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Men from Slough share pearls of wisdom for International Men's Day

In aid of International Men’s Day today (Monday), gentlemen of Slough have highlighted the positive contributions made by men to the town and have offered some pearls of wisdom on dealing with life’s pressures.

International Men’s Day is an initiative seeking to highlight problems men are prone to falling victim to, such as suicide and suffering from mental health problems and not seeking help due to societal expectations.

The theme of the day this year is positive role models, prompting the Safer Slough Partnership to speak to some men who live and work in the town about their lives.

The hope is that their advice and experiences will resonate with boys and young men who may be stuck in a rut or worried about their future.

On opportunities in Slough

• Declan Grant – a youth worker for the Slough Children’s Services Trust: “I think Slough currently has a wealth of opportunities for men. We are currently in the mist of regeneration which is providing jobs and opportunities for men to get involved and be active. To think you could be an integral piece for building a new Slough and being part of the vision is really exciting and something I’m looking forward to.”

• Mark Spencer – Deputy LPA Commander, Thames Valley Police, Slough: “I think Slough has a huge offer to men of all ages. There is a huge network of entrepreneurs with a real energy to innovate – loads of small and medium enterprises to get involved with – so for those willing to take risks and stride out alone the opportunities are limitless.”

• Rob Deeks - Chief Executive Officer, Aik Saath: “There are many opportunities in Slough – so many clubs, associations and community groups that people can get involved in. Lifelong Learning offers a broad range of free courses and the Get Active programme has sports activities happening all over Slough. Most of these opportunities are open to everyone, regardless of gender but I think it’s worth highlighting Men’s Matters. They are a group of older men based in Langley, set up to challenge social isolation. They are a fantastic bunch of people, doing significant work to help other groups, including Slough Young Carers.”

Rob Deeks, founder of Aik Saath

• Mike Swift, Slough photographer: “The draw for working in Slough was the fact that it is like living in a small city. There is plenty going on and loads of people to interact with. With the mass of diverse people living and working in the town it is amazing to see how it all works in sync, everybody just seems to get on. Whether you are an artist or a car mechanic, politician or a cleric, gay, straight, old, young or even left handed, everyone is catered for in Slough. Whatever you do as a bloke, there is a friendly face and a friendly space for you in Slough.”

• Atiq Ahmad Bhatti - president, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Slough: “As someone who has lived in Slough since birth, I absolutely love the diversity this town offers in terms of the variety of communities that coexist together and the overall safety of the town. For me it has always been home sweet home. Slough is going through an incredible period of regeneration and hosts many leading edge companies here. It offers nearly all forms of employment from IT and healthcare to the opportunity to become self employed.”

Atiq Ahmad Bhatti - President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Slough

On overcoming life’s challenges

• Rob Deeks: “Sometimes, when you’re in a rut, the big changes seem beyond our reach. I would say start small, change your habits, one by one and soon you will start to see the difference. For example, if you want to get fit, don’t feel like you have to start by running a marathon – start by walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift. I recognise that this isn’t very inspirational but most of us aren’t trying to be inspiring, we’re just trying to a live better for longer.”

• Atiq Ahmad Bhatti: “I would advise anyone who is ‘stuck in a rut’ to take a deep breath and move forward. There are always obstacles to overcome – that’s part of life, but be patient and consistent in your efforts and eventually they’ll pay off.”

• Mark Spencer: “At times in life, things do not go as we would like – a missed promotion or job opportunity, an initiative or project that didn’t work out as planned. You have to accept this will happen. Take it on as an opportunity to learn and develop and you will continuously improve - you are much more likely to succeed next time. Or, wallow in disappointment and fail to learn from the experience and you are likely to meet the same outcome next time. Which sounds better?”

Mark Spencer - Deputy LPA Commander, Thames Valley Police, Slough

• Declan Grant: “My father passed away at a very young age so not having a father figure affected me a lot and I made some bad decisions as I was looking for father figures from negative influences. I also grew up in a household where I was a young carer for my mum so supporting her physical and mental wellbeing was tough. I have many people to thank for believing in me including the youth service, Rob Deeks (Aikh Saath), Dominque Unsworth, Jamie Green and Eric De Mello. They helped me to turn my life around and gave me opportunities to work with young people and families and give back to my community.”

• Councillor Paul Sohal, Mayor of Slough: “I stood in Wexham Lea ward in May 1989 for the County Council election. It was the first time that an Asian candidate had stood in this ward. There was widespread prejudice but I overcame it by knocking on doors and talking to people. I single handedly canvassed this ward three times and won with a big majority.”

Mayor of Slough Councillor Paul Sohal

• Kyan Heywood-McLean, 14, Slough Youth Parliament: “I would say whatever challenge or issue you are facing, the chances are somebody has been through it themselves. So ask someone who has been through the same thing, try putting yourself first and surround yourself with few friends that you know you can rely on.”

• Declan Grant: “One of the things that concerns me is the level of suicides amongst young men. A contributing factor of this is toxic masculinity and how we perceive gender roles in society. Nowadays young men feel they cannot express their emotions because of social norms, and the perception that they need to appear strong. We as men have a duty to show young boys that it is okay to grow up and express emotions. If we can start preaching this at an early age, we can support more young men through their struggles.”

Slough Children's Services Trust youth worker Declan Grant (far right)

Word of wisdom

• Kyan Heywood-McLean: “One quote that resonates with me is ‘take failure and use it as fuel to drive you to success’ by Rana Abid-Ali. I like this because I have been through some tough issues and it’s driven me to be more successful.”

• Mark Spencer: “I really like a famous quote from Nelson Mandela: “I never lose. I either win or I learn.” It’s important, as no-one, ever, is perfect and gets everything right. So, by definition we all will get things wrong from time to time. However, if you can accept that this is normal and to be expected, it is not a “loss”, rather a learning opportunity – and if we learn we get better for next time.”

• Hassan Fazeel, 13, Slough Youth Parliament: “I think one of the keys to unlocking your life’s potential is eradicating all the negativity – whether it’s cutting ties with people who are badly affecting your life, to something as little as using social media less. These small but significant steps won’t only make you are happier person, but will bring about a more healthy lifestyle where you’ll be able to make changes. Most importantly, do things in your life that make you happy. Put yourself first and as the priority, and make changes where enjoyment of the things you like is not restricted. Follow your desires and passions wholeheartedly over anyone else’s.”

• Rob Deeks: “I spent most of my childhood in a single parent family, had a step-father during my teenage years and built a strong relationship with my father later on. I also became a father myself more recently. So, what do Dads bring to families? Of course, it depends on the Dad but most of the time, I think they bring love, affection and attention. They can help bring stability and security. Mums usually bring these traits too but by being a man and showing these qualities, it provides a role model for boys to carry these attributes into their adult lives and for girls it encourages them to expect these traits from the men in their lives too.” 

• Councillor Paul Sohal: “Have a clear vision. Focus on your objectives. Go out and talk to others and always be ready to lead to make a difference to other people’s lives. Aim-act-achieve – this is a lesson I learnt at college and have followed throughout my life.”

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