From boxing club to soup kitchen
It had also been running a breakfast and afterschool’s club, an educational support programme for young people as well as assisting a local foodbank before the coronavirus lockdown happened.
Mobilising a response for the community
We spoke to the Club’s Project Manager, Paul Johnston, who told us that within a couple of days of lockdown their core funders, BBC Children in Need and the National Lottery Community Fund, had been in contact to reassure him that their funding would remain secure and not to worry.
This was a huge relief to Paul as it meant that he and his team of four full-time youth workers could direct their efforts to respond to the immediate need in the community, while at the same time working within their purposes.
From boxing gym to soup kitchen
Within a week they turned their boxing gym into a fighters' soup kitchen, producing 300 meals every week. Staff cook on Mondays and Tuesdays and deliver food parcels and meals on Wednesdays and Thursdays to over 100 pensioners and families. The young people on the Club's education and recreation programmes have been volunteering to assist with the production line and deliveries.
The Club has been working closely with other local organisations, for example, it receives referrals from local charity Good Morning Newtownabbey. The staff are also supporting people that should be receiving the government food packages and are advising on how to access them.
Paul also highlighted the importance of the community working together in order to ensure no family or household was left behind.
It’s a hand-up, not a hand-out
Initially it was mainly pensioners who were receiving food however more and more families who are experiencing food poverty for the first time are being supported. For example, those who had been working on zero hours contracts and self-employed people who have no access to any other type of government support are especially in need as universal credit applications are taking so long to process.
The Club is also providing vouchers to families for gas and electricity top-ups as they realise that they don’t have the money to pay for these essentials at this time. A justgiving page has also been set up to provide financial support to those in need.
The young people are the stars of the project
The young men and women who are engaged in volunteering with this work are also benefiting greatly as they are learning how to get involved within their community.
Intergenerational work has organically emerged as while out delivering food, the young people are talking with pensioners that they may not have engaged with before, which is beneficial to both of them. In the last two weeks they have been providing a gardening service, painting fences and walking dogs for the pensioners as they realise how important these jobs are to them.
They are now undertaking a community clean up and no doubt will identify many more projects in the future.
Committed and passionate staff
Paul believes that this project owes its success to the staff who are so committed and passionate about working with the young people to help the community. He also highlighted the importance of protecting the staff’s health and wellbeing as this work can have an emotional impact on them. Every Friday evening they have a fun social gathering online for staff and they ensure that each member of staff takes Friday afternoon off for self-care and help unwind to ensure that they’re fully charged for the week ahead.
Funders have been very supportive
To date, the Club has secured funding from coronavirus emergency funds from Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, National Emergencies Trust, Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland, PHA and Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.
It is absolutely fair to say that Monkstown Boxing Club is not just a boxing club!
If you would like to learn more about this work, visit https://www.facebook.com/monkstownboxing/
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