Reaching Yarmouk!

300 metres from the front line
the School Principal

It was quite surreal – enjoying the sunshine as we stood on the doorstep of Yarmouk – an area that the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, recently described as Syria’s “deepest circle of hell”!  Admittedly, we were on the right side of the dividing line between the ISIS-controlled section of Yarmouk and the greater area controlled by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). Even so, we were “within sniper range”, or so we were warned.

I didn’t take the sniper warning too seriously until one of our guides pointed to a mosque that was only about 300 metres away. “They certainly have snipers in that minaret” he said. He spoke calmly, as tour-guides do when pointing out landmarks. And he wasn’t running for cover either, and neither were the children who were milling about with us at the end of the street. Presumably the takfiri had more important targets to occupy themselves with.

We went into a school, the entrance of which was only a few metres from where we were standing. It was a ‘safe place’ – a compound where the army had relocated families who had fled the ISIS advance. The complex was dotted with mothers with young children and elderly men. Nonetheless, it was evidently still functioning as a school too.

We didn’t speak to the leadership team initially but instead went out into the courtyard and got our boxing gear out. Within moments we had a team of children around us. At first they were reluctant to try on the gloves, but after the first brave recruit had given it a go, there was a predicable clamor of ‘me next’ that lasted until we had worked our way through the entire group.

I assume ‘me next’ was what they were saying anyway. I must learn some Arabic! I’m certain it wasn’t anything nasty. The kids were lovely. They were kids, though some of them must have already seen more than a lifetime’s quota of violence.

It was a fantastic experience – making it to Yarmouk, playing with the kids, laughing and taking photos with the SAA boys. It was exactly what we’d traveled half way around the world to do!

Of course we hadn’t just come to teach boxing. We’d come to see for ourselves the truth behind the media narrative. Various media sources were depicting the people of Yarmouk as the meat in the sandwich – hammered by ISIS on the one hand and pounded by the Syrian Arab Army on the other!  From my friends in Syria though I’d been receiving a difference story – that the Syrian Arab Army was doing all it could to relocate people stuck in Yarmouk to safe places outside the firing zone. Of course we couldn’t see the whole of what was going on, but from our end of Yarmouk it was obvious at the Syrian Army was doing all it could to help these kids.

“We lack pillows” the School Principal said to me afterwards, as we debriefed in his office. “We have food and blankets now but no pillows”.

I don’t think he really expected me to bring a quantity of pillows with me on my next visit. Even so, he was focused on his job and ready to accept help from any source.

In truth, the greatest help we can give these people is not to send our troops into their country. Contrary to popular opinion, that’s not the sort of help they want from us.

Welcome to Yarmouk!
Boxing with the kids of Yarmouk (1)
Boxing with the kids of Yarmouk (2)
(click the thumbnails above to watch the videos)

That’s the update for now, fellow fighters. Thank you for your support in helping us get to Yarmouk.

I hope you can see the significance of this visit. Bringing some joy to these kids and leaving them with gloves and pads (courtesy of our friends at SMAI) was of great value but there is something of much greater significance I hope we can achieve for these children though this visit – namely, help discredit the media narrative that threatens to unleash further violence upon them!

Whatever you think of the Syrian government, it was crystal clear to me from our day in Yarmouk that these people do NOT want our foreign military intervention. That will only lead to more death and suffering.

I’ll be back to you soon. Until then I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,


P.S. Support the work of the Fighting Fathers by joining our online community at It only costs you $10/month and the first month is free.

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Getting ready for Syria

about 80 people joined us for our Syria fundraiser
the food was fantastic
Bianca and Jemma put on a great display
Danny refereed a few friendly rounds between me and Nader
Some of Australia's greatest boxing personalities were with us
keeping them under control was a problem 😉
Fran loses a baby tooth! 🙂
we shared our training weekend at Binacrombi with a band of hardened bikies (all under 10 years old)
I pushed the limits of my fitness
Mungo managed it all far more easily
I did some great rounds with Kaveh
Mungo put in some tough rounds with Mahmoud
I had a great team to work my corner on Saturday night
A TKO in the 1st minute of the 1st round
a big thanks to the team

Hi Fighter,

This is Father Dave with another far-too-infrequent update for you.

I’m afraid the last three weekends have been a roller-coaster ride for me and I am somewhat exhausted:

  • Week 1: we had our fundraiser dinner – raising more than $6,000 towards sending our boxing team to Syria.
  • Week 2: we took another dozen kids on a Warriors’ Weekend at Binacrombi Bush Camp, in the heart of the Australian bush
  • Week 3: I fought for the NSW super-middleweight title (old bastard’s division), winning by TKO in the first minute of the first round.

With regards to the fundraiser dinner, there are so many people I need to thank:

And thank you to all 80 people who showed up on the night – members of Holy Trinity Church, the Salvation Army Dulwich Hill corps, our Fight Club, and all you subscribers who made the effort to join us. It was a wonderful night, and thanks to you we almost have the funds we need to make the Boxers for Peace 2015 Mission to Syria a reality!

Sermon Time!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

If you had a solid Christian upbringing like I did, this verse is very familiar to you. I don’t think modern translations still use the word ‘whosoever’ but what I typed above is the translation that has been in my head since I was a child. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know these words. They were taught to me at an early age as a one-verse distillation of the Gospel message!

What has really struck me more recently is that this familiar verse is not at all familiar to many people I live and work with. Moreover, I’ve found that the concepts contained in this verse are rather difficult to explain to those who haven’t had a Christian upbringing. Indeed, I’ve realised on further reflection that the concepts contained in John 3:16 are not self-explanatory by any means but rather mysterious!

So I’m not sure if my goal in this sermon is to explain John 3:16 to the uninitiated or to confuse those who feel comfortably familiar with it. Hopefully there’s something in it for both groups.

As I said above, I’m a little exhausted by the antics of the last three weeks, and now we’re in the middle of Holy Week, shortly after which we are taking off for Syria, so there’s no time to rest, especially as we still need a bit more help before we can go.

We almost have all the funds we need for the Boxers for Peace mission. We need roughly another thousand to cover everything. It would be great if you could help me reach the goal and I’d like to offer you something of value in exchange for your support.

Tom Toby - auctioneer extraordinaire!

Tom Toby – auctioneer extraordinaire!

The picture above is of our good friend Tom Toby auctioning off a signed poster of the Boxers for Peace Syria 2015 team. It’s in A3 size and is signed by each of the team members. I have two more of these signed posters and am ready to pass them on in exchange for a decent contribution towards our peace mission.

If you haven’t seen the actual image, which was the work of master-photographer John Clutterbuck, you can see it here.

My thought is to simply ask for contributions via my buy me a drink page (click here). You’ll find that you can make donations of any amount there, with a suggested starting point of $5. Whoever makes the two largest contributions will get the posters.

So make sure you include your address with your donation. I’ll post to anywhere in the world. If you live locally and can pick your poster up I’ll frame it for you. Otherwise it will come rolled up in a water-resistant tube from the post office.

Join us this Easter!

And if you’re free to join us for worship this Easter, Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill would love to have you. Services on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are at our usual time of 9.15am. If you don’t know how to find us, there’s a map on the Holy Trinity website.

And if I don’t see you this weekend, do have a happy and holy Easter. 🙂

I’ll do my best to be in contact again before we depart on the big trip.

Until then I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,


P.S. Support the work of the Fighting Fathers by joining our online community at It only costs you $10/month and the first month is free.

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four