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A circle of fathers: How Nashua wants to help parents become better role models

Gabriela Lozada
At the Arlington Community Center, participants made a collage expressing their ideas of fatherhood.

The city of Nashua Division of Public Health and the Arlington Community Center are offering a new class for parents and caregivers who want to improve their coping skills. The group aims to create an emotional support circle for people facing the concerns of raising a child.

Antonio Pérez was in the class. He said that even though his children are now adults, he is still working on being a good father. He said he lacked that role model growing up, as his father was mostly absent.

“Fatherhood now is different from twenty years ago; I don’t want to fail my kids,” he said.

Robert Ortiz, a community health worker for the Nashua Public Health Division, will lead this class over the next several months. He drew on his own experience as a child to create it.

“I've seen people turn to alcoholism and drugs,” he said, “that could have been fixed if you had support, love, and nurture.”

Ortiz created a series of exercises to incentivize conversations about the participant's feelings and their upbringing. He said the city is interested in supporting families that will eventually build a solid community.

The group was started after the city saw that men in rehabilitation have support groups for many topics but almost none about fatherhood, though this group is open to anyone who's interested.

The participants expressed their concerns about men not having a place to learn how to be good dads. V.V Kumar said he learned from his father how to be a good provider, but he recognizes that because of the generational gap, he was not emotionally available when his own children were growing up.

Kumar is retired. The group allows him to work through his emotions and gives him a space to be in the community.

“It is usually moms supporting moms, but you do not often see men supporting other men,” he said. “It’s a good start.”

The group will meet twice a month. People interested can join by calling the Nashua Division of Public Health.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.
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