Fighting back

In her regular column highlighting local projects, charities and services, Link4Growth volunteer Debra Oakaby is knocked out in Leytonstone


Members of Box4Life in a training session at Cann Hall Baptist Church

We recently celebrated the second anniversary of Link4Growth Chingford, which brings people together from different parts of the community. One of our supporters told me about a non-contact boxing club in Leytonstone, and after looking them up online I knew I had to visit them.

Box4Life uses this type of boxing to help kids develop essential social and emotional skills. It was started in 2009 by Mark Rule, who wanted to get more kids off the streets and away from gangs, having been affected by the murder of a young man from the estate where he lived.

Indeed, the club was initially funded by the Home Office from a fund aimed at tackling gang violence.

I met Mark with Peter Sandy, the general manager, on a Tuesday evening at Cann Hall Baptist Church in Leytonstone. The club meets during term time and also on Friday evenings in Holy Trinity Church Hall, Holloway Road, Leytonstone.

During the interview, I could hear a punch bag being repeatedly hit by older kids doing some serious training. There is no ring because the kids hit special padded gloves and punch bags rather than each other.

I noticed that Mark cares deeply about these kids and their lives and has created an ‘extended family’ at the club. I met a couple of home-grown coaches who were qualified with the Association of Amateur Boxing (ABA) and had been supported by the club.

Peter told me that approximately 40 to 50 kids, aged between eight and 18 years, attend the club each week and nearly one in six is female. Feedback from members and parents is very good and includes increased self-esteem and confidence, healthy eating and better mood and behaviour at home.

Box4Life is the smallest club in London taking part in a pioneering programme that helps disadvantaged young people at risk of being Not in Education, Employment and Training (NEET), by combining sport and education.

Peter monitors the social cost savings as a result of the club’s activities, such as improved wellbeing and educational performance and reduced crime. He is concerned about mental health in adolescence, especially during the transition from primary to secondary schools, and is passionate about helping these kids fulfil their potential. “We’re ambitious for these kids and we want other people to be ambitious too,” he said.

I also got to find out what was happening at the grassroots level. I met Peter Akubuko, a professional boxer, mentor and senior coach at the club. He said: “Coming here is not mandatory, they come week in and week out because they choose to come.”

For more information on Box4Life and to make a donation or volunteer:



If you have any stories to share about the community in action contact Debra or drop in at a Link4Growth meeting held regularly in Chingford:

Call 07906 007 613