April 29, 2010

Leap Now - Ring of Fire

LEAPNOW is an organization based in Calistoga, CA, and dedicated to fostering consciousness and integrity in the world by working with "emerging adults." They run “soul-centered programs” that combine outer journeys (to Latin America, India, Africa), with a personal journey inward. Their flagship program, LEAPYEAR, works with students for a full year. Their mission is to set the stage for young adults to blossom. They claim young people always emerge from this program with a greater understanding of themselves and what it means to be approaching adulthood in today’s world.

One of their new programs is called Ring of Fire (RoF), a four-month adventure for young men 17 to 24. RoF was created to answer to deep need of young men who have "lost traction" in their lives. In this program, a small group of males adventure their way through Central and South America. This trek is along the Eastern edge of the chain of volcanoes that circles the Pacific Ocean and is why the program is called Ring of Fire. Along the way they examine their lives, face challenges, and explore their shadows. The program is designed to develop a strong sense of self, while training young men in the skills of leadership. It all comes together at the end of the trip with a powerful rite of passage ceremony.

The good folks at LEAPNOW believe the fastest growth happens for an individual when you combine an outer journey (trekking the Incan Trail, planting trees in the Amazon, building houses for the poor, climbing a volcano) with a profoundly personal inward journey. I only wish that the Ring of Fire experience was available when I was in that age group!

For more information on the Ring of Fire program, visit the LEAPNOW website, or contact the program coordinator, Jesse Latimer, at jesse@leapnow.org or 707-431-7265.

If you know about or have experienced a similar program for ripening young people, please share a brief description. The world needs globally literate and self-aware young people in the pipe line.

April 23, 2010

Boxing, Boys, and a Mentor

CBS recently profiled Sally Hazelgrove, a woman working on the south side of Chicago with gang affiliated boys. She was frustrated with seeing boys enter the gang life so she did something about it. Sally said, "I just one day decided, I'm just going to do this. I'm gonna just step out on faith and I'm gonna do this because I know I can make a difference."

Sally started Restoring the Path, a program that trains young guys in the sport of boxing. The goal of the program is to keep kids out of gangs and off the streets, so five days a week, "Miss Sally", as the boys call her, drives them from school to practice, then drops them all off at home. Through this experience, she's taught boys to take out their anger and frustrations in a positive way through boxing.

Sally claims that as a result of the experience, the boys swear less, have become more emotionally expressive, more accountable around their behavior, and that they really benefit from the discipline of daily workouts. Sally currently mentors 12 to 15 kids, but several more schools want to sign up their students. The current waiting list is over 100. Money is the big issue . . . and her goal is to do the same for hundreds more!

I think the larger message in this story is the powerful impact just one committed and motivated person can have in the lives of boys and the surrounding community. Doesn't Sally's story make you wonder what you could do?

You can learn more about Restoring the Path in the following video clip and at the restoringthepath.org website. Use this link if the video doesn't show up. Use this link if the video doesn't show up.

April 18, 2010

Open Circles for Men

What is more ancient then men, in a safe and very male place, possibly sitting in a circle around a fire and speaking their minds. I can only imagine there was talk about the techniques, frustrations, and success of getting the meat. There was probably some talk about tribal politics, women, dangers on the horizon, initiating the new crop of boys, and men's work in the village that needed doing. I know there was guy humor and, given their diet, some farting.

I have sat in many men's circles over the last 30 years, and each time, maybe every time, my life got incrementally better from the exposure to the ideas, heartfelt expressions, data, and just the good men there. Because of that, I want to draw your attention to an open circle initiative a few good men in Springfield, MA, USA have started. It's called Open Men. The Mission Statement of this group says, We create safe families, communities and institutions by taking collective responsibility for our actions as men in the world.

In the hopes of creating more "mature men," the founders of Open Men offer this description of what belonging to their group entails. We don’t try to make friendships, we make powerful bonds between men, whether they like each other or not. A ‘regular guy’ can step into this space and feel empowered to tell the unvarnished truth about his life. We’re not here to put on a show for each other. We’re not here to set ourselves up in opposition to a perceived ‘other’ in the world. We’re not here to offer salvation. We’re here to cut through the bullshit that we’ve been taught are the fundamentals of being a man. We’re here to step through the fear of showing up authentically, warts and all, in our lives and loves.

In their format, the Open Men website says at a point in the evening men will be asked to volunteer if they have something going on in their lives that they want to examine in-depth. These conversations will be facilitated by one or more men in the group in a way that avoids giving advice or making any declarations about a man’s experience or worth. He will have the opportunity to be witnessed and supported by other men. Men will be encouraged to take responsibility for their own beliefs, actions and emotions. They also state that the evening may end with an opportunity to say what, if anything, a man is grateful for in his life, or in the group. He may also choose to offer a blessing to anyone or anything he chooses.

IF a man can find the courage to step into such a circle, and IF he can find it in himself to share something about his life, there is a very good chance that in addition to the sense of belonging and camaraderie, he will likely move his life along in important ways. Boysen Hodgson, one of the founders of Open Men, described some of the changes in his life based on his involvement with Mankind Project and sitting in men's circles:
The last four years have been awesome for me. I have closer connections to everyone I interact with. I have more self confidence, less fear, less anxiety, more stability, more laughter, more intimacy with my wife, more commitment to social justice, and men all around me that I can count on to support me and tell me the truth. This work made some of the reading and searching  for "IT” I have done over the years come to life! I realized I had “IT” all along. And the great thing is – I’m NOT FIXED! I am as human as I ever was. I still break things and mess up. I just seem to have a much wider variety of CHOICES about how to act and take responsibility for my life.
Not a bad outcome for a small investment of time and taking a risk to see if there is a men's circle out there for you.

You can read more about the Springfield, MA, Open Men initiative at their website. If you're interested in starting an open men's circle of your own, you can contact Boysen through the Open Men website for some "how to" advice. You can also learn about men's circles sponsored by the Mankind Project, or if you are aware of other similar opportunities for men somewhere else, send them along to me and I'll write about them here.

April 12, 2010

Alliance of Concerned Men


In order to acquaint my readers with the wide variety of organizations working to make a difference in the lives of young males and their communities, I want to introduce the Alliance of Concerned Men (ACM). ACM is a nonprofit organization with the goal of saving lives of at risk youth in the high crime areas of the Washington DC metropolitan community. They are doing creative, and in my eyes, heroic work. 

The ACM mission is to ". . . contain and prevent the cycle of violence, by building concentric cycles of care, support, and intervention . . ., " using a core set of values that include Love, Faith, Peace and Service. Beautiful. If you are tired of hearing about all the downside news of violence in your community, check out just a few of ACM's inspired programs: 

A Gang Prevention and Outreach Program, the builds on collaboration with the police, various city agencies, community leaders, as well as the parents and neighbors of the youth involved. They call this, building concentric cycles of care, support, and intervention.

Their Fatherhood Initiative, that includes helping incarcerated fathers to connect with their children on the outside, and mentoring services for their families. 

A very innovative program called The Prison Adopt-a-Block Program. In this initiative, ACM works with inmates who have the potential for becoming transformational leaders, and is built on the following, solid concepts: Their children, families and communities on the outside are hungering for the very commodity they represent—positive male leadership. The fact that many ex-offenders wish to “give something back” to the communities they once harmed, and their ex-offender status gives credibility and authority on the streets that neither law enforcement nor other “mentors” can hope to achieve.

In addition to the above, they have individual programs for identified very high risk kids, and even an in-school program to . . .  assist students in their educational endeavors of earning a high school diploma or GED and prepare students for college, technical and or trade schools.

Here is what Eric Holder, US Attorney General has to say about ACMI have great respect for the Alliance. I’ve seen the miracle they’ve brought. It needs to be duplicated. It can work in New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, and any other community in America with similar problems.

To learn more about this group bringing hope to incarcerated parents, their kids and families, reducing the cycles of violence in their community, and helping low income kids meet their educational objectives, check out the ACM website. Knowing these dedicated brothers and sisters in mission are doing their very good work gives me hope for a better world.

PS: The ACM headquarters burned down just after Xmas putting a serious dent into their abilities to provide services. If you want to support their work, you can contact them or make a donation on their site.

April 7, 2010

Generation WE

Millennials are the largest generation in American history. Born between 1978 and 2000, they are 95 million strong, compared to 78 million Baby Boomers. As the clip below will demonstrate, they really are our future. Because of their numbers, they will have the social, economic, and political clout to change our world, a world that is tragically in need of changing.

I think the question we should be asking is, what can we, today's adults, be doing to support their growth into people of passion and character?
Milennials believe they have more in common with young adults of their generation in other countries than they have with Americans of older generations.
 On the Gen-We website (gen-we.com)you can learn more about this group, and even download a free PDF copy of the book, Generation WE - How Millennial Youth Are Taking Over America and Changing Our World Forever, by Eric Greenberg.

If the clip doesn't show up, use this link.

April 3, 2010

Journeyman, The Film, On Public TV

The touching and motivational documentary film Journeyman, previously reviewed here, is hitting Public Television big time. This wonderful film gives anyone interested in Man-Making work an honest, no holds barred look into the transformational power of rites of passage, male circles, and a taste of the impact mentoring creates in the lives of all the males involved.

Journeyman is a compelling story about boys and men involved in a male community and a powerful mentoring process called Boys to Men (boystomen.org). The film was originally produced in 2007, but it’s content is timeless. The filmmakers, Kevin Obsatz and Charlie Borden, are expecting 500 public TV broadcasts in 150 cities in April, and it will be seen 50 times this week alone. You can go to the Journeyman website, mirrormanfilms.org to see a schedule of upcoming broadcasts and to order the DVD.

If you're involved in man-making work in any form, want to call men to serve boys, or just want to see what the bleeding edge of this work looks like, check out this amazing film. It's not Hollywood, but I guarantee it will change the lives of those who see it.

Use this link if the clip doesn't appear here.