Muswell Hill social workers set up boxing and bike fixing sessions to tackle knife crime
PUBLISHED: 15:59 11 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:38 11 July 2019
A joint boxing and bike-repair initiative to inspire young people in the fight against knife crime has opened near Muswell Hill.
Streetwise Group CIC, an organisation leading a campaign called End Youth Violence and Knife Crime, launched its first scheme in Haringey last week, a month after a community meeting discussed rising knife crime in the area.
Taskin Hudaverdi and Michael Watson, who founded Streetwise together in 2016, decided to set up a project in Muswell Hill after the stabbing of a 19-year-old there in March.
They attended the community meeting on June 10 in Muswell Hill Methodist Church, and found Rev Matt Lunn receptive to their ideas of providing young people with new opportunities and skills. On the back of their discussion, he offered them space in his church for their bike and boxing projects.
Although Streetwise now works across 12 London boroughs, the combination of boxing and bike repair workshops is a first for the organisation. Previously, it has just run bike maintenance courses for young offenders and hard-to-reach young people.
Michael, who used to be a primary school teacher and is now a qualified boxing instructor through the Ricky Hatton Academy, said: "This is unique. This is the first time we've done this.
"It's basically boxing for fitness - without contact, which is ideal for the young people.
"It keeps them fit, it teaches them a skill and we're going to align it with the AQA qualification."
Whereas the boxing sessions are open to the whole family and cost £10 per family of four, the bike sessions - for those aged 11 to 18 - are free.
Both take place on Tuesdays at Middle Lane Methodist Church in Lightfoot Road: the bike project between 3.30pm and 5.30pm, and the boxing for an hour from 6pm.
Speaking of their work to reduce crime, Michael added: "We are trying to get young people to invest in their communities because that's the only way you are going to change things.
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"You are not going to change young people by locking them up, by arresting them - it's not going to work.
"You've got to make them part of their own community and feel pride in their community. We are trying to create role models."
Thanks to bike donations from organisations such as National Rail, as well as private individuals, Streetwise provides young people with bikes to fix and then keep.
Any spares will go to other people in the local community who are in need of a bike.
Raq Islam, 23, who attended Taskin's bike repair sessions in Camden in 2009 as a teenager, fondly remembers fixing his first bike.
He enjoyed the workshops at the Surma Centre so much that, after gaining Level 1 and 2 Cycle Mechanics, he now runs his own bike-fixing company, Your Bike CIC which operates as a pop-up shop in the King's Cross area.
Raq told the Ham&High workshops like the ones provided by Streetwise were invaluable.
"The bike repair workshops provide youngsters with the opportunity to be certified mechanics," he said, "enabling them to find a means of work within society."
Of Taskin in particular, he added: "Honestly, growing up as a young person, he was always a role model - both formally and informally."
After being let go by Camden Council due to cuts, Taskin went on to co-found Streetwise. He has worked with bikes for a long time, first running a bike repair workshop at the estate where he lives in 2004. He now gets the children of his former students knocking on his door for lessons.
Referring to Streetwise's latest project and the demographic it intends to help, Taskin said: "People see them as volatile, high-risk young people.
"They're not really. They're just young people who need a bit of guidance. A little bit of inspiration. That's how we see it.
"You've got to show them a skill which they can earn money from, to pull themselves off the street."
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