There is an unmet demand for mindfulness among gay men.
Back in February this year, I proposed the plan to promote mindfulness within the gay community. Despite anticipated barriers, I decided to proceed with a test trial.
In the recent six months, sixteen mindfulness sessions were organized under the name of “HEvolution.” Out of my expectation, the response was extremely well- 114 gay men joined with 244 attendances.
Overall, there were a few reasons for the gay men’s participation:
- Some gay men had already been doing mindfulness or other spiritual practices, but had never attended any in a gay specific context.
- They wanted to find a holistic way to deal with the stressors encountered in everyday living.
- They were interested in the exercises, i.e. meditation, yoga, zentangle and massage.
- They were curious about mindfulness, HEvolution and who would attend.
- They felt that our sessions were “quieter,” “healthier,” and “more spiritual,” as compared to other usual gay activities.
Our sessions are moving towards another stage of development- to sustain the sessions and maximize the impacts on gay men’s physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being. My experience informed me that the holistic health promotion requires a new financial model different from existing NGOs’.
These days, most public fundings for gay men’s health go into HIV prevention and care with a recent increase in drug abuse issues. The focus is so narrowly medically problem-oriented that an array of health needs in gay men’s lives have been neglected. Aside from the instability of donations to charities, soliciting donors are costly in both time investment and manpower.
HEvolution is striving for its financial autonomy and sustainability – establishing itself into a social enterprise that can generate revenues to cover expenses and to develop services for gay men’s health.
Our next stage will test more the potential in creating revenues. Different from the first stage in which all the manpower in coordination and guiding the sessions were voluntary, the human costs will also be budgeted in. While participants will still pay what they can afford to, the surplus of each session, after cost, will be divided into three portions: service development, the individual who guides the session, and the individual who coordinates. We insist on “pay as you can” so that nobody will be turned away solely for lack of money.
“Pay as you can” is a pretty new concept to people in Hong Kong, and I am always asked by participants about how much they are supposed to pay. I used to not know how to answer myself as well. Of course, more money is certainly welcome; however, I do not want to give them too much pressure.
With a clearer vision now, I would now say, “Just come join us, if the experience tells you that our activities interest you and it is a space you treasure, pay as much as you can within your own capacity.”
HEvolution is community driven initiatives by all of us. The activities have been well-received with lots of positive feedback. The participants show appreciation for an alternative space where they can take good care of their own well-being while sincerely connecting with other gay men. To sustain and even expand this space, we all need to develop ownership it.
To HEvolution, the participants are not only “customers,” but also “investing partner” to co-create this space.
If you want to be part of this “enterprise,” come join us. Financial and technical supports are both welcome.
The first one or two generation of Hong Kong AIDS worker for gay men started in 2000. Always being mindful of himself not becoming an “old fart” in the field, and keeps updating both his hard- and softwares in thinking. He lived overseas in the latest few years and returned in 2015 with an aspiration to promote a more progressive approach for gay men’s holistic health. Actively looking for allies who share the same vision for HEvolution (HEalth for him).