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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Consider the implications: a thousand or more men meeting in a hundred or more places on a single night in the Virgin Islands to discuss what it means to be a father.
The organizers believe that the potential impact in these small islands could be much more meaningful than a Million Man March in the distant nation's capital.
The planned "Fathers' Night Out" meetings June 14 are a high-profile part of a series of events and activities being sponsored in June — the month in which Father's Day is celebrated — by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands under the umbrella title of Fatherhood Collaborative 2000.
John deJongh Jr., Community Foundation president, says, "We believe that this is an important first step in strengthening the lives of children, youth and families in the territory."
The "Fathers' Night Out" gatherings will take place next Wednesday evening. The goal is to enlist a hundred good men — or 200, if they're available — to host discussions with 10 additional men on "the roles, responsibilities, challenges and triumphs of being a father," according to a letter deJongh sent out soliciting volunteer hosts.
The men invited to the groups can be "fathers, father figures, stepfathers, godfathers, grandfathers or fathers-to-be," deJongh wrote. They can gather in homes, offices, meeting rooms, restaurants or wherever. Hosts will be provided with guide materials to facilitate the discussions, T-shirts for participants and "informational material to spark discussion on how to improve the state of fatherhood in our community," he said.
DeJongh, the president and chief operating officer of Lockhart Caribbean Corp., is also the current president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, and he has involved that business organization in the effort as well. On Thursday, June 8, CFVI will sponsor the chamber's Business After Hours gathering at Cafe Amici in Riise's Alley.
Whereas the typical Business After Hours is an informal social gathering with music, finger food, a cash bar and handouts by the sponsoring enterprise, this one will be a participation event. A special effort is being made to invite fathers, and "guests will be asked to share their favorite stories about their father, or about being a father, as they network and socialize," according to a CFVI release. Resource materials will be available for pickup too.
According to Community Foundation volunteer Richard Brown, the Fatherhood 2000 Initiative "is one of the strategies within CFVI's Our Children Now! initiative. The events over the next two weeks are intended to start a community conversation on responsible fatherhood and its impact on the lives of children, youth and families in the Virgin Islands."
When the Community Foundation launched the Our Children Now! initiative in 1997, deJongh said, "fathers were identified as one critical element in the success and development of children and youth in the Virgin Islands. Over the past two years, CFVI has been working to make responsible fatherhood a part of the community discussion" by hosting events for fathers and their children and sponsoring a support group for fathers.
In addition to hosting the Business After Hours on Thursday and the Fathers' Night Out meetings June 14, the foundation is sponsoring a "Celebrating Fathers" essay contest for children and adults, arranging for a national expert on father-focused programs and community engagement to visit the territory, and conducting a "responsible fatherhood" public relations campaign in the territory.
Essay contestants are asked to describe on a single 8 1/2" by 11" page why their fathers have been important in their lives or their families' lives. Prizes for the competition, which has a deadline of Monday, June 12, for submitting entries to the Community Foundation, are dinners at local restaurants.
The Community Foundation is looking for "positive" pieces, and "the contest is open to ‘children' of all ages," including adults, Brown said. The Virgin Islands Source newspapers will publish the winning essays and they will be broadcast on local radio stations.
The invited expert, Dr. Bernard Franklin, will visit the territory to help CFVI plan further Fatherhood Collaborative 2000 strategies and tactics. While in the Virgin Islands, he will address service clubs and make the rounds of talk shows discussing national and community-based projects to promote responsible fatherhood.
For more information about Fatherhood Collaborative 2000, call the CFVI office at 774-6031.

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