Gloves Not Gunz, a new youth initiative programme in Norbury Park, launched in Croydon at the beginning of this year.
Croydon has a reputation for being the most dangerous borough of London. Gloves Not Gunz, a youth program run by Croydon natives, Adam Ballard and Ben Eckett, is working on cleaning on Croydon’s image.
The program, which started in January, aims to get the young people off the street, away from gang violence and anti-social behaviour. After a year of running the programme, the organisers are very pleased with the way it has been going and are optimistic to keep receiving funding.
What started as a free monthly boxing class has turned into a free weekly fitness and education programme for children and teens. Each session is an hour and a half long, with an hour of fitness and a half an hour lesson on street smarts. The half-hour lesson differs depending on the age of the participants and what’s been going on in the community over the week.
On the programme, Eckett told EastLondonLines: “We teach them things like the dangers of looking after somebody’s bag for some cash, something they’re so naïve of that they wouldn’t even think to ask what was in the bag”.
Ballard and Eckett are trying to build a safe space for these children to come to. A place built on trust and respect, where they know they can confide in their teachers and not be questioned. They believe this is needed as the boxing club is currently based just up the road from Green Lane, which is widely known for gang crime. “Over the past six months, there have been two double shootings and a stabbing in the area. A lot of kids will hang around in that area, and it’s become synonymous to other gangs in the area turning up and causing a lot of violent disorder”, Ballard explains. With gang crime getting worse, the plans Ballard and Eckett have for their company is truly what Croydon needs as a community.
Luckily for the co-founders, Gloves Not Gunz’ progression in creating that community has been noticed; Crystal Palace football club has decided to help fund the programme. This funding is enough to keep the doors open for at least the next year, and as long as they reach their goal within that time, the funding will continue on.
Gloves Not Gunz have started to go to the next level by working with the Home Office Youth offending teams by getting direct access to the children and teens in gangs. The Home Office Youth offending teams work with young people that get into trouble with the law and try to help them stay away from crime.
“For the direct work we’re doing with gang members, we’ve got funding from The Home Office,” Eckett says. “We target certain groups and get them engaged in the boxing, but then we have our educational workshops at the end to try and teach them about the risks they’re putting themselves in”, he explains in more detail. Because of the Home Office funding, they’re soon going to be able to offer these gang members therapeutic services that they may not have had any access to prior to getting involved with Gloves Not Gunz.
Through Gloves Not Gunz, Ballard and Eckett are paving the way to a safer future for the youth of Croydon. Their hopes are to expand the company so that they can run it full time and give a constant oasis to children who want to avoid the gang lifestyle. They’re in talks with Chelsea Football Club to get more funding towards the project. If things go as well as they’re projecting, the funding from The Home Office will continue, as will the Crystal Palace Football Club funding.