John Gooding (left) has been a Big Brother for 15 years

John Gooding (left) has been a Big Brother for 15 years

Big Brother/Big Sister matches make lifelong difference for kids

Sharing your life with a child through Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) has many rewards for adults, children and teens.

Sharing your life with a child through Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) has been proven to provide satisfaction and enjoyment for kids, adults and teens.

BBBS is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and Williams Lake executive director Lorraine Levitt says that a big thank you goes out to two ‘Bigs’ who have been volunteers for 15 years.

“We owe so much to volunteers like Jen Clark and John Gooding,” she says. “Volunteer continuity is a gift: studies show that the longer the match, the greater impact it has on the child and the higher the outcomes.”

From Grade 3 to the end of high school kids go through a number of significant changes, says Lorraine, who adds that with a Big Brother or Sister, kids have another source of support—someone who enjoys a personal relationship with them.

She says that BBBS has kids on a list waiting for a special adult in their lives as a Big Brother or Big Sister. “This is where adults spend time with a child in the community. You incorporate a child into your life, spending a few hours a month for a year with them,” she says.

“It can be as simple as washing the car, renting movies or going for a hike.”

Levitt has been with BBBS for 25 years, from the time it was a two-drawer filing cabinet under the basement stairs to a store-front building with a staff and approximately 200 volunteers—something she calls “an amazing journey.”

She said that opportunities for making a difference in the life of a child include in-school mentoring, and that BBBS is in great need of adults who can share an hour a week in an elementary school for the 10-month school term. “They spend an hour doing fun recreational activities with a kid: games, crafts or kicking a soccer ball. It’s building a relationship with kids based on having fun,” she explained.

“The children are chosen by school personnel—kids who are on the brink of success, and who need extra support and encouragement to help them achieve their full potential.”

There is a room in each elementary school set aside for BBBS ‘matches’ with games, books and craft supplies available.

She said that you don’t have to have prior experience or intensive training to be an in-school mentor an hour a week.

“We give you some tools and we match you on a compatibility basis so that the adult and the child enjoy the same types of activities. We also provide match support throughout the year, ensuring that it’s a positive experience for everyone,” she continued.

“In-school mentoring takes place during school hours and can be arranged to suit your work schedule. Many organizations allow staff paid time for this time with a kid: it’s a great way for a business to support the future of kids in our community.”

Big Brothers and Big Sisters has developed a vital program in enhancing the lives of students, according to one Nesika Elementary School counsellor. “It is amazingly simple yet drastically effective–the bond between a positive volunteer and a younger child. We see the benefits of this through the unique opportunity that this program provides. Students’ self-esteem and confidence increase. The children are happier and develop a healthy connection to the school. In many cases it becomes the child’s highlight of their day.  We see children start to make positive choices and to develop stronger social skills.”

Of all of the programs that come and go in public schools, the In School Mentoring Program has one of the longest lasting positive effects for the kids who participate in it, a Cataline Elementary School counsellor explained.

The counsellor saus Kids still talk about their mentors years after the match has finished, and I have a continual flow of kids to my office asking if they, too, can get a mentor.

“We have had mentors from ages 15 to 80-plus, with all levels of experiences and interests,” Levitt says.

“All you need is an interest in making a difference in the life of a child.”

For more information about BBBS programs, phone 250-398-8391, visit www.bbswlake.com or email lorraine.levitt@bigbrothersbigsisters.ca

 

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