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With 2020 well underway and full of new possibilities Men Care Too wanted to take a minute and reflect on just how memorable (and busy) the past 12 months have been.

Throughout the year we had information stalls and spoke at a variety of different community events, participated in online forums and continued to host monthly Mr Perfect BBQ’s at The Entrance. Being involved and part of the community provided the opportunity to highlight the number of men in unpaid caring roles and the challenges faced, some unique to men, but with many that all carers experience to some degree.

Kicking off in January with a trip to the iconic Sydney Cricket Ground, our group enjoyed a behind the scenes tour taking in the history and spectacular views. This was a great day out and a wonderful way to start the year.

In partnership with Danny and Laura at Hearts and Minds Barber Emporium Toukley, February marked the beginning of the ‘Barbershop Talks’ where throughout the year guest speakers shared personal stories and strategies for how to cope when life gets difficult. Well attended, these nights were intended as a chance to speak openly about mental health, and proved to be far more important than we could ever have imagined.

Also in February, Men Care Too was provided an opportunity to fundraise during the Over The Line Race Day at Wyong Race Club. We sold plenty of raffle tickets and received some generous donations from racegoers which was matched dollar for dollar by Wyong Race Club. Special thanks to Scott from Over The Line for the invitation and to the Race Club for their support and encouragement.

Late February and early March seen Men Care Too head north with the Well Man Tour to take part in a series of community events in Mackay, Cairns and Townsville. The chance to share stories and promote the importance of staying informed, connected and active is something that Men Care Too is focused on and the chance to do this in new communities is always welcome.

In June Men Care Too hosted the ‘Tough Work’ Men’s Health Week Forum for health professionals and service providers at Mingara Club. Made possible thanks to funding from the Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network, the forum was well attended with just short of 50 attendees coming together to hear about local, male friendly initiatives and then spend time working together to develop ideas and strategies on how to increase engagement with services by local men. With men in caring roles still largely overlooked, Men Care Too will continue to promote male friendly initiatives within the caring community.

After receiving an RUOK? Day small grant from Suicide Prevention Central Coast, Men Care Too turned yellow on September 12 kicking off with conversations and giveaways early in the morning, a BBQ lunch for Lakes Printers and rounding the day off with a couple of hours at Lakehaven Shopping Centre. More than just a single day, we continued with our RUOK? Thursday initiative and spent an hour each Thursday morning at the Hearts and Minds Coffee Shop checking in with others which is almost just as important as asking the question.

Carers Week in October was spent with a group of local carers learning how to respond to an emergency in the home and provide First Aid if needed. The training was provided free to carers thanks to Central Coast Council and lunch taken care of by the team at Erina Men’s Shed. It can be confronting and create panic if someone close to you becomes unwell or is injured so the importance of knowing how to assess and respond calmly is invaluable and could save a life, Men Care Too encourage everyone to take part in First Aid training.

In what was an amazing year, perhaps the one event that was most meaningful on a number of levels was This Is My Brave Australia, Central Coast Show. It is hard to put into words just what the whole experience of producing the show was like. The highlight of working on the show was meeting our cast members, their trust in our production team to support them and then watching as they grew in confidence over the three months we spent together. The response at the show of the audience as cast members shared some of their most personal thoughts and experiences was uplifting and the smiles on each cast members face at the end of their performance is something that will be remembered for a long time. It is said that every person you meet has something to teach you and I know that everyone, from production team to the cast members, has taught me something important about life and people.

Another positive from the TIMBACC production was the opportunity for Men Care Too to provide Mental Health First Aid Training to local community members. From very early on, Men Care Too had the intention to direct any funds raised through the production of the show (sponsorships and ticket sales) into mental health and suicide prevention training for local community members. Men Care Too reinvested our initial investment in the production and along with the funds raised were able to offer fully funded places in a Mental Health First Aid Course delivered by Ben Higgs from Rise Foundation Australia. As a result 18 Central Coast locals took part and now have the knowledge, skills and confidence to help someone experiencing a mental health challenge.

Much of the work done by Men Care Too during the past 12 months was made possible thanks to funding from The Elderslee Foundation and we are grateful for the support and encouragement.

Men Care Too would not be able to operate as we do without the administrative support and guidance from The Iris Foundation. As our auspicing body, The Iris Foundation has enabled Men Care Too to take on small and large scale community projects that would not have been possible without their backing. Men Care Too is proud to be associated with The Iris Foundation and look forward to our continued relationship.

Last but by no means least, what drives our activities and events are the people who attend and get involved. Either online or in person, the people who we connect with are what continues to motivate and inspire Men Care Too – Thank you to everyone who has been part of that and we look forward to the possibilities that lie ahead in 2020.

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