By Horace Mills, BVI News Online Staff
The make-shift gym in East End where some 18 young men usually gather to sharpen their boxing skills was forced to close late last year.
That’s because the volunteer who coaches the youngsters could not afford the rent Social Development Department said it would start charging for use of the state-owned building, which had been rundown and uninhabited for some time.
Dominic Bufton, a mixed martial arts expert and native of the United Kingdom, stepped into the picture last Friday.
He has managed to secure an amount of financial support to facilitate re-opening of the gym, and resumption of the territory’s sole boxing programme.
Yesterday, a group of volunteers cleansed the facility located near the fire station in East End, Tortola.
That effectively means, starting today (February 13), the young men who perhaps returned to hanging out in the East End streets, will again have a gym to spend their spare time constructively.
When BVI News Online contacted Bufton about the helping hand he had outstretched, he made it clear that he was not interested in publicity.
But he underscored the importance of having the gym available to young people in the community.
Based on his experience working with youngsters on Tortola and outside the British Virgin Islands, the mixed martial arts trainer is convinced that activities such as boxing can have an enormous impact on young men.
“It is incredibly important; you can speak to anyone who has spent time learning boxing – any of the martial arts.”
“It improves the kids’ self confidence and discipline. It teaches them to be humble, gives them a lot of life skills, and teaches them self-respect. A lot of kids that might be aggressive normally; this teaches them how to handle aggression in real life,” added Bufton.
He further stated that he has witnessed the boxing initiative in East End transform into a fully fledged youth programme – all done through volunteerism.
“Many of the kids would be on the streets in East End hanging out in the evening probably doing other things that are not as constructive if they didn’t have the gym to help them out,” Bufton further told BVI News Online.
He lauded Julan ‘Iron Fist’ Brown who started the boxing programme, and who initially secured the ramshackle building that has been transformed into a usable boxing gym. He called the facility Iron Fist Boxing Gym.
As news of the free-of-cost facility spread, the number of young men participating in the programme swelled.
In addition to participating in community clean-ups, they travel overseas to participate in boxing tournaments.
Minister of Sports Myron Walwyn, over the past two years, saw it fit to contribute a grant.
As the programme expanded, however, the need for funding increased.
To raise funds, Iron Fist, a Jamaican native, started fundraisers such as boxing tournaments involving both locals and boxers from his wide overseas network.
That move earned very little funds, but much unwarranted attention, BVI News Online understands.
For example, the Social Development Department, which had made the gym available for years, started to demand a monthly rent of $100.
The amount seemed small, but it was too much for Iron Fist, who stated that he did not want to charge the young people involved in the boxing programme.
He also said he already had spent too much of his personal funds on the initiative.
“I was spending too much, even on some of the youths. But, if I had to spend my personal money to keep them out of trouble, I did that,” the long-time boxer said when contacted by BVI News Online.
Iron Fist noted that, except for demanding the payment of rent, the Social Development Department was usually highly considerate.
However, now that the gym is reopening after Bufton’s intervention, Iron Fist is happy to resume his voluntary work with the young people.
He is also pleased that the Social Development Department has invited him to a meeting to discuss the issue that had caused a lull in the youth programme.
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