The story of Fight for Peace began before it was founded in 2000. The English researcher Luke Dowdney completed his Masters degree in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh University in 1995, writing his dissertation on the violence suffered by street children of Brazil, specifically in Recife. During his research, Luke lived with young people in situations of high risk and had his mind opened to questions of human rights and violence.
Returning to Brazil from Scotland, Luke was invited in 1997 to work as a volunteer for the Rio de Janeiro-based NGO Viva Rio. By 2000, he had opened Luta pela Paz (Fight for Peace) as a project of Viva Rio, with the aim of providing an alternative to the armed violence and drug trafficking that often formed part of life for the young residents of Complexo da Maré, a complex of 17 favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Luke’s love of boxing – he was a former amateur boxer and British Universities champion in 1995 – led him to see in the sport the possibility of attracting and working with these young people from Complexo da Maré in a holistic project combining boxing & martial arts with personal development.
In 2007 Fight for Peace became independent from Viva Rio, establishing itself as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Brazil (Associação Luta pela Paz). In the same year, Fight for Peace also replicated its methodology with the opening of the Fight for Peace Academy in London.
In 15 years, Fight for Peace has transformed from a project with just ten young people to a group of international NGOs – based in Rio de Janeiro and London – which support 2720 young people each year.
Over this period, Fight for Peace has experienced four stages:
1. Instinctive Reaction – Boxing materialised as a tool to open a dialogue with the hardest to reach young people who were not interested in school or by social projects. These were often young people involved in the trafficking of drugs;
2. Consolidation – Combining an attempt to understand the needs of young people through research in the field (Luke wrote two case studies: Children of the Drug Trade and Neither War nor Peace) and the involvement of a multidisciplined team, Fight for Peace created a holistic and integrated methodology: the Five Pillars;
3. Growth – Replication of Fight for Peace’s work, demonstrating that the model can work in other areas/cultures, and international training, allowing growth on a global scale of the support offered to children and youths;
4. Sustainability – Developing the structure of the FFP Group to guarantee the local and international sustainability of the project, and the launch of LUTA Clothing, a social enterprise generating new funds for the group.