Combining dance and boxing to support young people to get ahead in their lives – Jhon’s story

07/09/2018 – Jhon Jairo Mina, a former boxer from Buenaventura, Colombia, is making a difference in his local community through a unique initiative which combines combat sports with dance. Supported by Cali’s Secretaria de Deportes and Fundacion Carvajal, both Fight for Peace Alliance members, Jhon and his group of young athletes are working together to get ahead in life. The inspiring coach sat down with Fight for Peace to talk about his story and the champions he is helping develop:

“My name is Jhon and I’m 36 years old. I’m from Buenaventura but I am currently living in Cali. I live in a house that was provided by the government for people who were victims of forced displacement due to the civil conflict. Today, everyone in the community is working well together to move things forward. I focus on the area of sports and try to help children and young people get ahead in their lives. I’ve managed this with the support of the community and a few institutions, which have become interested in the children’s activities.

I was a boxer in Buenaventura, and I represented my home city in competitions. Several years after moving to Cali, I met a young man teaching boxing. He gave me the opportunity to work as a coach and later I started working independently with my own group. Now I do more than just boxing; it has developed into something social.

I have a boxing group of wonderful children. I started with about twelve of them. The numbers increased and now I have about 70 children coming to the group. We combine boxing training with dance training. We do the boxing Monday to Friday and on Saturdays and Sundays we do the dance practice. We train in a small house, one of those provided by the government, but we are happy there. I also meet on a monthly basis with the children’s parents to discuss the behaviour of the children at school as well as their behaviour more generally in social and practical terms.

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I have been running the boxing group for three years. A year ago, I started to get some support from the Local Authority programme De Por Vida, which gave me the opportunity of some employment, so I now have some subsistence funds. I have also had some support from the Fundación Carvajal, which appeared like a miracle for me. They have supported me, and this has enabled us to take some of our young people further afield to compete. We also have five young people in a national programme now called Superate, two of whom I took through to the semi-finals, and I am now taking a female boxer to the final in Barranquilla on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. If we can get the funds, then we will travel and she can take part.

Being part of the Fight for Peace Alliance in Colombia has enriched my experience and knowledge. The information shared has helped me to grow, both in terms of the information about psycho-social support and the technical knowledge. It’s made me realise that there are many other people out there fighting the same fight in other cities across the country, using boxing and martial arts to support young people. I usually don’t have the funds to travel outside the neighbourhood and get to know like-minded organisations in this way. The learning exchange has helped me 100% with all the knowledge and insights I have gained. It gives me the strength not to give up.

We are happy with the achievements that we have to date. We will continue to grow bit by bit, despite the challenges, and despite the difficult circumstances of children who have talent in boxing, but are not in school; or girls who have been abused since they were ten years old. With me, they have found the support and confidence they need to face their difficulties.”