Breaking stereotypes

LIHUE — When Matt Bernabe was 25, he was a new father who was struggling.

Years later, the proud father of two daughters is part of a council looking to be an active support group for men on the Garden Isle.

“If we don’t collaborate and work with each other, the collective won’t be good,” said Bernabe, a member of the Kauai Fatherhood Council. “We can make it better for everybody this way. As somebody who has daughters, I live it.”

Formed in April 2015, the council of about 40 members will offer its inaugural Kauai Men’s Conference at Smith’s Tropical Paradise on Oct. 29.

The free conference will be open to men 18 years and older and fathers of all ages.

Pastor Joe Onosai, who is former strongman competitor and professional football player, will be the conference keynote speaker. Other speakers will include Mayor Carvalho, Pastor Vill Galiza, Executive Director of Storybook Theatre Mark Jeffers, and Dr. Krishna Kumar.

“The mayor presented a vision of his and that was a men’s conference, a gathering of bringing men together — all the different stripes, organizations — particularly men who are struggling. Men who are not making it on the island,” said Brian Alston, Kauai Fatherhood Council member. “A place we can come together and really talk story and support one another and uplift one another.”

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said fathers play an important role in their children’s lives, yet there aren’t many resources available to them.

“The Fatherhood Council was established to help support fathers in the vital role they play in their family, and the conference is their first major event. It’s a good opportunity for fathers to get together, talk story and share their thoughts,” he said.

The goal of the conference is to break down male stereotypes and barriers, encouraging a safe zone for men to listen and receive guidance from each other.

“We’re focusing on the lokahi wheel,” Alston said. “Those values are ohana, kuleana, manao, naau, mana, kino. Involving responsibility and family and knowledge, morals, spirit and health that we’re gearing this conference as a focal point around men. As we talk about those values with the men in the community, we added in another value — laulima — which means working together.”

Additionally, funding from the Office of Economic Development Special Events and Grants will support the 2016 Men’s Conference Project grant, according to Nalani Brun, Office of Economic Development program administration officer. This grant, up to $15,000, will fund 120 tool kits, which will be distributed to attendees at the conference.

“The idea is to connect a tool to one of these values and to talk about how when these tools are used responsibly and intricately, they build and heal and they create wholeness,” Alston said.

Breaking stereotypes for men is good because parents evolve, Bernabe said.

“As we get educated, we change,” Bernabe said. “I think this kind of meeting can force this kind of evolution of care for the keiki and guidance. At the end of the day, this is an extension of being an active dad.”

Running from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the conference will feature guest speakers, a free lunch and about a dozen resource tables.

Register at www.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Brian at (808) 217-1831 or brian1201@msn.com. If you need an ASL interpreter, materials in an alternate format, or other auxiliary aid support, contact Brian at least seven days before the event.

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