All of us must be aware of how organised gangs lure youth from underprivileged backgrounds. Children and youth are lured into these gangs using the same strategy that is used in warfare where they are wooed by projecting false propaganda. They are expected to kill and die at any given point of time. One of the shocking fact is that more number of minors and youth die who are part of an organised gang compare to the ones who join a war. According to various reports there were around 500 children who were killed in warfare in Israel and Palestine in between 1998 to 2001. At the same period around 4000 children were killed due to armed violence in Rio de Janerio.
There are very few organisations which has done credible work to fight this huge human rights issue. One of the them is ‘Fight for Peace’ also known as ‘Luta Pela Paz‘. This organisation run by award winning Luke Dowdney works to engage the youth and children who have fallen or are susceptible to fall in the traps of organised gangs. They engage the youth by teaching them combat sports like boxing and martial arts to save them from violence and to promote peace.The organisation also teaches the youth various essential life skills. Luke started ‘Fight for Peace’ when he initiated his concept for young residents of ‘Complexo da Maré’, a complex of 17 Favelas(Slums) in Rio de Janeiro.Luke’s love for boxing and his experience of being an amateur boxer in U.K. where he had won British Universities Boxing Championship inspired him to attract the youth from these Favelas to learn boxing and martial arts. His concept worked wonderfully as the youth gave up their violent ways and learned these combat skills to develop themselves in a holistic way.
Today, Fight for peace with its 15 years of inspiring journey has transformed many lives. The concept was initiated by Luke and ten other people.Today the organisation works with various international NGO’s based in Rio and London to achieve their objective of fighting this human rights problem. Every year ‘Fight for Peace’ helps transform lives 2720 young people. Below is our chat with this amazing change maker :
What inspired you to start ‘Fight for Peace’?
Boxing was very important for me when I was younger. It gave me discipline, and taught me to never quit, no matter what. What I learnt in the gym and in the ring I took to other areas of my life. I wanted other young people, especially those in difficult circumstances, to have access to these learnings.
What is the strategy that is implemented at ‘Fight for Peace’ to provide aid and guidance to youth?
We’re more than just boxing and martial arts. We have developed the five pillar methodology, an integrated approach that gives young people access to boxing and martial arts, education, employability courses, social support services and youth leadership. Its a holistic package that gives young people the chance to fulfill their potential, and be all they can.
What has been the greatest impact of the organisation especially in Brazil where you initiated this amazing concept?
The young people themselves, they have been fundamental to creating the programme and helping us have impact.
Can you narrate an incident from your experience at ‘Fight for Peace’ which has been a great learning for you?
I’ve learnt that you should trust your instincts. In the beginning people didn’t believe you could teach combat sports to promote peace. But having boxed I knew that wasn’t the case, most people who criticized had never been in a ring or on a tatame. no one questions what we do now as the results speak for themselves.
What are the biggest challenges faced by your organisation?
We’ve grown a lot. From me and 15 kids in year one to over 140 staff, Academies in London and Rio supporting over 3,000 young people, and trained partner projects in 24 countries reaching over 250,000 young people. That kind of growth for any organisation can be challenging. But I think we’re 95% of the way with the right structure. We have signed a Global partnership with Reebok which will give us a lot of profile in the US over the coming years. It will be amazing and is very exciting, but with continued growth there will be challenges along the way. But like a good fighter, we’ll be prepared and ready to give everything needed to be successful.
What would be your advise to youth who lack the resources they need to build a future they want?
I’m a real believer that once you get into the mindset of being positive and never quitting, opportunities however small present themselves. And from those small opportunities we can build. No icon was made over night. Whoever we see that appears to have ‘made it’ has probably been working at getting there for a very long time, and sacrificed a lot to be successful.