
This West Midlands club is about much more than titles and championship belts. It may have a glorious history and a packed trophy cabinet, but helping people of all ages develop as individuals is just as important as winning bouts. The academy undertakes a wide variety of community projects, including work with 15 local schools and colleges, a mental health programme and a youth apprenticeship and education project. It has 650 members, 10 staff and 21 volunteers.
The historic Pat Benson Boxing Academy run a number of highly successful mental health programmes, such as Fighting Fit: the club’s three-year National Lottery-funded programme launched in February 2018. It offers physical activities such as non-contact boxing, circuit training and dance to children and young adults who are living in areas of high deprivation in Birmingham or who are not in education, employment or training. There are also workshops covering healthy eating, substance misuse and smoking, designed to improve mental and physical health, boost education and employment opportunities, personal development, and address community issues such as women’s wellbeing and anti-social behaviour.
The Boxing academy also run a programme called Mind Fit and use mentoring, boxing and healthy living workshops to enhance mental wellbeing in young people and adults. Issues range from mild stress and anxiety to psychosis. There is a wide variety of symptoms and life issues address during Mind Fit. Some people are in full-time employment, others are in 24 hour secure units and are released for Mind Fit, accompanied by their care worker. Issues include homelessness and substance misuse.
Last year the club received additional support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for a youth-led education project, Fighting for our Heritage, which explored the rich history and characters of the Birmingham boxing community since 1900.
Paddy Benson, club manager, former international boxer and Pat’s grandson, says: “We deal with real life issues that come through the door, whether it be women suffering from domestic abuse or young people who are excluded or at risk of being excluded from school. When young people can find no place in the community and turn to crime there is a burden and a knock-on effect for everyone. We give them mentoring and support with their education and are indirectly having an impact on gangs and knife crime.”
Unit 2, 50
West Midlands (B)
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