Hearts of Men is first and foremost an organization characterized by men who want to make a difference in their respective communities. Our programmes are characterized by their ability to get men to speak about issues confronting them, reaching out to all men, both young and old, getting them to learn from each other.
The programme can be best described in the words of one of the participants (Arnols Pohlman age 60):
We asked a participant who was a farm worker, the following question: “What happens to an old tree when it stops bearing fruit?” The old man replied that the old tree gets chopped down very close to the ground. Then a new shoot is taken from the nursery which is carefully wrapped in cotton wool and grafted onto the old tree stump safely protected from the rays of the sun. When the shoot grows to maturity the fruit that comes from that tree, has a greater quality than the former tree.”
Hearts Of Men uses the symbolic significance of this process when it brings older men as mentors into the lives of young people especially young fathers.
Hearts Of Men holds the view that community is a sacred entity and as such should be engaged with sensitivity and understanding to what makes one community different to the other. Preceding any programme in a community, we enter a process in which we do a needs assessment to determine whether a mentoring programme could be viable.
Discussions with leadership structures in a community like the local government, education, religious and sports sectors are commenced and they are presented with the potential benefits of implementing a Hearts Of Men programme. This happens a year before a programme starts. During this year funds are secured through proposal writing and networking.
In the implementation year (we would have already recruited a significant number of committed participants through our recruitment strategies) the programme is introduced to the participants and at this stage paid staff do coordination and facilitation.
In the second year of implementation a leadership group is established with committed participants from the first year, they will also take the recruitment further. These participants through the support we provide, get involved with the planning processes for the second year and they take responsibility for the growth of the programme. We then initiate a volunteer leadership group where participants commit on a volunteer basis to staff certain processes. This process then becomes a learning and empowerment process for the local leadership structure.
In the third year, if funds are available, we offer internships to successful candidates. Committed participants are then selected, (those who wish to further their volunteer commitment) and an interview process is then started with candidates interested in the internships.
Through support from Hearts of Men, the local leadership structures then implement planning workshops to find ways to sustain the local programme.
Our programmes are designed to address the psychosocial and psychological needs of families at risk. Absent fathers are prevalent in our societies at large, and we endeavor to address this when we engage with men who enter our programme.
In order to make programmes sustainable a team of professional facilitators work for 10 months in a specific community to build a team of volunteers. We train them and get them ready to implement the second phase of our programme through a mentoring process.
The structure is molded around the core principles of Communication, Responsibility, Commitment and Support.
The approach is cyclical in nature because the process is continuous. It starts with funding, then recruitment, training, mentoring, evaluation, and then back to recruitment again.