Fighting to support Rochdale’s young people
We are proud to fund thousands of incredible youth projects each year, that do vital work with young people in communities across the UK.
On International Youth Day, we take a look Rochdale Thai Boxing Club, whose Fighting Fit project has changed the lives, not just of local young people, but their families and community too by providing healthy living and exercise education.
Omar Ghalib, founder and lead on the Fighting Fit project tells us more about why and how it got started:
“A couple of us lads used to train in the old church hall, as we wanted to keep fit and sharpen up our skills in Thai Boxing. We would leave the door open to let the air in and some of the kids would walk past and see us punching and kicking pads. They would peep their head in and say ‘give us a go!’ They kept returning and they were soon asking if could they have classes.
“It made us think – should we open it up to the wider community? We had a look around at what was available and realised there were no Thai Boxing facilities nearby, or a more affordable form of exercise for kids to train in the area.”
“We researched more and found a study which indicated rising obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, along with ADHD and cyber bullying, were on the increase, and this was visible in our community too. The evidence told us there was a need for a project like this. We all had Thai Boxing experience and different business skills to bring to this potential project – so we decided to set it up officially for the community”.
“We formalised the project and put a plan together, gave people appointed roles and then began to look for potential funding sources. To begin with we were using tattered equipment and invested some of our own money to make improvements. We also gained some financial support from local community investors to buy some basic equipment, until we received more funding. As numbers grew we realised, we were going to need better equipment to provide a safe exercise environment to meet demand. Then, just by word of mouth we heard about Big Lottery Funding”.
“Once we found out we were successful, we received the funding and used it to buy essential equipment and freshened up the space – it really made a difference! Parents were coming down with their kids, dropping them off and staying on to see how the classes ran. Some of the kids just needed to burn off extra energy, others needed to learn self-defense to boost their self-esteem and confidence.”
“Every child had different reasons for coming along, but their parents could see the benefits of it – it’s challenging these days competing with computer games and X-Boxes. In the classes, we teach the kids discipline and self-defense. Thai Boxing is an ancient sport and we want them to also understand why they need to do it properly. We also teach them about healthy eating so they can make better nutritional choices”.
“Parents were feeding back to us that the kids’ behaviour and grades had improved at school. Then some parents asked about classes for themselves, which has led to us putting on classes for them. Parents and children can train together here now, which is also helping to build their relationships. We also haven’t overlooked the older generation in our community and we’re looking at putting a programme of activity for them and for women in the community to train in a safe environment.”
“The increasing numbers and feedback has been really encouraging – as we can see how health and lives are improving all the time and see the passion growing in some of the kids. We even have a few students who are going on now to train professionally and compete on an international level –my younger brother, Adil, will be competing for the UK Thai Boxing team in Pakistan”
Rochdale Thai Boxing Club received £10,000 from Awards for All. To find out more about the club, visit their website.