For the better part of 20 years, Men as Peacemakers has established itself as a group that stands up for the rights of women and children. Unfortunately, it would take two major tragedies in the Duluth community to help build this organization into what is today. The program got its start in 1996, when the city of Duluth saw two major domestic homicide cases rock the foundation of its community. The community rose up in this time of need and was looking for a solution to this issue. The major problem was the lack of men stepping forward to help create a solution, this is where the seeds of MAP were planted.
“Folks noticed that men weren’t really taking responsibility for being part of that solution, it was all women who were at those meetings. There was a need for men to be part of those solutions,” said Executive Director for MAP Ed Heisler.
Out of these meetings, a group of 50 men of diverse backgrounds set out on a retreat in what would be the beginning of the non-profit organization known as Men as Peacemakers. These 50 men would create a board of directors and set in motion what is now a pillar of the Duluth community.
“In the beginning it was obviously small, volunteer run. We have expanded a lot in the last few years. We have probably doubled or tripled our staff size, the scope of our programming has broadened,” said Heisler.
This scope has now shifted its focus to youth sports in the Duluth community thanks to help from volunteers, and even UMD athletes’ volunteer group known as “Champions Building Champions.”
“Back in 2010, there was another domestic homicide case. There was a response to that in the community, and we had a forum here to look at what community men could do to prevent that sort of thing from happening again. Folks ended up focusing on athletics for a multitude of reasons. Since that point, we’ve had specific athletic programming that includes a youth mentoring program (Champions Building Champions) that UMD athletes participate in,” said Heisler.
Since 2010, Men as Peacemakers has not only made an impact within the Duluth community through their focus on youth sports, but in Minnesota as a whole.
“We created an online training module for MSHSL that is mandated for every high school coach in the state. 25,000 high school coaches have completed the training module to prevent sexual harassment and sexual violence. The program helps prepare coaches to catch red flags with their players experiencing these sorts of things,” said Heisler.
The issue of domestic violence has been brought back to the forefront of public discussion after events like that of the Ray Rice video being released. Groups like Men as Peacemakers are leading the way to spread awareness of this issue, and more importantly, educating the youth through athletic programs, so the seeds of gender equality are planted at an early age and nurtured through their coach’s tutelage. With the issue of domestic violence being brought back into public discussion, Heisler sees a welcomed change to how we as a society are approaching it.
“I love that the conversation has been a little bit different. Men are more open about ways in which they can contribute,” said Heisler.
If you would like to volunteer with Men as Peacemakers, you can fill out a form on their website: menaspeacemakers.org.