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The National Compadres Network

A Look at Mentoring, Fatherhood and Community Building Programs

Founded in 1988, the National Compadres Network (NCN) operates Men’s Circles (Círculos) in more than twenty cities throughout the nation extending from California to Washington, DC, providing a variety of mentorship, fatherhood and community building programs. NCN aims to help build safe and secure communities understanding that violence is a learned behavior (rooted in systems of oppression) that is passed on from one generation to the next and that violence can be unlearned. Drawing upon the values and traditions of the varied and rich cultures of Latin America, including pre-Columbian cultures, NCN helps men to understand and value the sacredness of all relations.

NCN’s main focus is the reinforcement of the positive involvement of Latino males in the lives of their families, communities, and society. Based on the principles of “Un Hombre Noble” (A Noble Man), the mission of NCN is to strengthen, rebalance, and/or redevelop the traditional “Compadre” extended family system. Through this process the program encourages and supports the positive involvement of Latino males as fathers, sons, grandfathers, brothers, compadres, partners, and mentors in their families and community. NCN believes that increasing the positive support and influence of Latino males in their family and society, will help reduce the incidence of substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, teen pregnancy, gang violence, and other family and community problems.

This ethno-cultural model addresses risk factors for intimate partner violence at multiple levels, taking into account: 1) the effects of centuries of violence rooted in racism, colonization, and oppression which continues to impact families, communities and societies as a whole; 2) sexist values and social rules that perpetuate violence and oppression against women; 3) emotional distress and mental health problems; 4) socio-economic stressors such as poverty, unemployment and discrimination; 5) the impact of acculturation and acculturative stress; 6) substance use; and 7) societal norms that continue to treat intimate partner violence as a private family matter, veiled in secrecy and shame.

Culturally responsive strategies are employed from the very onset. For example, a comprehensive assessment is conducted for each individual entering the program including assessing levels of acculturation and sources of acculturative stress.

The 36-week program has four distinct phases described as follows:

  1. Knowledge (“Conocimiento”): Participants examine their attitudes, fears and the violent techniques they employ to maintain power in their relationships and the consequences of abuse for their victims and themselves.

  2. Comprehension (“Comprensión”): Participants gain a deeper understanding of the causes and risk factors associated with their use of violence.

  3. Integration (“Integración”): Participants employ newly acquired knowledge, tools and resources to stop violent behavior and begin to adopt alternative, more productive behaviors.

  4. Movement (“Movimiento”): Participants internalize and consistently display non-violent behaviors to resolve conflict in their daily lives.

A central tenet of the National Compadres Network model is the idea that la cultural cura (culture cures). In other words, culture can be used as a tool for healing and making positive changes in one’s life. Based on this principle the National Compadres Network helps men reclaim and honor the cultural values of familismo (the centrality of family), respeto (respect) and confianza (trust), building blocks for constructing non-violent relationships. The National Compadres Network also incorporates aspects of spirituality and traditional healing practices throughout its programming.

The National Compadres Network also works collaboratively with the National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute and has tailored programs for Latino young men, called “Joven Noble.” Through this program young men participate in rites of passage into manhood ceremonies, learn the true sense of honorable manhood, and develop a sense of security through their association with honorable men. The National Compadres Network also offers fatherhood programs, mentoring and conducts the “Respetar y Leer” (Respect and Read) campaign. In this campaign, grandfathers, fathers, uncles and other male role models are encouraged to take time to read and talk with the children in their families, using reading materials that emphasize respectful relationships and nonviolence.

For more information visit www.nationalcompadresnetwork.com