For those who may not know who Geoff Thompson MBE is, it is apt to begin by letting you know that Geoff is huge – both physically and metaphorically. The mammoth ‘potential-bad-boy-turned-good’, is the British multiple world karate champion and Youth Charter founder. Recently, the 6ft 6in man slipped into TNT’s cosy offices for a chat.
Born in Wolverhampton, Geoff’s drive and ambition for change began at an early age where it transmuted his life from the streets to the stadium. Having lost his father at a young age, the former sportsman has been actively involved in working with the youth to inspire a better future for them.
In school, he sold West-Indian patties; a mark of the drive he still exhibits to this day. Karate, Geoff found, was something he needed as part of his mental and physical development. It was when he got his first black belt, that he represented Britain in the World U21 championships in Manchester at the Bellevue Centre in the 1980s.
Having participated in 82 championships and gained 5 world titles, Geoff was honoured by the Queen in 1995 with an MBE. In the Margret Thatcher era, he joined the GB Sports Council, from where he has worked hard in showing how sport “can provide an opportunity for young people to develop in life”, he asserted.
It was in the early 90s that Geoff, along with 100 young people, formed the Youth Charter. From then up to the present, he explained:
“It [Youth Charter] has been about projects, programs, prevention and intervention. Using sport, culture, arts and digital means to engage young people, equip them with life skills and life resilience, and then empower them with further higher education, employability or enterprise”.
Ahead of the Rio Olympics, the 23-year-old Manchester-based NGO organisation has been aiming to deliver the pledge of inspiring a generation, and “will be presenting our proposals in September, once these games in Rio have ended; to make sure there are social, cultural and genuine opportunities for all”, he told TNT.
Geoff’s inspiring journey from world champion to sports ambassador is truly assorted. Rather than sticking to sport alone, he has ventured into digital avenues to help change people’s lives for the better.
Through his help, women in Darfur, Sudan are no longer attacked as they travel to get water, due to having access to security via second-hand smartphones. Additionally, farmers in Africa are able to negotiate fairer prices by checking accurate charges online through their smartphones.
Nevertheless, Geoff admits that while the success of the organisation is ongoing, government austerity measures bring challenges to progression. To combat this, he has helped set up a community campus inspired by the South African Buntu model of community spirit.
“It uses the currency of the community and it empowers them to become social coaches…youth workers that come from a diverse background – all providing that ability to engage, equip and inspire young people to be the best they can be”.
TNT News Yasin Chinembiri