Being there, I experienced a deep meeting of minds and hearts –– a sense of hope was palpable in the room. It’s going to take coalitions of helping organizations ... to make the kind of big-picture changes we need.
(PRWEB) July 11, 2014
On June 16, 2014, the ManKind Project USA joined a circle of health organizations, educators, mentoring programs, parenting groups, domestic violence prevention agencies and service providers, and anti-violence activist groups to help organize and sponsor the first Healthy Men and Boys Summit for Western Massachusetts.
This unique event was envisioned by Rob Okun and Steven Botkin, Co-Chairs of the Board of Directors for the Men’s Resource Center for Change (MRC - http://www.mrcforchange.org/), a male positive, pro-feminist organization with over three decades of service in the community. The mission of the Men’s Resource Center for Change is “to support men in developing healthy self-awareness and meaningful personal relationships with women, children, and other men that move beyond the limits of masculine stereotypes and social patterns that have divided men historically.”
This kick-off event for the creation of a Healthy Men and Boys Network brought over 100 people together from over 70 organizations – all dedicated to building and supporting healthy men and boys.
The work of promoting the healthy development of men and boys inherently crosses many social sectors. The importance of this work is shared by those in diverse fields, including sports coaching, education, domestic violence prevention and victim services, faith-based initiatives, GBTQ services, health care, family support, fatherhood, law enforcement, mental health, philanthropy, business, public health, and youth development.
The Healthy Men and Boys Summit planning committee consisted of representatives from nine western Massachusetts organizations:
MOCHA (Men of Color Health Awareness), Men’s Resources International, Voice Male Magazine, Phallacies (UMass), Mankind Project USA, Safe Passage (NELCWIT, and Womanshelter/Compañeras), Massachusetts Department of Public Health Rural Domestic Violence Project, Umoja Now, and the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office
The Summit highlighted and celebrated work being done in the four counties of Western Mass to support and strengthen expressions of healthy masculinity, deepened the relationships of individuals and organizations working on these issues, and started the development of a vision and action plan for an ongoing regional Healthy Men and Boys Network.
Five representatives of the ManKind Project USA were among the participants, along with representatives of several other organizations whose mentors, volunteers, and facilitators include ManKind Project USA training graduates; Boys to Men Mentoring Network, Moving Forward Groups for men overcoming violence, Circles of Air and Stone, Men of Color Health Awareness program, and the National Latino Network.
“We are proud and honored to be part of the creation of the network,” said Boysen Hodgson, the ManKind Project USA’s Communications Director. “As a national organization with free, confidential peer-facilitated men’s groups available, and deep connections to organizations working with men and boys across the country, I think that MKP has an incredible opportunity to help more men and boys find healthy expressions of masculinity.”
One exercise presented during the day by Juan Carlos Arean representing the National Latino Network invited participants to call into their minds and hearts men from around the world, and recognize that the commitment to positive change for men, boys, women, and girls, is deeply universal.
“... guide that energy to the heart of a father in Afghanistan who at this moment is secretly educating his daughter despite the risk of death they both face, to a teenage son who is speaking to his father about how hurtful it is to watch the domestic abuse of his mother, to a religious leader in Nigeria who is empowering the boys in his village to reject the social norm of sexual assault of girls and women, to a father that is comforting his son who is haunted by his experience as a soldier, to a passionate school teacher of young men whose life conditions leave them more prepared for prison than college, to a teenage boy telling his male friends that bullying a transgendered peer is unacceptable ...”
John Engel, the Event Coordinator and author of the monthly “Fatherhood Journey (http://fatherhoodjourney.com)” in the Daily Hampshire Gazette said in his most recent column, “This exercise, and its endless examples, awakens me in a way that stretches the boundaries of my identity – from the familial “We” to the “WE” of all humanity.”
The Western Massachusetts Healthy Men and Boys Network is now building the platform for a cross-discipline network that could serve as a national model for this kind of work. Several statewide agencies and businesses also pledged financial support to help the network grow.
“This event marks a powerful shift in our willingness to bridge the gap that has historically been common between professional, governmental, and volunteer-based, peer-support organizations. Being there, I experienced a deep meeting of minds and hearts – a sense of hope was palpable in the room. It’s going to take coalitions of helping organizations - clinical, community-based, faith-based, and governmental to make the kind of big-picture changes we need, I hope this Network will be a foundation for that shift,” said Hodgson
To learn more about the Healthy Men and Boys Network of Western Massachusetts, visit their Facebook Group.
The ManKind Project USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit training and education organization and is not affiliated with any religious practice or political party. MKP USA strives to be increasingly diverse and culturally aware. Learn more about the ManKind Project USA at http://mkpusa.org.