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By Rashmii Amoah | Images courtesy of Eddie Aila
Dealing with the everyday pressures of life is an ongoing task for each of us. Making the right choices based on positive attitudes and behaviours is at times quite challenging. Port Moresby-based organisation, Warrior Culture, is an avenue striving to educate everyday Papua New Guineans to approach such issues with positive mindsets. In the lead up to the launch of Warrior Culture’s Mens’ Leadership Program ‘Real Men, Real Talk’ (supported by the Embassy of the United States, Port Moresby), I spoke to the Director, Mr. Eddie Aila, about the organisation’s values of self-acceptance, continual self-improvement and maintaining a healthy mind as being important to an individual’s growth and how that affects family and community.
Rashmii Amoah: I’m certain I speak for the majority of when I say, we wake up every morning person with the intention of giving our 100% and doing that in a positive way. Your organisation, Warrior Culture, works with people to help them realise and sustain this as a daily mindset. You refer to them as a ‘warrior’. Can you define what that means and how a warrior behaves?
Eddie Aila: Sure. So a ‘warrior’ is somebody who is emotionally strong from the inside, responsible and leads with their heart. A warrior can be a male or a female of any age that demonstrates leadership in their lives. It’s a person who accepts themselves enough and understands they have choices in life and they have the ability to make the positive choices.
We’re all human, we all make mistakes and have flaws. To be able to recognise that and actively seek out ways to improve ourselves is Warrior Culture’s focus.
We use the terms ‘below the line’ and ‘above the line’. If you’re living a lifestyle that’s focused on gossip, being judgemental, denial and irresponsible behaviours – then we’d classify that as living ‘below the line’. But a lifestyle that’s lived out ‘above the line’ will reflect behaviours that someone takes to empower themselves and others, respectful conduct, compassion, being pro-active in making good decisions. A warrior is a person who actively strives to live ‘above the line’.
RA: Unfortunately in society, there are stigmas associated with people who present as not being ’emotionally strong’. Often this results in individuals keeping quiet about their struggles. These may be financial problems, relationships conflict, poor school grades, disconnection from friends, depression and so on. Could you explain the significance of the presence of an organisation like Warrior Culture in PNG society and how it works to positively address stigmas?
EA: The first thing I’d like to say is that at Warrior Culture, one of our key aims is to create an an environment where men, women, girls and boys feel safe and free to be themselves. We look to work with people from all walks of life irrespective of race, religion, political views, age, financial status, disabilities etc.
It’s absolutely normal and expected that when you walk into one our workshops you don’t have all the answers. Warrior Culture encourages people to ‘let their guard down’, show vulnerability so that together we can work through the issues they’re dealing with. We are not here to judge but to support, inform and educate.
The one thing that us as humans all have in common is the mind. I tell you, the mind can be the biggest liar, trickster, deceiver! Sometimes we let a negative thought into our heads. If we focus on that one thought and not consider alternatives, it just allows opportunities for other negative thoughts to get in there. Soon the negative thoughts become negative actions. So you can understand why it’s so important to making sure you keep your mind healthy.
Mental health or any type of health issue if not addressed in its very early stages has dire consequences for you, your immediate and extended family.
You also have to remember that it affects other areas of your life, including performance at work. If you’re not showing up at work because you’re not coping with your issues, then the work isn’t getting done and so you won’t get paid. If you’re not paid, well I think we all know the consequences..
Warrior Culture is aiming to educate people that in life, you do have a choice. Accepting your self, acknowledging your mistakes but actively living to improve yourself are the essential steps to living ‘above the line’. It benefits you and all those around you.
RA: Warrior Culture emphasises positive coping strategies as a means of responding to family and societal pressures. How receptive have Papua New Guinean males and females to these values? I’m particularly interested to know of any scenarios where the males (boys and men) have expressed a sense of relief at having an avenue like Warrior Culture.
EA: Through my work as a Life Coach, I’ve mentored around 350 individuals. The major factor I see at the core of issues is that they stem from anxieties or worries that are based on fear. We are often scared of what we don’t know, especially if we don’t know how to deal with it. Warrior Culture’s approach to this is to encourage individuals to ‘face their fears’, address it and move forward.
So what I mentioned before about letting negative thoughts into your head- we aim to help individuals see that this negative self-talk is stopping them from making the better choice . That choice is that they do have the power with themselves to say ‘No’ to the negative thoughts and instead build a positive attitude and use positive behaviours – live ‘above the line’.
Yes, the feedback from male participants has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve had many participants express their gratitude, telling me that they feel empowered by the skills Warrior Culture has taught them to apply everyday, to take control of their lives. Others have said they found the program quite helpful. But like you’ve suggested, a lot of the feedback is the sense of relief that they’ve been able to speak to someone about their issues and get some direction on how they can address it positively.
RA: Over the years, Warrior Culture has interacted with PNG men and women from a across various sectors of the community – unemployed, high school student, office workers and the like. Recently (May 2015), the organisation visited Kila Kila Secondary School and Gordons Secondary School to speak to students. This is a reflection of your definition of ‘warrior .’ That said, how do you establish trust and build rapport to generate discussion amongst participants?
EA: Well I guess the key ingredient is experience. With the youth – I was a young guy at one point too so I I can relate to the insecurities, anxieties, questions that are weighing on the minds of high school students. I think it’s also very important to be honest.
Sure I’m putting myself out on the line by doing this, but after years of work with clients, I’ve observed that the best results and options for decision-making come when you’re honest with yourself.In the context of working with professionals, corporations and organisations I rely on my my professional, theoretical and business knowledge and skills.
It really comes down to listening to the participants, informing them with the best information on hand and allowing them to identify which options works best for them. That’s what we try to do at Warrior Culture.
RA: Applications for Warrior Culture’s upcoming Men’s Leadership program, ‘Real Men Real Talk’ closed recently. Targeting 17-30 year old PNG male applicants, the program is supported by the United States Embassy (Port Moresby). In a statement written in 2014, Dr. Carlos Williams (US Health Attache, also co-facilitated the recent school visits) when referring to the Pacific Islands discussed ‘non-communicable diseases as having significant impact on population and economic growth. Citing examples such as ‘cancer, violence, diabetes and drug addiction’ he described them as category of diseases that are ‘chronic, long-term debilitating ones’. Dr.William’s concluded that their management must be done so on a spectrum of ‘prevention to treatment, and when possible, to cure’.
I think that quite succinctly illustrates reasons to support RMRT. So can you explain in in your own words the program’s key objectives?
EA: Absolutely, I agree with Dr.Williams’ statement. Going on from what I mentioned before about not showing up to work because you’re struggling to deal with your issues. Now if every third working person in PNG did that on a regular basis, you can imagine that a lot of work is being left undone, incomplete. On the larger scale, this absence is impeding the economic progress of not only the individual and their families but also the country.
Warrior Culture operates from a ‘prevention’ and ‘treatment’ focus, yes.
Through RMRT, we hope to inspire the young men to become male advocates of positive attitudes and behaviours. Family and sexual violence (FSV) in PNG is a key issue we’ll be exploring and addressing with the young men. It’s important that all males receive information and learn skills that there is are positive ways to deal conflict, anger and all those things that often lead to violence within homes and community. We want men, young and old to know that, using the right skills, they have the capabilities to make the right choice, behave in a positive way.
So yes, an outcome of RMRT’s program is to see a group of young men are equipped with life-skills and effective thought-processes that will help them manage their emotion that is positive for themselves, their families and ultimately their community.
After participation in the RMRT program, an aim is that these young men will feel confident and know that they have the control help break the cycle of the very issues they’ve listed- FSV being one of them.
(Dr. Carlos Williams’ full statement ‘The Changing Face of Health in the South Pacific’ can be read at www.blogs.usembassy.gov)
RA: The application form asked candidates to identify two (2) issues that they think will be significant problems for PNG . Can you tell us, in general, what is weighing on the minds of young these PNG men? Can you describe one way in which the Program will equip participants to deal with such issues?
EA: Family and sexual violence, corruption throughout the community, crime and drug addiction were the topics that stuck out.
It’s important for me to say here that Warrior Culture’s stance is that these issues are not a ‘man’ issue or a ‘woman’ issue, they’re all’ human’ issues so we all need to work together to address them.
At Warrior Culture, we use a term called ‘anchoring’. Basically, this means we encourage our participants to move away from dwelling on the past by looking to the future and their positive ways things they’ve done, or are planning to do.
No one is going to feel motivated to change if you’re constantly telling them they’re not good enough or they’ve done this or that wrong. Its far better to help the person see their mistake, allow them to acknowledge it and then suggest options they can use so they don’t repeat it again, improve and move forward. So this will be emphasised to participants during the course of RMRT.
The program also has business skills development component where our participants will be taught skills in public-speaking, negotiation, conflict-resolution, how to speak respectfully and the like.
RA: I’m of the view that the insistence of addressing anti-social behaviours with negative imagery is counter-productive. Importantly, it hinders the tireless efforts of those, such as Warrior Culture, dedicated to positive social-change. In saying that, what imagery would you advocate shown throughout PNG to reinforce the work being done by organisations such as Warrior Culture?
EA: Yes, I’d agree with that. Earlier this year I was involved in Digicel Foundation’s Men of Honour Awards. In its’ inaugural year, this initiative showcased the very examples of Papua New Guinea men whom Warrior Culture advocating to develop and promote.
I’ve already mentioned how it’s so much more helpful when you’re trying to educate someone to move away from negative thoughts or actions to give them positive examples. Digicel Foundations’s Men of Honour campaign did exactly this by capturing images and words of everyday Papua New Guinean men who are doing their best everyday to live ‘above the line’. Being positive role-models to other Papua New Guineans.
To have tahis initiative up and running throughout PNG just translates what we at Warrior Culture re aiming to teach.
But of course, for us to continue our work and inspire an increased presence of ‘warriors’ in our society, we do need funding. So I make a call out to individuals, families, businesses and organisations who is interested in learning more about Warrior Culture’s work and how they can contribute financially, please get in touch with us today.
RA: Finally, a favourite quote of yours to get you started out each day?
EA: ‘I Am’ . Those two words I think best sum up what we’ve spoken about and the work we do at Warrior Culture.
RA: Eddie, best wishes to you and the Warrior Culture team in continuing your work. Advocating for a nation filled with individuals, males and females who can identify that they have the capacity within themselves to make a positive change is undoubtedly an invaluable to not individuals, but their families and communities.
Follow ‘Warrior Culture – Leading with Love’ on Facebook and learn more about the ‘Real Men, Real Talk’ Mens Leadership Program.