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Opinion: These are places men can come together to find purpose and friendship

Men’s Sheds are places for men who want to do something positive with their time to share their knowledge, experience, ideas, creativity and skills.

John Evoy

I AM ONE of the lucky ones. I am lucky enough to get to do a job that I love. But it wasn’t always like this for me.

There was a time in my life when I had very little motivation or enthusiasm for the joys of life. However, when I came to realise that life had more to offer, I found that it was not so easy to access the support that I needed.

Now, over 12 years later in my role with the Irish Men’s Sheds Association, I have the task of making it as easy as possible for people to set up and run Men’s Sheds. Men’s Sheds are community spaces where men come together and work on projects and where they find meaning and purpose, friendship and belonging. They are spaces where men can find information about services and where they can find the mutual support they need to lead flourishing lives and to contribute fully to society.

There is a public perception that Men’s Sheds are only for men who are struggling in life, perhaps faced with an issue such as isolation, unemployment or depression. And despite the fact that, in my opinion, almost all of us will experience some of these issues at some stage in our lives, Men’s Sheds are for all men.

The one thing that Shedders have in common is that they have time on their hands and that they want to do something positive with that time. Of course, anyone experiencing the issues mentioned above are very welcome to a Men’s Shed, but they don’t come for that reason alone. They attend their Shed to share knowledge, experience, ideas, creativity and skills. The inevitable result is that great outcomes emerge.

These include outcomes that are positive for the individuals and outcomes that bring benefits to the community as a whole. A survey carried out with the Men’s Shedders in 2012 showed that 74% of the participating men not only felt better while they were at the Shed, but also felt better at home. In other words, the benefits of being involved with the Men’s Shed movement carried with them into all areas of their lives.

Some of the phrases I hear most often as I travel around Men’s Sheds across the island of Ireland are that the Shed “gives me a reason to get up in the morning”, “the best thing about this place is the camaraderie” or “without this place I would be lost”.

We could use terms such as ‘increased social capital’ or ‘improved community cohesion’ but the simple fact is that when a group come together and create something positive for the community, then the outcomes are positive for everyone.

Even though each group of men makes their own decision about what activities to undertake, it is amazing how many of these groups choose to use their time and energy to do something positive for their communities such as making benches for a local park or renovating old bikes for kids in their areas.

There are now 220 Men’s Sheds across Ireland, with upwards of 7,000 members participating each week.

This weekend, we are holding our flagship event, the International Men’s Sheds Festival, in the Helix on Saturday 4 October. We decided to call the event a festival as it is a celebration – a celebration of all of the great work that is happening right across the island and of all the friendships that have been fostered over the last five years since the first Irish Men’s Shed opened in Tipperary Town.

We have a great programme lined up for the day and we are honoured that the conference will be addressed by the Patron of the IMSA and President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins. Attendance at the event is free and full details can be found at www.menssheds.ie.

John Evoy is CEO and founder of the Irish Men’s Sheds Association. The Irish Men’s Sheds Association aims to work towards a future where all men have the opportunity to improve and maintain their health and well-being by participating in a community Men’s Shed.

The International Men’s Sheds Festival takes place in the Helix, DCU, Glasnevin, Dublin 9. Admission is free and all are welcome. For more information, visit www.menssheds.ie.

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John Evoy

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