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UK News

Christian charity uses fencing to tackle knife crime

The eXceL Project (XLP) works with thousands of disadvantaged young people across nine London boroughs to help provide them with positive future prospects and lead them away from crime.

In partnership with British Fencing and London Youth, XLP have started running inner-city fencing classes to help promote respect and good sportsmanship among young people vulnerable to knife crime.

Sports Project Manager Steven Ekpenyong told Premier the sport encourages unexpected positive values despite its perceived violent nature.

"Because it can be closely linked with knife crime and what people perceive as the motion that takes place I think for a lot of the young people that was the initial catch.

"They think this a little bit like you're stabbing someone but then when you start to explain the rules to them, it's not about trying to stab someone or hurt the other person - it's about how do you respectfully gain a point and respect the other person in the process?"

He went on to say the sport models a humility and discipline that is often lacking in other sports, an element which has helped teach young people how to resolve conflict and work together.

"I'm seeing young people that don't usually talk to each other going off and trying to understand the rules together. The respect level at the session was totally incredible to see."

Mr Ekpenyong said a lot of young people can find themselves turning to a life of crime and violence due to family breakdown, fear and loneliness.

"I remember as a young person when I didn't feel a sense of belonging I turned to what I saw, which unfortunately, was the negativity in my environment. It's easy to find that sense of belonging in that.

"What XLP has been doing beautifully has been just create an alternative for young people to find that sense of belonging."

He said he was initially surprised by the popularity of the project in the boroughs where he works and encouraged church communities to learn from the example these young people have set:

"It's been amazing to see young people just wanting to do something totally different.

"People don't tend to come out of their comfort zone - I was challenged by XLP to do something that is totally new, to learn more about my community and it showed me ways in which I can be of help.

"Find out what's going on in your community already and get involved in that."

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