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Dads and Lads
Helping children see their fathers in a different light.
By Chris Buckley
June 1, 2016

UNITED KINGDOM -- For Evolve Health Mentor Luke Harding, the opportunity to help build a stronger bond between some of the children in his care and their fathers was too good to miss. And it resulted in a day that Luke describes as “One of the highlights of my career so far.”

These days Luke is a Regional manager for Evolve: A Social Impact Company, an award winning social enterprise that works closely with schools, teachers and headteachers to enhance children’s school progress by bringing together mentoring, physical activity and classroom support.

But back in 2014 Luke was working as an Evolve Health Mentor at a primary school in Birmingham that was facing the challenge of improving links with parents - and particularly fathers.

Having worked closely with the children over a period of time it was clear that some of them came from very difficult backgrounds with challenging home lives explains Luke.

‘In some cases we felt it was important we found a way of helping the children see their fathers in a different light.’ he added.

With the support of a forward thinking headteacher Luke set about a plan to target fathers with the aim of increasing their participation in school by getting them into the school environment. He wanted help build teamwork and communication skills amongst the dads and their children. But, most importantly. he wanted to leave a legacy that gave children the opportunity to see their father as a positive role model. The day ended up extending beyond fathers as there was an uncle, a grandad and an older brother joining in.

What followed was a ‘Dads and Lads Day’ that has lived long in the memory of all involved.

The day started with a meet and greet and a den building session that captured everybody’s imagination. A mid-morning quiz and lunch session was followed by a football tournament and presentation.

The dads embraced all aspects of the day - their children loved every minute of it and their comments were testament to the effectiveness of the event.

‘I didn’t realize my Dad was that cool. He is so good at building dens and playing football!’ said one child. ‘It was the best day ever - me and my dad taught my mom how to build a den and we went to the park to practice football on Saturday.’ said another. The enjoyment and family element was a common theme ‘This was the best day ever! Me, my brother and Dad haven’t had this much fun, since, forever!’

For Luke it was a huge success and a fantastic experience ‘ This was the highlight of my time as a Health Mentor,’ he said. To see people from different backgrounds working together and getting along was remarkable.’

Luke said, ‘the relationship and the way the adult males saw the school environment changed. He built up a good relationship with several of the dads and still talk to them when they drop and pickup the children from school. Jaydon, a student, has attended many more after school clubs and Tournaments (his dad was reluctant before). Kash's dad took him to football trials and he started playing football regularly on Saturdays. To this day, two years on the children still talk about that day and ask when the next one is.’

And the memories of the day lived on. In their end of year reports, every pupil involved mentioned the day as one of the best days they had at school that year. At the completion of this successful project Luke then moved onto his next challenge to help the school.

Evolve Director John Bishop believes that many other schools and communities can benefit from working with Evolve to deploy Health Mentors. ‘In this particular case our ‘Dads and Lads’ day had an extremely positive impact on all involved and that impact goes well beyond the school gates’ he said.

‘Families coming together, parents interacting with their children's school and dads showing how they can be positive role models is something we should be striving for in schools across the country. Budget restrictions make this difficult but with the right kind of support we can make a real difference in troubled communities as this project clearly shows. By concentrating on supporting children's and families health and wellbeing we can transform progress in school and beyond."