Supporting young adults aged 20+ to improve their mental health. Participants include people in recovery from addiction, young people at risk of offending, refugees, people who have experienced mental illness and people who have experienced homelessness.

Funded by

The Mind Fit Volunteering programme is for anyone aged over 20 who has experienced poor mental health, and offers the opportunity to work as a volunteer with all sorts of sporting events, from local club fixtures to the Commonwealth Games. Participants in the Volunteering programme are usually referred to us by local housing or mental health agencies, although they can also self-refer.

After telling us their interests and giving us an idea of the time they have available to volunteer, participants start on a 12 week induction programme. It includes health-related topics like fitness training, wellbeing, nutrition and self-care, but also workshops in basic employability skills like literacy, numeracy and IT. They also learn about some of the workplace issues they might come across as volunteers – what employers should and shouldn’t ask of them, for example, and how to create and maintain professional boundaries.

After 12 weeks, they are given a certificate of attendance to support their ongoing personal development, and the opportunity to sign up as a volunteer. Many volunteer at the boxing shows here at the Academy as event co-ordinators; helping to set up, taking tickets, or working the doors, and many get the opportunity to work at other prestigious sporting events. As well as events management, there are also opportunities in other areas, like IT, admin, painting, decorating or carpentry.

Volunteers are given continued mentoring support throughout their time with the programme and, for those who think they may want to work as boxing coaches or trainers themselves eventually, we also offer the chance to do England Boxing qualifications.

“It’s a privilege to be involved in this project as I am able to witness first hand the genuine positive impact that the project can have on volunteers in both their personal lives and professional aspirations. We really have made a difference.”

Marcus McIntosh
Operations Director and Project Lead


Project has been running since 2018. So far:

  • Worked with 109 people
  • 42 people have completed the programme
  • 5 people have qualified with a Level 1 Boxing qualification

Case Study: Glen

Glen was referred to the Pat Benson Boxing Academy through Crisis. Aged 51, Glen came to us with a few mental health problems, including depression and suicidal thoughts, for which he was receiving treatment. He had had a rough upbringing, growing up in the care system, and at one point served time in prison, but was ready and wanted to start living a more positive lifestyle.

At first, Glen started in the Mind Fit programme, taking part in the beginner fitness sessions and coming along to the group each week. As his fitness improved, so did his confidence and he started to express an interest in other activities, so he joined the 12 week Volunteering induction sessions.

During the 12 week Volunteering induction, Glen participated fully, learning new skills and improving those he already had, which quickly started to increase his employability. As he showed an interest in boxing, we suggested he work towards his Level 1 England Boxing certificate, which would bring him up to the level of Assistant Coach. Darren and the other coaches helped him to get up to speed and within a very short time he was able to demonstrate the skills, knowledge and professionalism needed to teach others.

Since his induction, Glen has helped out at numerous events and boxing shows we’ve put on here at the Academy. He doesn’t just help with event planning, however; he has also shown an aptitude for construction and decor so he often works behind the scenes, setting up. He chooses how to dedicate his volunteering time carefully and he’s a great person to have on hand as he’s very flexible and willing to help wherever he can.

We’ve seen a massive change in Glen’s attitude since he joined us less than a year ago and it’s clear his self-esteem has been boosted considerably. He is assured and professional in the way he works with people and even has the confidence to lead sessions.

One of the great things about the Volunteering programme is that it gives people the space and time to build their self-esteem and decide which direction they want to go in the longer term. Glen says he’d like to work in the fitness industry eventually, but thanks to the Volunteering programme, he is able to see that he has a wide range of skills which could lead to many more opportunities.