The Boys’ Training Centre (BTC) received a donation of boxing equipment last Thursday (October 14) from the St. Lucia Boxing Association (SLBA) that will aid in boosting the institution’s rehabilitation programmes.
The handing over ceremony was held at the Centre located in Massade, Gros Islet, as a visiting team from the SLBA, Blackheart Productions and Rise (St. Lucia) Inc. expressed their commitment to ensuring that the eleven wards at the institution realize their best potential.
The equipment donated included boxing gloves, punching bags, hand wraps, head gear, speed balls, skipping ropes, and mouth guards.
The BTC visit came six days after the team paid a courtesy call to the Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF) in Dennery to donate sporting equipment for multiple disciplines to assist in that institution’s inmate rehabilitative programmes. Two weeks earlier, the South Boxing Gym in Vieux Fort also received similar equipment.
SLBA President, David “Shakes” Christopher, said assisting the youngsters in their rehabilitation is among the SLBA’s priorities and dovetails with the SLBA’s tagline, “Creating Champions and Better Citizens”. He urged the boys to consider taking up the sport which serves to instill discipline and respect. According to Christopher, the boxing programme at the Centre will commence shortly.
“We’ve been promised some coaches by the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports and the Saint Lucia Olympic Committee (SLOC),” Christopher said. “As soon as these coaches come on-stream, we will be working with Mr. Wang Sonson to give you a training schedule so that we can help you regain that energy and synergy.”
About four years ago, the BTC and the SLBA collaborated to officially begin a boxing programme at the Centre. During that time, over 30 boys signed up and later participated in the annual Creole Boxing Championship hosted by the SLBA. Many of them did admirably, and, after leaving the BTC, some continued in the sport with the boxing association.
Also present at the handing over ceremony was Minister for Youth Development and Sports, Hon. Kenson Casimir, a former national athlete and sportscaster, who described his own upbringing as challenging. He encouraged the boys to embrace academics and sports as avenues for becoming exemplary citizens.
“I think sports is one of the most cathartic activities that young people can get involved in,” the minister stated. “Boxing goes a step further in providing that level of relief for persons who may have stressful activities at home to actually come out and do something that would really allow them to get centred.”
Cricket commentator, Joseph “Reds” Perreira, also had some encouraging words for the youngsters. He noted that while it’s important that there’s a link between the BTC and the boxing association, other partners need to join the movement, including boxing coaches.
“The boxing association has trained coaches, but they’re not available because they’re working elsewhere. If it’s possible that we can get a coach or two through the CARICOM links, it will further help to support the kind of work that David and his executive have been doing,” the famed commentator explained.
Meanwhile, Chairman of Rise (St. Lucia) Inc., Dr. Venus “Rastaman” Cherry, assured the boys that his organization will continue to champion their cause. He urged them to believe in themselves and know that people are working on their behalf to offer them a second chance.
“We will not stop, I promise you that,” Dr. Cherry told the young men. “Rise (St. Lucia) Inc. will not stop working to ensure that you guys are treated fairly, have the opportunity for an education, and be re-acclimated into society better individuals than the perception that people have of you now.”
Co-founder and Director of Rise (St. Lucia) Inc., Jonathan “Ninja Dan” St. Rose, urged wise and responsible use of the boxing equipment, adding that boxing can assist in helping curb the anger management and conflict resolution issues some boys may face.
“Rather than picking up a knife and have that hatred for your brother to go and stab him or cut him up,” St. Rose warned the boys, “I’d rather you pick up a pair of gloves and ask your brother to come box it out in a positive and disciplined way.”
Manager of the Boys’ Training Centre, Wang Sonson, thanked the SLBA for the equipment. He said sports is just one of the avenues offered at the Boys’ Training Centre and urged other corporate entities to support the Centre in its rehabilitation programmes.
“Aside from sports, we run a full rehabilitation programme where we have psycho-social intervention counselling and educational programming,” he said. “We continue to work with our boys so that when they do leave the Centre, they have that opportunity to succeed.”
In September, the SLBA received over US$45,000 worth of boxing equipment from the International Boxing Association (AIBA). Since then, the local boxing association, which has its own gym at Vigie, has been distributing the equipment to various institutions and gyms around the island.
This week, donations will be made to Choiseul and Soufriere to boost the popular sport in those communities.