A boxing charity has been awarded £30,000 for its work with vulnerable children and teenagers.
Empire Fighting Chance, in Bristol, runs non-contact boxing courses, mentoring and therapy for more than 4,000 people a year.
One teenager, 16-year-old April, said working with the charity had made her feel “calmer” and helped her “step back” from challenging situations.
Charity CEO Martin Bisp, said the award was a “huge boost” for the team.
Empire Fighting Chance takes referrals from schools and the NHS, working with children who have been excluded from school, involved in crime or who are experiencing mental health issues.
‘Better and calmer’
April is currently on a 20-week course aimed at building confidence, with sessions that assist in managing anxiety and tackle low self-esteem.
“I see myself getting better and calmer,” she said.
“I take a lot of [my mentor Courtney’s] advice and step back from 90% of situations now, whereas before I wouldn’t have done that – I’d have got involved.
“It’s better to work with a real person who like works with you rather than tries to help.”
Coaches at the club are trained to provide psychological support and practical advice, and young people with severe mental health issues are invited to take part in a “therapeutic boxing programme” with a counsellor.
April’s foster mum Sarah, said it meant “so much more to hear from someone who’s been there and done that and made choices to move to a new path”.
Iestyn, 14, said the charity had helped him feel confident enough to play rugby again after stopping for two years when his father died.
“I was afraid to tackle people and I’m now pretty much the best on my team,” he said.
“It’s just made my confidence go up so much.”
Almost 800 young people took part in the charity’s mental health programme last year, with more than 70% reporting an improvement in their mental wellbeing and resilience.
Mr Bisp said the whole team was celebrating the award.
“[But] especially the coaches, who work with some of the country’s most vulnerable young people day in, day out,” he said.