There was a sense of brotherhood in downtown Quesnel as self-identifying men gathered to regain a sense of pride, purpose and fulfillment in their lives.
On Thursday, Nov. 4, DUDES Club facilitator Richard (Rick) Meier was excited to see how many guys would be stopping in.
The meeting starting at 7 p.m. was the second to be held indoors at the Northern Network of Peers for Equality (NOPE) office at 325 St. Laurent Avenue.
The first DUDES Club meeting in Quesnel was hosted at a city park on Sept. 16.
“It got started in east Vancouver, and it’s an Indigenous program that is about men’s mental health, physical health and overall well-being,” he said of DUDES Club.
“I was able to get in contact with them and get it started here, which I’m super grateful for because there is not a lot of support groups out there for men, especially in towns like Quesnel, so it’s good.”
According to its web page, DUDES Club mission is to facilitate a participant-led community for men’s wellness with activity-based clubs that prioritize supportive relationships, engagement in healthcare and local Indigenous worldviews.
At the meetings, participants talk about “men’s stuff”, Meier said, without going into detail.
“Which is good because sometimes men need a place to get their stuff out,” he added.
“So we talk about men’s health and well-being, and programs that are here in town and other programs that can be started.”
Participants also chat about what activities they would like to do at the next bi-weekly meeting held Thursdays at 7 p.m. For example, one had suggested at their earlier meetings that they go gold panning, although winter could make it difficult.
“There is one DUDES Club further up north that’s doing a trail recovery program right now, so there are lots of opportunities out there,” Meier said, noting they are working with the group in Prince George.
He has reached out and invited Indigenous elders to participate and lead their meetings with a land acknowledgment and traditional prayer.
DUDES Club participants wanting additional support can access peer support and advocacy through the NOPE office, a safe and inclusive space for all including women and members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community.
Access to food security, clothing, hygiene and harm reduction supplies and social system navigation is available.
“We started with the men because there was really a need for that,” said Kim Meier who helped co-find NOPE with her spouse Richard, Desiray Turrell and Brittany Bold-de-haughton.
When she first went into recovery, Meier was involved with Pathways Addictions Resource Centre in Penticton.
“It was so pivotal my recovery too, and I did a women’s group,” she added, noting she had also worked with the South Okanagan Women in Need Society (SOWINS) on their sex worker program.
Sex work is not often talked about in B.C.’s north, Meier said. The sex worker population in Quesnel is very hidden.
“I think there’s something in the works for women, but I don’t know what that looks like as of yet.”