Club case study: Star Boxing provide sense of belonging to asylum seekers and refugees

February 3, 2023 | by Matt Halfpenny


Halifax Star Boxing Club has recently received funding through Sport England’s Together Fund to develop their boxing classes for refugees and asylum seekers in Halifax.

The club have been working with St Augustine’s Centre, which is a charity which specialises in supporting people seeking sanctuary in the UK.

They offer a holistic support programme including advice drop-ins, English classes, integration service and sports provision.

Halifax Star has been delivering boxing sessions every Wednesday evening and had more than 50 different participants attend the sessions.

“For people seeking sanctuary, there are lots of barriers which they face to access physical fitness,” said Adrian Bell of St Augustine’s Centre. “These include both mental and physical health trauma, isolation, lack of money and lack of knowledge of where to go.

“The sessions with Star Boxing have proved to be invaluable. They offer people not only an opportunity to get fit with the help of trained professionals but also an opportunity and an outlet for people for only one hour a week, to forget their stresses and feelings of loss and to concentrate on themselves.

“The sessions are professionally run by Josh (Sandland) and his team, and they have managed to build a positive relationship with our centre members which can be seen by the high rate of return from participants.

“For many of our centre members, there meetings with Josh and his team may be the only conversation they have in English outside of the staff at St Augustine’s.

“These boxing sessions are the highlight of my week. As I mentioned earlier, our centre members often come with a huge amount of baggage. They not only have to suffer with the feeling of loss, but they have to navigate a complex asylum system which takes control away from their lives.

“They live on as little as £8 per week and they concentrate on surviving one day to the next. I see both the physical and mental benefits that these boxing sessions have.

“Not only does it improve physical fitness but it gives people an outlet to channel their built up anger and frustration in a positive and controlled manner. You can physically see that even for one hour, they forget about the barriers they face and support each other in getting fit.

“Our partnership with Star Boxing has had a hugely beneficial impact on the people we support and we hope to continue this project to allow others the opportunity to get fit in a controlled and professional setting guided by fantastic staff.”

The project has gone down extremely well with participants, and one said: “I always look forward to our weekly boxing sessions on a Wednesday evening.

“Before moving to Halifax, I was feeling down and unfit. Been given the opportunity to get fit has not only helped my physical fitness but it has also had a positive impact on my mental health.

“I feel more integrated into society and I have an outlet. Of course I miss my family and previous life and always will but for one hour I can get rid of my anger and frustration.”

Halifax Star has been only too pleased to get involved with the project and hope it can increase its scope in the future.

Amber, from the Halifax Star, said: “Our relationship with the centre and its members is just becoming stronger and we really support what they do at the charity.

“At the moment, we only offer the centre one session per week but with the support of funding we are hoping to increase this as I know the people at St Augustine’s are wanting to do more with us.

“Adrian at the charity said that people who he helps have come on so much since meeting Josh. I really want to reach out for more groups in the area as I know we can help so much.

Everybody is welcome at the club no matter what background they have including all ages, both female and male.

“As a boxing club we don’t just focus on boxing, we aim to help people mentally and physically and make a difference to people lives.

England Boxing’s Club Support Officer for Yorkshire, Alicia Winbolt, added: “It is great what Halifax Star are doing and this is what boxing is all about, bringing people together and providing a safe space for people to be physically active no matter where they are from or what they have been through in their lives.

“Boxing can change people lives for the better and Star Boxing are helping this happen.”

Click here to find out more about Halifax Star Boxing Club.