Spreading the kaupapa in the Wairarapa – White Ribbon Ambassador Mark Shepherd and his family

Our Ambassadors are at the core of our efforts to prevent violence against women. Today we’d like to introduce one of our hardworking team Mark Shepherd, who lives in the Wairarapa and has made sharing the White Ribbon kaupapa part of his everyday life.

Mark became an Ambassador after he and his wife Tracey became had been involved with the White Ribbon Ride. They both found speaking at schools and with other groups and hearing others experiences really rewarding. We are so grateful to Mark for the huge amount he does in the community. Since he became an Ambassador in 2018, Mark has been a mentor for local Youth Ambassadors and has also taken on the leadership of his local Ambassador cluster.

One of the many reasons Mark connects so well with people who are struggling is that he can relate. Mark’s father died when he was 15 years old and soon after he left home. At age 17, he became a father himself. He drank heavily and was sometimes violent, though not towards women, and has since learnt that frustrations and a lack of confidence played a huge part in those years where he felt he had no other options. Realising he would lose all contact with his then two sons if he didn’t change, led Mark to move away from the alcohol scene when he was 25.

In the intervening years Mark met Tracey, who he describes as “an amazing lady who has, over the last 32 years, helped me see that making bad decisions does not necessarily make you a bad person and that with the right guidance and support you can get your life back on track.” Mark clearly sets a fantastic example in the community and for his own family of three sons and five grandchildren.

Mark’s middle son Jamie is a keen motor sport enthusiast and has also recently shown his commitment to the kaupapa by adding the White Ribbon logo to his Burnout car. He works with Mark in their family-owned Property Maintenance business. Both put family first and make it a priority to take time out to enjoy school sports days to support Jamie’s kids.

One of the main issues Mark is concerned about is the tendency to lock perpetrators away without addressing the issues that led to them becoming violent. It is not about excusing the behavior but if we don’t want the cycle to continue we need to intervene and support perpetrators to change.

While COVID-19 has hampered local plans for a White Ribbon Community Day this year, Mark, Tracey and other local Riders will be visiting the Masterton Boxing Academy in October to share their experiences next month. Mark has some fantastic advice to share: “we as NZ males need to drop the Macho image and ‘ASK FOR HELP’ when we need to. Showing emotion does not make us weak, it makes us human.”

If you know someone who would make a great Ambassador or if you’re keen to take on the role yourself, please contact us (contact@whiteribbon.org.nz) to find out more. Ambassador nomination forms can be downloaded from our Ambassador page.

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