Men's Shed week at Bega brings focus on health, community

Men's Business: Peter Balcomb, David Hillman, Alex Tarlington, Paul Hitchens, Kim Hopkins, Ray Spencer, Brian Gerathy and president Eric Myers.

Men's Business: Peter Balcomb, David Hillman, Alex Tarlington, Paul Hitchens, Kim Hopkins, Ray Spencer, Brian Gerathy and president Eric Myers.

Since opening up their shed two years ago, the blokes at the Bega Men’s Shed have used the space for much more than just woodwork projects. 

“It’s not just about making things, most of the time you’ll catch us just hanging out together, playing cards, drinking coffee and having a yak,” founding member Ray Spencer said.

They’ve also been playing with 3D printing, making light boards, and plan on planting a few potatoes out the back.

Monday, September 25, is the start of Men’s Shed Week, focusing on the local good that members of Men’s Sheds do for their communities all over the country. 

At the Bega shed, individual members keep busy and give back to local community groups such as churches and schools by taking on projects to repair or build items. 

Next month the group is taking part in a working bee at the Casuarina nursing home, helping out where they can to improve the facilities for residents. 

President Eric Myers said volunteer work was as much about helping community groups as it was about getting the shed members together. 

“A couple of years ago we made the wire stands for the poppy display on Anzac Day,” he said

“It wasn’t a job that required much brainpower, but it did take time, so we all sat down together and had a good chat as we worked away on it.”

Hands-on and group-oriented work is often the catalyst for conversation between the Men’s Shed members.

Kim Hopkins is one of the newest members at the Bega Men’s Shed. He said the shed created a safe space to chat with other men. 

“A lot of other community groups focus on women, kids and families, which can feel inaccessible or not the right fit for most men,” he said. 

“But here blokes can be blokes, you can talk about anything and you’re probably going to have someone who has been through the same thing.”

Mr Myers said that aside from sharing skills in the workshop, the Men’s Shed was a place for members to share their life experience with each other. 

“There is a big focus on men’s health here, we want these blokes to talk about their symptoms and how they are coping,” he said. 

“You can get this information from your doctor, but there’s something about sharing the information among ourselves that can be more genuine.” 

He said the discussion in the Men’s Shed goes beyond that in the doctors office because it encompasses the social, financial and relationship costs of health problems, which can be just as debilitating.

“If someone leaves at the end of the day and  says they feel a bit better than when they arrive, then it’s all worth it,” Mr Myers said. 

He said the Men’s Shed helps the community where it can as a thank you for the support it received when establishing the shed at the Old Bega Hospital site.

“We didn’t have to raise any of our own funds in the end, the community was so generous, and have continued to be with ongoing donations of tools and supplies.”

Mr Myers said the support to establish and stock the Men’s Shed has seen attendance grow. He said improving the skills and health of Men’s Shed members means they can better contribute to the wider community. 

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