Written by Fight for Peace Alliance Programme Manager, Ana Vacas

Fight for Peace Alliance partner, Pat Benson Community Sports Foundation (PBCSF) is a small local charity that is based in the Small Heath ward of Birmingham in the heart of the city centre. PBCSF uses sport, in particular boxing, in addition to mentoring and personal development, to improve the life chances of young people and adults in the most challenging and underrepresented areas of inner- city Birmingham. Specialist staff deliver programmes ranging from mental wellbeing to homework clubs and women’s only classes.

In November 2021, PBCSF received £5,000 from Fight for Peace through the Tackling Inequality Fund – a Sport England initiative which aims to help reduce the negative impact of coronavirus, and help community groups grow and support more people.

PBCSF were asking for support to fund their frontline delivery staff in order to help their organisation adapt and respond to the needs of specific young people by providing them with increased boxing and personal development support.

During the pandemic, PBCSF found staying connected to their young members quite difficult. Paddy Benson, Director of PBCSF, spoke to Fight for Peace about the challenges they faced, describing how lots of young members withdrew from their services once the pandemic began. 

“We lost contact with a lot of people. These were young people who had been with us for years,” Paddy told us.

Paddy went on to explain that spending more time at home with their families created new problems, or intensified already existing issues for many of their young people. For some, there was a lack of outdoor space with no garden or terrace, with houses becoming ‘smaller’, with most family members at home most of the time. This led to increased arguments between family members, a sentiment which was also echoed by parents. “Chaotic homes just became more chaotic,” said Paddy.

Despite being very difficult at the time, these challenges led to some really positive developments for PBCSF. One of these developments was how the organisation managed to establish new communications channels to stay in touch with parents. Not only did this allow the club to coordinate their sessions with more ease, but these new channels of communication provided parents who were facing struggles with support. Some of the single parents involved also shared that they have felt less alone because of this, which is something to be proud of.

These developments soon allowed the club to create and implement their own app, which members can access to sign into their sessions. This helps the coaches and staff at PBCSF know who will be attending in advance, and tailor sessions accordingly. 

“After lockdown, we’ve been able to gain more control of our operations”, Paddy explained.

As well as improved communications and benefits to their operations, the PBCSF delivery model has also changed and is seeing very positive impact as a result. 

“We are doing more sessions, but with fewer young people in those sessions,” said Paddy. He explains that this has led to providing a much higher quality of service to young members and more focus on individual needs. 

Through the TIF fund, PBCSF has also been able to offer one-to-one personal development support and mentoring to young people. “We’ve found success even though we are working with fewer numbers. Whether that’s (young people) reengaging in school, going on to apprenticeships, or going on to more higher-level mental health services,” explained Paddy. 

The club recognised that it was through their adoption of Fight for Peace’s personal development model that helped them to focus on young people’s needs outside of the gym. So despite a really tough couple of years, PBCSF has managed to deliver and grow their impact on young people and their families with support from our Alliance.

At Fight for Peace, we take great pride in our focus on mentoring and personal development in supporting our young people. So to hear the positive impact that sharing such resources and skills can have on organisations such as PBCSF only provides us with more inspiration to keep on doing the work that we do, collaboratively. 

Massive well done to the team and young people at the Pat Benson Community Sports Foundation for their perseverance and dedication to overcoming the adversities that the pandemic has brought. We hope that you can continue to grow and impact even more young people through a combination of sport, personal development and mentoring.

We will be sharing more Alliance Stories over the next few months, so keep an eye out for that! Some of our team have also been working on a short film which demonstrates the power of the Fight for Peace Alliance, and how sharing our skills and approaches can enable us to become stronger in supporting young people in our communities.

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