June 30, 2008

Raven Training for Pre-adolescent Boys

Raven Training is a weekend adventure for pre-adolescent boys, ages 10 to 12, that takes place in a natural setting, on a beautiful plateau, about 45 minutes from Ashland, Oregon. Unlike the more serious, focused, and purposeful right of passage events for older boys on the edge of manhood, this one is a little sweeter.

For example, one goal of the Raven Training experience is to affirm and develop a boy’s emotional literacy through games, adventure, and teaching stories (including one story which takes the whole weekend to unfold). This part of the training is built on the idea of a developmental stage called Feeling Being, by Ba and Josette Luvmour, authors of Optimal Parenting: Using Natural Learning Rhythms to Nurture the Whole Child. With that concept in mind, the boys are nourished by age appropriate emotional training and caring mentors who model what men look like when they enjoy their feelings and each other.

The training also includes plenty of other adventure camp training that is perfect for young boys. They learn basic survival skills such as building a fire with sticks, finding water & food, the art of camouflage, and how to build a forest shelter. In addition, they do a couple of other things I think are unique and very helpful for emerging males:

Interconnectedness of Life: Because boys are becoming aware of their own mortality, they discuss the interconnectedness of all stages of life. While this occurs in a variety of ways, in one process the staff men share what it is like to be living at the various ages that are present on the weekend. This usually spans the ages of 11 through 75 years of age. That way the boys get the Big Picture of the male universe.

Your “Genius” Revealed: Another element I really like is that each Young Raven is partnered up with a weekend mentor. At the end of the weekend everyone attends a feast on Sunday afternoon in honor of the boys. At that time, in addition to hearing the ending of the unfolding weekend-long story, each mentor shares a story he has been writing about his young weekend mentee. In front of a huge community of men, younger and older boys, the story about the boy is told, celebrating him and describing his “golden essence” (genius) to the gathered males. What a powerful blessing that moment must be for each of the boys.

In my heart I feel the rightness of doing different trainings for boys at different ages, and I really like the idea of starting with the much younger boys. That’s how it has been for centuries in tribal cultures. That way, when it’s time for the more serious initiation of crossing into manhood, around seventeen, and the men come for the young males in the darkness of the night, it’s men they trust who spirit them away and who will be tasked the serious man-making.

The Raven Training is not advertised because as Peter Young says, “We have no problem finding boys, we are only limited by the number of adult mentors we can find.” Given the man-making power of this training, and the impact I know it has on both men and boys, I wish it was available in every community.

To learn more about Raven Training, contact Pete Young, at: youngatmind@msn.com, or call: 541.951.7949

June 17, 2008

Man-Making in South Africa - A Man-Making Poem

Usiko is both an organization and a program in South Africa which deals with youth at risk and young people in conflict with the law. Started in 2000, they state that they are in the business of . . . healing youths by taking them through our rites of passage programs, giving them both the confidence and skills to become leaders in their communities.

Usiko was established in response to the legacy of apartheid. The painful socio-economic disparity that still exists between rich and poor, typically following racial lines, as many of the disadvantaged communities continue to suffer from high alcoholism, unemployment, low income, low educational levels, domestic violence, child abuse, and the prevalence of gang cultures.

On their website, they quote an old Zulu saying: You are the stories you make about yourself. They believe that young people in disadvantaged areas… join gangs because they need to build both real and magical contexts for themselves in the absence of strong family bonds. They need to make stories about themselves.

At Usiko camps, by using . . . ancient and modern rituals, powerful real-life experiences, mentor support, and the balm of affirmation, we help young people create new stories about their lives. Stories with different outcomes. Our programs are the most powerful buttresses we know against the lure of gang life. They work - spectacularly.

On the Child justice link on their site you'll find this poem. It's a tragically eloquent description of what happens in young males when Man-Making comes from the dark side.

I have been sent to
Sea Point Police Station,
Where I was beaten by civil servants,
I have been to Polsmoor Prison,
Where I was sodomized
And left bleeding
On the damp floor.
I have been to
Places of Safety and Reformatories
Where I was hardened by
Warders and fellow inmates,
Where I learned to hold on
To what was mine and take
From those who could not fight.
I am now the perpetrator of violence
And not the victim.
On the streets
I am a law unto myself.

June 5, 2008

Stand Strong - Be Brave - Men Don't Cry

All boys need men in their lives.

Some need them more than others.