The first Men of Doveton are graduating.
The program is empowering men to take control of their physical and mental health and is the first of its kind in the area.
Andrew Bazeley was among the inaugural 13 participants to graduate on Monday 7 May.
He joined seeking social connection but found the program also inspired him to improve his lifestyle.
“I want to be fitter, there’s a lot of health problems in my family – I’ve got type two diabetes and I want to see my kids grow up,” he said.
“Every Monday I was looking forward to going and I was the first one there.
“I wanted it to be longer, it was only 12 weeks.
“It got me to try new things and it improved my mental health.”
Men of Doveton is a partnership between YMCA Victoria, the Melbourne Football Club and Doveton College.
It involved presentations, cooking classes and sports programs plus support, guidance and social connections.
Doveton is one of Melbourne’s most disadvantaged suburbs and features high rates of obesity, alcohol and drug abuse, and social isolation.
Eighty per cent of the men who signed up for the program wanted to meet new people.
YMCA Casey region community engagement officer Tori Norris said the program had a significant positive impact on the lives of the men involved.
She said the graduation ceremony provided an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on their journey.
“It was amazing to see them realise that if they want a happy and healthy life, it starts with them,” she said.
“We want to show them that we’re proud.
“Some of these men never graduated high school and this event is an opportunity to dress up and show off a little bit to their families.”