Gavin Webster, 43, former professional rugby player, now landlord and father.
How did you know about abob?
I heard about ABOB through a Guardian article by Erwin James and then responded to a flier locally in Tottenham where I live. After attending an Open Evening I knew that I wanted to find out more.
And so you did Beyond The Hero?
Yes, it was fantastic. I’d experienced therapy and various forms of self exploration and development before, but this rites of passage based weekend offered something completely different. It challenged my view of the place I hold in the world and it certainly took me out of my comfort zone. Some old scars from childhood came up which I was able to work on in a powerful way.
How are the weekly abob meetings in Haringey?
I really appreciate having a safe and supportive space to check in with my feelings. I also feel challenged to become a better man and I feel honoured to be there. I have experienced the transformational impact this sharing has had for me and others in the circle.
And what about the mixture of older and younger men?
That works so well. About ten to fifteen of us meet every week with our eldest man being in his 70s while we have young men who are in their late teens or early twenties so a huge range of life experience for us to share and learn from.
How has mentoring been for you?
I really enjoyed being a mentor and it was also a learning experience for me. The young man I mentored had a challenging background and it was good to be there to support him as he learnt about his triggers. He used to get into conflict a lot and we examined what parts of his past triggered him. I found it both challenging and fulfilling being a mentor, just being in service to someone and holding a safe space.
What do you value about your time volunteering for abob?
Sharing my path with other men who are committed to growing and becoming better men. It has really helped me to move on with a challenging situation in my life and for that I will always be grateful.
What have you learnt that you have taken out into your life?
Forgiveness and letting go, and through my growth I believe I am learning to be a better man and a better father to my young daughter.
Why abob and not other charities?
I have volunteered in the past for other supportive charities in the mental health sector but find the more hands on approach of abob is a better fit for me.
What difference does it make being an all male community? For the young men and older men?
I believe we can focus more keenly on our role as men, and we can then share that with our wider communities. I would love to see A Band of Sisters one day too!!
How was it being a man and an international Rugby player?
In one sense it was wonderful. I was achieving my dream of playing international rugby. But there was pressure to conform to a stereotype and I was experiencing an incomplete version of how it is to live as a man. I was aware that I had a lot of mates but not many friends I could really open up to and talk about deeper feelings as there were few if any spaces for this, in that environment.
And what’s the difference re abob and being a man?
With abob, I feel free to explore what it is to be a man and to share whatever feelings I might be experiencing. It’s a very supportive and challenging environment, which is really conducive to helping men with spiritual and emotional growth.