Empire Fighting Chance has teamed up with the city’s Mayor Marvin Rees and TV presenter Alex Beresford to call for the local community as well as businesses to do more to help, inspire and give hope to the young people of Bristol.
Marvin Rees and Alex Beresford are both ambassadors for the charity and joined Empire Fighting Chance’s CEO Martin Bisp at a panel discussion to talk about the work of Empire Fighting Chance and how it is integral in helping build Bristol as a city of hope.
Bristol will only be able to deliver on its ambition to be a city of hope and opportunity for all its citizens if it focuses on the welfare of some of the most vulnerable young people, who are so often missed or excluded from conventional mental health service.
CEO Martin Bisp explained: “Our role is to champion these young people; to be on their side and have their corner. We have a waiting list with so many referrals coming through for young people who need our support. Knife crime is a huge issue here and we must tackle this problem. We need to educate and engage children and young people, but we need to work with community-focused organisations as a collective can make a real difference.
“We need to celebrate those who help, like Marvin – he is a man of values and works hard for the city with an understanding of the challenges we face, having come from poverty himself. We also need companies to look at their recruitment policies. They need to speak to communities that face poverty and inequality and ask them what they can do to help them find work.”
From the gym in Easton, Empire Fighting Chance reaches more than 5,000 young people from the city and beyond. Through a unique programme of non-contact boxing, mentoring, counselling and therapy, the charity is able to support young people suffering from some of the most extreme mental health problems. Many of the young people EFC support have problems as a direct result of the poverty, deprivation and inequality still present in Bristol.
Marvin Rees and Alex Beresford both spoke movingly about their experiences growing up locally and how they believe Empire Fighting Chance helps to reach some of the most isolated and difficult-to-reach young people.
Good Morning Britain’s Alex, who recently won £16,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire for the charity, said he was deeply worried about the levels of knife crime in the UK and said charities like Empire Fighting Chance create a safe haven away from gang life.
He said: “Empire Fighting Chance is a safe place for young people. It provides structure and the team goes above and beyond to help young people. The cost of living is increasing and what was already hard will now be that little bit harder. This will lead to an increase in demand for services like EFC. It’s important to guide children to follow a better path.”
Marvin added: “Whilst Bristol is a great place for so many people, there are tens of thousands who do not share this story. For too long we have ignored their voice, their story. We want to build a different kind of Bristol that provides hope for everyone in which all can enjoy the city and share its bounty.
“We know that the drivers of inequality have been strengthened during the pandemic – with the poorest being hit the hardest. As they help our city’s marginalised young people fulfil their potential, Empire Fighting Chance are playing a critical role in building Bristol as a city of hope.”
The panel, hosted by ITV’s Kylie Pentelow, was also joined by parent Arron Berry, who spoke candidly about how Empire Fighting Chance had helped support his daughter Charlotte when she was at risk of expulsion from school. EFC’s boxing therapy allowed her to work through her problems and she is now at school studying for her GSCEs with improved mental health and aspirations.