FEELS LIKE FAMILY: boys and men from uncle celebrate 15 years.
FEELS LIKE FAMILY: boys and men from uncle celebrate 15 years. Andy Parks

Uncle marks 15 years of helping boys without a dad at Byron

CREATING healthy male role models for boys with absent fathers was the seed for The Uncle Project, which yesterday celebrated 15 years of service to the Byron Shire community.

Since 1997 The Uncle Project has been responsible for around 75 mentorships of boys aged six to 12.

After working in the juvenile justice system, founder Michael Light realized that most boys in the system had no fathers or immediate male role models in their lives.

He set up The Uncle Project to develop one-on-one mentoring relationships between men and boys via simple recreational activities.

This relationship was in turn overseen and supported by the organisation.

Current chairman John McKay recalled the time 12 years ago when he first enrolled in the program as a mentor.

"I was asked three questions: 'are you a man, when did you become a man, and what makes you a man'."

"I sort of freaked out a bit - I didn't know what the answers were," he admitted.

"I had an absent father, so I hadn't had a lot of male role-modelling."

But one of the secrets of The Uncle Project's success, according to Mr McKay, was the willingness of those involved to continuously ask and refine their answers to those challenging questions.

It has seen the organisation and those involve undertake what he described as "constant growth and constant exploration". "Men are incredibly important in the upbringing of children," Mr McKay said.

After joining the organisation Mr McKay started a mentoring relationship with a nine-year-old, and recently went to his 21st birthday party.

"He's growing into a fine young man. When I met him, he could hardly read," he said. "There's an incredible love and respect between us."


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