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Zhalin's story of violence and breaking the cycle

Positive mentors can help end the cycle of violence.

Top Blokes Foundation's mentors help boys to open up, seek help, regulate their emotions and build healthy relationships. They create a safe space where boys can build resilience and positive mental health, establish support networks, and learn healthy coping mechanisms.

With the right support, a boy can break the cycle of violence.

Top Blokes Youth Worker, Zhalin Cecil is one of these mentors. Despite his own violence-filled childhood, he was able to break the cycle with the support of a youth worker. Now, he’s doing the same for other boys, like Joseph*.

Zhalin remembers, "Joseph used to get called to the principal's office frequently for getting into fights. I still remember when I first walked into the classroom with my fellow mentor. Joseph said, 'You blokes look scary. You're huge!'

"I said, 'Have you ever seen Humphrey B Bear? He's huge. But most big fellas are like Humphrey deep down. In time, you'll see I'm actually quite gentle; quite soft.'"

Over the weeks, Joseph became more and more connected with his mentors. He was especially drawn to Zhalin's charisma, humour and strong character. He always remembered Zhalin's advice - that men can be kind, tolerant and patient.

Later in the semester, Joseph was called into the principal's office again.

This time though, he received a playground award for breaking up 2 fights in a week. The principal asked him why he decided to get involved and stop the fights.

Joseph said, "Last week, we did the Top Blokes program and the mentors spoke to us about what it means to be an upstander. And what it means is that you stand up for what's right and for other people. You make sure everyone around you is in a safe environment."

Joseph was also able to reflect on his own actions. "I'm sorry for my behaviour in the past - I didn't know it was bad."

Part of Zhalin's success as a mentor lies in his openness and readiness to share his personal story. When he opens up about his life, the boys open up about theirs. The stories they found too hard, too dark, or even too shameful to talk about are shared in the safe space they create together. For many of the boys, this is the first time they've felt able to do it.

Talking to someone they respect and can relate to does incredible things and opens up the door to discuss complex and important issues. It gives boys the chance to learn skills and ways to cope with or overcome their circumstances in a safe and healthy way. This is where we can make change happen.

Please donate today so we can give more boys like Joseph a mentor like Zhalin. With your donation, we can help more boys break the cycle of violence.

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