Dubai: National and international boxers and other celebrities joined forces on Friday to kick off ‘Boxing with Determination,’ the UAE’s first-of-its-kind initiative to create an inclusive space for children of determination through boxing classes.
A small group of children of determination got their first lessons in punching and defending themselves inside the boxing ring at the Warehouse Gym in Al Quoz as part of the joint venture of the gym and Rise Events.
The coaches of the day included retired British Heavyweight Champion Scott Welch, two-time national UAE boxing champions Sultan Al Nuaimi and Fahad Al Bloushi and the UAE’s first female boxer Fahima Falaknaz.
The initiative is the first in a series to provide children of determination with a forum to make friends, interact and test their abilities in different fields.
Attended by social media influencers and other celebrities, the event highlighted the importance of sports in building motor skills and confidence while creating inclusive spaces and opportunities.
Scott Welch, who is also the chairman of WBC Cares in the UK, said he had seen incredible improvement in children with determination who attended boxing and martial arts classes.
Apart from their motor skills, he said it helps in improving their self-esteem, confidence and understanding of their body.
“They are stronger, more active,” he said, while sharing the story of how a wheelchair-bound young boy, who never smiled, started loving what he did and beaming with smiles after he got involved in boxing classes.
He has promised to fly in to support future training sessions for the children with determination here.
The three Emirati boxers have also vouched to support the programme.
“I used to be a different person. I was a gamer who spent about 17 hours on gaming,” said Sultan Al Nuaimi.
He said boxing changed him mentally and physically. “I became more confident. Now, whatever challenges there are in front of you, you look at it and say I can do it.”
“There is no gender and age restriction in boxing. It is for everyone,” said Fahima Falaknaz.
Though most people think boxing is harmful, she said, the sport actually made her mentally and physically stronger.
It helped her with communication skills, self belief and self worth, she added.
Fahad said boxing would help children with determination to be together with people, which in turn helps in their social inclusion.
Established by special needs therapists and educators Esha Khurshid and Rahima Amiraly, Rise Events exclusively caters to young people of determination.
Khurshid said the start-up aims to create programmes that foster inclusiveness and resilience and to showcase a wide range of talents in sports, performing arts and entertainment.
“We collaborate with agencies, private companies and professional sports and arts personalities to integrate children of determination by providing unique opportunities for students to flourish and have a chance to live a fulfilled life.”
She said the launch events are done free of cost by Rise Events while partnering companies are offering discounts for children of determination.
Shehzad Janab, head coach of boxing at the Warehouse gym, said a special training programme would be devised to include children of determination in the kids’ boxing sessions at the gym.
“We will then include them with the other kids,” he said.
There are about 50 children who attend weekly boxing classes at the gym.
Dr. Vandana Bhaskaran, whose daughter Navya, was one of the children of determination who took the first lessons in boxing, said the parents were happy to get such an opportunity for their children.
“I hope this will really help them mentally and physically and bring in the true meaning of inclusion.”
Social media influencer Khalid Al Ameri and wife Salama, who have a seven-year-old son with autism, were also present to support the initiative.
“For Salama and I as parents, the one thing that we are always concerned about is how included our son will be in different aspects of the society,” said Al Ameri.
“A lot of time, a lot of the focus is on how we can change them to ‘fit in’ without realising they are beautiful, they are special and they are unique in their own way,” he said, pointing out that initiatives like Boxing with Determination would change that practice by supporting the children of determination with the training and tools that will help include them in the society in their own unique ways.