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Each year, the High Sheriff Youth Awards recognise some of the outstanding young people and projects in County Durham. Last year’s winners, Durham Community Boxing Club, recently welcomed this year’s award sponsors to see how young lives are changed for the better both inside and outside the ring…

A LOCAL boxing club is helping young people build a knockout future, with support from County Durham Community Foundation.

Durham Community Boxing Club scooped a High Sheriff Youth Award last year for the vision and enthusiasm of its young members: and recently welcomed supporters of the Awards, run by the Foundation, for a tour.

County Durham Community Foundation would like to thank the sponsors of this year’s High Sheriff Youth Awards: Sir James Knott TrustThe Banks GroupDarlington Building SocietyUKSEDurham ConstabularyDurham Police and Crime Commissioners Office, The 1989 Willan Charitable Trust Fund and Durham Shopping Extravaganza.

The club is part of the Go The Distance Community Hub in Belmont, which offers all kinds of support for young people to overcome barriers and succeed in education, sport and life.

Hannah, 14, has experienced lots of bereavements and rejection in recent years. She currently attends the club three times a week and has been coming for eight months. She hopes to work in the sports field when she’s older, and said: “When I came here I had no other school to go to. It has really helped with my behaviour and attitude. It’s a good school and has given me a sense of discipline and responsibility.”

Senior coach, Paul Lysaght, said: “Young people referred here are often only one step away from being in real trouble with the police. We’re creating pathways all the time but there’s a lot more we can do.

“Our focus is on mental health and education, including money matters, using sport, and we’ve created a bit of a monster now.

“We’re working with a range of local organisations that support our aims in order to make our plans happen, because our ethos is not to exclude but to persevere where needed: until a way of working is found for every young person that comes through the door.”

Those plans include installing a mezzanine floor at the hub, where an IT suite will support children and young people with their education, and a job club for under 25s will be launched. An existing area will be transformed into a dance studio and a health and beauty business; while ventilation and access will be improved throughout the building.

Trainee Assistant Marie Coulthard was introduced to the organisation five months ago after her 11-year-old son, who has ADHD and attends a mainstream primary school, started doing boxing training with Paul. He is now due to compete is his first contest having learnt discipline, motivation, confidence and a calming influence through the ‘Power of Sport’ ethos of Go The Distance.

Helping with coaching and cleaning, Marie gets involved in most aspects of the service, but said the role has changed her life.

“Since starting boxing, my son is like a completely different child”, she explained. “And since I started helping out, it’s changed my life. I have bi-polar disorder and wasn’t a very confident person, but this job has brought that out so much that I’m now going for my coaching badge.

“I’m never away from the place. It’s unbelievable. I feel like a different person and I love working with kids in a way that makes me feel needed.”

Anne Elliott, who will become High Sheriff of Durham at the end of March, was one of the recent visitors.

She said: “Seeing it in action brings home the impact you can make when you give young people care and attention.”

Lucy Hinds, executive assistant at The Banks Group, whose funding has helped the hub meet the cost of laptops and a new fire door, added: “I didn’t expect this at all, especially as I live nearby. It is so much more than just boxing, and seeing the young people using the space, and how it is helping them has been very special. It’s such a good place for them and we are so happy to have been able to support it.”

(1) No Poverty (3) Good Health and Wellbeing (4) Quality Education (8) Decent Work and Economic Growth (10) Reduced Inequalities

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