COLIN typifies the Aussie bloke who loves to duck into his blokey shed for a bit of woodworking, or lose himself in his garden, perhaps fine-tuning the sprinklers. And catch up with mates.
But Colin’s story is much more, staggeringly heart-warming and inspirational.
Freshly-turned 50, Colin is a recovering alcoholic, has lost two legs to bone disease and has been through the mill with his health, the courts and bureaucracy.
Colin’s turn-around has made him something of an accidental torchbearer for Men’s Sheds after he joined the blokes at Stirling Men’s Shed.
Alex Gilkison, spokesman for the West Australian Men’s Shed Association says: “Colin is a role model not only for his fellow shedders but people who are suffering with any addiction.”
Not bad for a bloke who was drinking a six-pack of beer before his liquor store opened in the morning.
Colin, attends the Shed under the Home and Community Care program (HACC).
“When I joined the Shed, my life started to change for the better,” he says.
“I love woodwork. I used to be a cabinet-maker so it’s something that comes easy to me and that I enjoy. My skills have even improved at the Shed and people ask me every day to help them with something with their projects.
“Sometimes people book my time. I enjoy volunteering and I am part of the ‘buddy’ program for HACC clients. I am responsible for making sure they are safe.”
Colin turns up at the Shed three to five days-a-week. He helps his client, Dean, participate in woodwork and another bloke with gardening.
“I also enjoy taking guys on excursions outside the Shed,” says Colin.
This is a man with two prosthetic legs who spent two years in a wheelchair.
“I was, and still am, on a lot of medication. I was socially isolated, lonely, depressed and anxious with many personal issues.
“I had been a cabinet maker for as long I was physically able, something I have gotten back into now I have prosthetics and foor the last five years at the Shed. This has coincided with the time I have been sober.
“I was in a very dark and lonely place but I always had a creative side and I believe myself to be intelligent. I always liked to make things and I love wood work.
“Working on projects at the Shed has given me a sense of pride in myself and my abilities, which has given me confidence and the recognition and respect I receive for my skills feels amazing. It also gives me a sense of self worth.
“It feels good when people want me to teach them something and I can help them learn, like I am mentoring them in something I love.
“I also like volunteering – gives me a chance to give back and feel good about my contribution,” he said.
In his first week at the Shed, Colin was with six blokes. Three had prosthetics.
“This made me feel that I had some people who understood how I felt – what it is like day-to-day. It is like a support system that allows me the feeling that I am not alone.
“Men’s Shed provides me with a sense of acceptance and a sense of self-worth with the feeling that I contribute to something meaningful. The world is no longer such a dark place.”
Colin says men might join a Shed for the woodwork or for social interaction.
“If it is for a person who comes for woodwork I would tell them how we get a new machine every year like the nine-inch lathe we got this year.
“If it was for someone senior who may be a returned serviceman – we have other ex-service-men who love to have a chat about their experience in the forces, which is like the story therapy we are trying to implement at the Shed.
“This will make conversations more interesting, plus it will get people sharing. Some guys even just want regimented hours like they are at work. This gives them a structure and a purpose.”
When Colin was in hospital for a week he realised he had programmed his home sprinklers incorrectly.
“I called the Shed and they organised for a few guys to go around and tend to my garden while I was away,” said a thankful Colin.
Alex says Colin is a shining example. “A Men’s Shed can result in a better quality of life as it has for many men and by extensions their spouses and families.
“Most men have learned from our culture not to talk about feelings and emotions. Many don’t take an interest in their own health and well-being. Unlike women, most men are reluctant to talk about their emotions and that means that they usually don’t ask for help.
“Probably because of this, many men are less healthy than women, drink more, take more risks and suffer more from isolation, loneliness and depression.
“Relationship breakdown, retrenchment or early retirement from a job, loss of children following divorce and physical or mental illness are just some of the problems that men may find difficult to deal with on their own.
“Good health is based on many factors including feeling good about yourself, being productive, contributing to your community, connecting with friends and maintaining an active body and mind.”
Alex, unsurprisingly, is a big fan of a bit of old-fashioned mateship. So is Colin.
Men can visit a local Shed in their area and see it in action, then decide if they want to join – visit wamsa.org.au/mapofwasheds.html to find a shed.