Battersea charity changing lives of offenders and people with disabilities with sports and fitness qualifications

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A Battersea charity is helping prisoners, ex-offenders, and people with life-changing injuries become qualified as personal trainers.

Carney’s Community, in Petworth Street, is a boxing gym that aims to help vulnerable and disadvantaged young people aged 11-30, by providing mentoring, teaching skills and discipline and ultimately preparing people for the world of work. 

One of the charity’s latest projects is a social enterprise called Carney’s Coaches, where young people can gain qualifications in sports and fitness, enabling them to go into personal training. 

George Turner, Carney’s Community chief executive, said the aim is to get young people into work or create work opportunities for them. 

He said: “We have been working alongside the council to get our participants trained up and qualified in level 1, 2 and 3 sports qualifications.

“Once they have their level 2 they are qualified to work in any gym. Once they have a level 3 qualification they are able to become personal trainers and could effectively set up their own personal training business.”

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Of those who are involved, one is a serving prisoner. Aged 22, he is serving an eight year sentence at a prison in south London.

He would, by his own admission, return to crime when he leaves prison if he wasn’t for Carney’s Coaches.

He said: “We can’t get these facilities inside. I can work with younger and older ages in the gym.

“It was very difficult at first but because of the people around, they helped and I have got through it.

“They worked with me inside and now I’m working on the straight and narrow. I would have gone back to crime, but I don’t want to do that.”

The 22-year-old, who wished to be kept anonymous, has completed his level 2 qualification in sports and fitness. It is his only formal qualification.

With Carney’s backing him and offering him more support even after he qualifies, he is confident about the future.

He said: “It is very important [to have these schemes]. Where we are, we don’t get to interact with people, we need people skills for jobs, interviews, even going into shops is a big deal for some people.”

As well as offenders and ex-offenders, Carney’s is working with people who have suffered life-changing injuries, like Marcus, who was left with a broken back and neck, twisted spine and fractured sternum after a motorbike accident in October 2014.

Going from working out in the gym almost everyday to being wheelchair bound was a difficult transition, but Marcus saw life after the accident when he met Aaron, who had been in a chair for 10 years.

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Marcus followed Aaron’s lead and took up boxing twice a week at the Carney’s centre, where he now volunteers as a coach and has plans to start his own fitness group for people with disabilities.

Carney’s Coaches run boxing training sessions on Tuesdays from 5.45-6.45pm and Saturdays from 12-1pm. They cost £5 which pays the coaches and goes back into funding training for other people.

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