THE coronavirus has changed so much. Boxing clubs and charities have had to shut their doors during the long weeks of lockdown. Carney’s Community is the charity, dedicated to the memory of Fitzroy Lodge legend Mick Carney, that uses boxing and other activities to support young people at risk of being involved in crime. Having to close their centre is a significant problem. But not an insurmountable one.
They help their participants with boxing training and mentoring, as well as supporting them to set up businesses and start sustainable careers, as well as providing food to those who need it. Using their centre was crucial to that. It’s meant they’ve had to adapt quickly. Carney’s began boxing sessions live on Instagram and also used Zoom for more interactive training.
That of course requires access to technology and the internet, so Carney’s put out an appeal for donated phones, tablets and laptops, as well as covering any data costs so participants can access the online sessions. They have also put together a well-being pack with advice and guidance on mental and physical health.
But George Turner, one the charity’s founders, explained, “What we were really aware of is that the ones we work with who are more hard to reach were even harder to reach because of lockdown. So normally we’d go down on the estates and find them and bring them down to the boxing session and find out what’s going on with them. Whereas now we weren’t able to do that.”
So they also started to reach out with food deliveries. “If we can do food deliveries then at least we’ll get a bit of face-to-face contact. So we worked out which ones were the families most in need of food and then there were a couple who probably weren’t the most in need but they were in need of some face-to-face contact,” Turner said.
They take donations of food and one of their mentors is a chef who provides meals through his catering business. He has also begun supplying the ingredients in order to conduct cooking classes over Zoom as well.
Carney’s Community has even received celebrity support from Stormzy, who got in touch with the charity himself to volunteer. “He decided to come down and first off helped put the food packages together and did a few messages for us on social media for us to put out to participants, encouraging them to do the Instagram videos and that sort of stuff. And then agreed to come and do some of the food deliveries, which was brilliant,” George said. “They were so excited and it’s really given them a boost.
“Having Stormzy turn up with a load of nice food has definitely made the process easier.”
These are all positives but the challenges the charity addresses are only getting more severe. “A lot of our participants have been through trauma where they’ve experienced some really negative things and are struggling with mental health at the best of times. Being locked up at home and especially being locked up at home where there’s been abuse in the past or parents have got mental health issues, you can see how it can be a massive struggle,” Turner explains. “It’s easy to say [stay in] if you live in a house that’s got a fair bit of room or a garden or a bit of outdoor space. [But for one participant’s family] they’ve got three bedrooms and eight kids. Being stuck in a house like that, all of you on top of each other, yes, you’ve got to assess the risk for Covid 19 but you’ve also got to assess the risk for mental health as well.
“All the other risks are there and probably with a lot even higher risk than they normally would be because of the situation. So it’s about weighing that up as well.
“I think is why we’re slightly frustrated with the government’s decision to still not allow sports centres to open but they’re opening up all of the shopping centres.”
“Our main aim is around trying to reduce offending and anti-social behaviour and trying to create something that all people can belong to no matter how disadvantaged you are or what issues you might have faced in the past. But related to that is a lot of mental health. I think society in general is getting to understand mental health a bit better,” he continued.
“[Boxing] gives you that ability to get some physical activity let off those endorphins while also making you feel part of something. You don’t find any friendlier places than boxing gyms where you find so many different people just getting on with each other, and then giving them the self-esteem boost.
“People would always ask me what’s the best way of getting somebody out of a gang and the answer’s always the same, it’s getting them into another gang. These are vulnerable people who have a lack of support and they need a support network around them and unfortunately they’ve may have found a negative support network to link in with. But if you’re going to take them out of that, you’ve got to replace it with something so it’s providing those positive ‘gangs’ or support networks, whether that’s a sports club, a religious group, a youth group. It’s finding places where they feel that they can belong, who can provide them with advice, guidance and support. That’s what we wanted to try and create with Carney’s. I think that’s what we’ve managed to create and having the building has helped massively… The positive support that’s coming into Carney’s during lockdown highlights that we’ve achieved that to an extent.”
Donations to Carney’s Community can be made on this link: https://donate.thebiggive.org.uk/campaign/a051r00001bYoY2AAK and if made this week, that donation will be doubled.