It is often said that ‘travel is the only thing you buy that will make you richer’ but this sentiment can also be used when getting involved with charitable causes. Recently I was lucky enough to be invited down to the famous Bristol Boxing Gym and Charity – Empire Fighting Chance – to see some of their extraordinary work in action.

Empire Fighting Chance is a youth mental health charity that helps young people from some of the most disadvantaged communities across Bristol, Wales and the South West. Their ground-breaking programmes help young people transform their lives. Many of the young people they work with live in poverty, poor housing and workless households. Many have experienced trauma and abuse and nearly all are experiencing mental health problems. Not only are these conditions toxic to wellbeing they result in distress which is often expressed in ways that can lead them into trouble, including poor behaviour in school, drug misuse and gang crime.

Through a combination of non-contact boxing and therapy, qualified coaches work with young people to help them improve their mental well-being, for example learning to bounce back from failure and controlling their anger.

We have not yet met young people who have any desire to be mentally unwell. What happens is that their behaviour can manifest itself in certain ways, which can lead to young people being labelled or stigmatised. Often they have gone through so much – they are entitled to be angry. Rather than try and tell people they shouldn’t feel angry, actually what we start talking about is that is that anger is perfectly normal. It’s a kind of transient feeling; what you shouldn’t do is make decisions when you’re angry.

Martin Bisp, CEO of Empire Fighting Chance

Their approach works. Last year, during a year of lockdowns and restrictions, the charity supported more young people than ever before. Nearly 5,000 young people received support from Empire Fighting Chance. Young people returned to education, reduced anti-social behaviour and rebuilt relationships with their families. Breaking the cycle of generational joblessness, school exclusions, violence or crime not only helps young people and their families but the wider community in general. We can all be grateful for the work of Empire Fighting Chance.

Ellie and Matt on the ropes

As someone who has travelled extensively and been involved with numerous charitable organisations across the globe it was humbling to see this incredible work in the local community. Empire Fighting Chance is a unique organisation and one that is already seeing the demand for their services increase as we come out of recent lockdowns. The charity is expanding their services and plans to be in communities right across the UK by the end of 2023.

I’m proud to be able to share their story here and share with you details of their Summer Sports Quiz Thursday 1st July 2021. Billed as the FINAL (we hope!) zoom quiz of the year and hosted by BBC Bristol Sports presenter Geoff Twentyman, it’s a great excuse to get together with work colleagues, family or friends. For further information or to sign up please click here.

For all other information about Empire Fighting Chance visit www.empirefightingchance.org or email [email protected]

Thanks for reading

Justin Wateridge

Author: Justin Wateridge