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Hong Kong men, it’s time to let the ‘mo’ grow for good causes

When it rained four years ago for Nicholas Worley, it really poured. A friend died, family issues cropped up and he was jobless. He felt like a dark cloud was hanging over him and the world was against him.

For months Worley put on a brave face and spent his time drinking with friends, eating junk food and being a couch potato. Unsurprisingly, he put on a lot of weight, which led to back pain and eventually a sprained back.

“It suddenly clicked that these negative habits were leading me down a very destructive path,” recalls Worley, 34, a public relations manager. “I felt the first step to get back on track was to get in shape, but I personally find gyms too boring and formulaic.”

A friend recommended a Crossfit gym that had just opened up near his home, so Worley went for a trial session. During the class, he had never felt so exhausted in his life. But the mental calm and clarity he felt after the workout enticed him back for another session the next day, even though his body was reluctant. Soon, he was going for Crossfit almost every day, which in turn motivated a change in diet.

Since that first workout, Worley has lost more than 30 kilograms to date. His back has healed and his motivation has returned, thanks in large part to the support he received from the Crossfit community.

“I now have a pretty positive outlook on life and even when things pop up that might cause me to feel depressed, it doesn’t affect me as much as I can simply go and do a workout to let off some steam or regain focus,” he says.

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Combining his personal experience with depression and the uplifting benefits of exercise, Worley is organising a Crossfit team competition on November 19 that will feature four-member teams from all seven Crossfit gyms in Hong Kong competing in events that test cardio, Olympic weightlifting, gymnastic skill and teamwork. The goal: to highlight the importance of fitness and community, and to raise funds for the men’s health charity Movember Foundation and the Hong Kong Cancer Fund.

It will be one of a number of events (see below) taking place in November as a a part of Movember, the annual month-long campaign where men grow moustaches to raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer and other men’s health issues. This year’s campaign theme is “stopping men dying too young”, with a focus on mental health and suicide prevention.

Suicide affects men more than women: three quarters of suicides are men. The World Health Organisation estimates 510,000 men die from suicide globally each year – or one every minute.

On average, across the world, men die six years earlier than women. The impact of prostate and testicular cancer on lives is substantial, with prostate cancer being the second most common cancer in men worldwide and the number of cases expected to almost double to 1.7 million cases by 2030. Movember’s goal is to reduce the number of men dying prematurely in the world by 25 per cent by 2030.

Crossfit and other physical activities not only boost physical and mental health. James Carlile, a Movember Hong Kong ambassador and a committee member of local Australian Rules football club HK Dragons, says sports also unites community, providing support and a casual environment where conversations about men’s health issues can begin.

“Men typically are very bad at talking about men’s health issues, whether it’s cancer, suicide prevention or depression. And there’s no better place than starting it at sporting clubs,” says Carlile, 26, a Cathay pilot and co-founder of local wine supplier Wine Brothers. “It’s not so much about talking about gory details or the facts; it’s really about starting a conversation. It’s letting people know that help is out there.”

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Carlile’s Wine Brothers will be co-organising opening and closing parties for Movember Hong Kong in collaboration with local fashion start-up Grana, as well as supporting campaign events through the month by sponsoring wine.

“The fact of the matter is that a lot of people will turn to alcohol in times of depression. As a wine company, we feel our social responsibly to make sure people are drinking wine for the right reason – and if they’re not, we need to get them the help they deserve,” says Carlile, a Melbourne native who has lived in Hong Kong for five years. He says all their wine deliveries will come with a Movember information pack this month.

Luke Grana, the Australian founder of Grana, will be one of six well-known Hong Kong personalities who will be shaved clean at the opening party to kick-start their moustache-growing month. “Men don’t typically like to discuss their mental or physical health and it’s an important issue to address to make sure we can raise awareness in a non-confrontational way,” says Grana.

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In 13 years since Movember was founded in Melbourne as a joke among friends to bring the moustache back in fashion, the organisation has funded more than 1,200 men’s health projects around the world. Supporters of the campaign – known as Mo Bros or Mo Sistas – have grown from just 30 in Australia in 2003 to more than 5 million worldwide.

In 2015, the Movember community across 21 countries raised a total of HK$475 million. In Hong Kong alone, there were 1,645 participants in the campaign who raised a total of nearly HK$2.9 million.

Fundraising efforts for Movember Hong Kong already began in October with newly crowned Australian Paralympian of the Year Dylan Alcott delivering a motivational and inspirational talk at the LinkedIn headquarters in Causeway Bay to a sold-out crowd. A total of HK$6,370 was raised.

Last year, Worley’s Movember Crossfit team competition raised more than HK$150,000. This year, the target is HK$200,000. Even if this goal isn’t reached, as long as the Movember message gets across, Worley’s efforts would already be considered a success.

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“What’s important is to recognise that it’s OK to feel down, but what’s essential is to surround yourself with positive and healthy outlets and people,” says Worley. “That way if you ever feel downhearted for whatever reason, you’re able to lean on those pillars of support instead of negative and unhealthy ones.”

Movember events

Tuesday, November 1

Grana x Wine Brothers Movember opening party

The Fitting Room by Grana, 108 Hollywood Rd, Sheung Wan, tel: 2755 8744

An invitation-only shave-down event that will bring together a number of high profile Australian business people and social influencers in Hong Kong, to receive a straight shave and kick off their Movember.

Tuesday, Nov 1, 7pm-10.30pm

PizzaExpress x Movember pop-up store launch party

PizzaExpress, 97 Wellington St, Central, tel: 2562 1088

Open to all, this party offers revellers a clean shave from Gentlemen’s Tonic; a shoeshine from Dr Marten’s, airbrush tattoos by Dee Face paint, a fun photo booth to capture the Mo-meries, and live music by Jing Wong and 3Think. HK$100 per ticket (includes food and a bottle of Mac’s Great White craft beer, all proceeds go to Movember)

Sunday, Nov 13

Mid-mo event at the Best of British Festival by Gentlemen’s Tonic

Tamar Park, Admiralty, bestofbritish.hk

Saturday, Nov 19, 9.30am

Movember Crossfit team competition

CrossFit 9 Dragons, Shop E, Seaview Crescent, 8 Tung Chung Waterfront Rd, Lantau, tel: 2786 9699

Teams of two Mo Bros and 2 Mo Sistas will participate in friendly Crossfit competition at this fundraiser for Movember and the HK Cancer Fund. The event will end with a celebratory barbecue and drinks.

Saturday, Nov 26, 9pm

MOvember shave down party

King’s Belly, Shop C, Mei Fung Building, 6 Wan Tau Kok Lane, Tai Po, tel: 2663 3550

This sports bar’s party will see gentlemen shave their moustaches together.

Wednesday, Nov 30

Shave off at Gentlemen’s Tonic

43-49 Wellington St, Central, tel: 2525 2455

For event updates, see hk.movember.com/events