Is boxing the answer to steer children away from knives and gangs in Milton Keynes?
Children as young as seven are being encouraged to 'put down the knives and pick up the gloves' in Milton Keynes.
Free boxing and sport sessions have been launched to steer children away from joining Milton Keynes gangs and roaming the streets as teenagers.
Keeping Kids of the Streets (KKOTS) is non-profit community organisation founded by Neath Hill dad of four Karl Hanif.
He is convinced that teaching children discipline early on is the key to ensuring trouble-free teenage years. And for two years he has been putting his money where his mouth is and largely funding his scheme himself.
KKOTS run the free boxing sessions every Monday evening at Fishermead's Trinity Centre, where volunteer coaches give expert tuition.
There are two classes - one for children aged seven to 11 and one for young people aged 12 to 18.
Karl also runs free football sessions on the Willen Lake Astroturf on Saturday mornings for any youngsters that want to come along.
So far he has been dipping into his own pocket to fund the fees for venue hire and equipment, but now he is appealing for help so he can roll out KKOTS to other areas in Milton Keynes.
The message he wants to convey is 'put down the knives and pick up the gloves'.
“I know it works,” he said.
“If you can get a child when they are young enough and teach them discipline and respect then you can prevent them getting into trouble when they become a teenager.
“We need to show children in Milton Keynes there is light at the end of the tunnel and there is a future for them. They do not need to be drug dealers or rob people or join a gang and carry knives.”
Karl is convinced most problem youngsters roam the streets because they are bored and there is no alternative.
“Boxing gives them an alternative. My own son was terrible as a youngster. I got him into boxing and now he's doing really well. He's 19 and studying law at university,” he said.
He is determined not to charge for the sessions as many of the youngsters are from single parent families who would find it hard to find the spare cash.
“I've been buying the boxing gloves and other equipment myself and all the coaches are giving their time voluntarily. But to roll this out to the whole of MK I need to raise more money. Sponsorship from businesses would be great,” he said.
Karl is in the process of making KKOTS a charity. You can read more about the scheme, make a donation or offer sponsorship online here.