Mark Busby, new executive director of The Men’s Centre in Nanaimo. (Submitted photo)Mark Busby, new executive director of The Men’s Centre in Nanaimo. (Submitted photo)

New director guiding Nanaimo’s Men’s Centre through pandemic’s challenges

Mark Busby takes over as executive director, says need for centre's services climbing

The new executive director of the Men’s Centre in Nanaimo says he is ready to tackle numerous challenges and help shape the direction of the organization.

Mark Busby began at the Fitzwilliam Street centre, which offers mental support services to men, at the end of November, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID has affected clientele, as well as brought in people who probably wouldn’t have come in the past, he said, and there has been an estimated 25-30-per cent increase in service provision since he has come aboard.

“It’s a challenge because we’re not able to see people in that kind of face-to-face situation,” said Busby. “People are adapting using technology, Zoom, telephone … but not everybody has access to that. Some of our more senior clients aren’t necessarily what we might consider to be tech-savvy, so there’s support that’s needed there to help our senior members of the community to engage.

“Some clients are unhoused, so even as recently as last week, some of our counsellors were trying to find ways to engage people who were literally living in vehicles. It’s challenging.”

In terms of where he would like to see the centre go, Busby said he is hoping for input to help guide that, with community engagement coming shortly. He would like to see the centre expand its support for families going through a divorce.

“From a personal point-of-view, as a parent, I find it quite heartbreaking when children go through the pain of separation with their parents, so I’d like to see more support for parents and parenting, and create a safe environment for the children to grow up in,” said Busby.

His priority, he said, is to work with the board and initiate the strategic planning process for the organization.

“The other (goal) with the board is to create financial sustainability and viability and personally, getting to know the staff, the constituents, the volunteers … I’ve been made to feel really welcome,” he said.

Busby, originally from England, has lived in Nanaimo for 16 years and has previous experience working as executive director of the Nanaimo Brain Injury Society. He replaces founder and former executive director Theo Boere, who is retiring after close to 20 years.

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