Celebrating a century of reaching young people

By Adela Talbot
February 07, 2013

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Big Brother SisterAdela Talbot, Western News
Clare Tattersall, manager of career development and career-based learning at Huron University College, said being a big sister helped her focus on what really matters in life.

For a century now, it has facilitated and promoted mentorship in the London community, changing lives in the process. And it’s something the Western community has, and continues, to foster.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of London and Area just wouldn’t be the same without the contribution of members from the Western community, said Matthew Chater, the organization’s director of service delivery and advancement. This year, Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada celebrates its 100th anniversary.

“For us, (the anniversary) is really about looking at these young people who we’ve been able to reach. It’s that we continue to recognize we live in a community of individuals who truly value mentoring and see the value in mentoring. It’s great we’re continuing to cultivate that. We need to continue to inspire individuals to share their learning and share their journeys with young people,” Chater said.

Including both the Go Girls! and Game On mentoring programs, approximately 90-95 per cent of mentors are Western students.

Go Girls! is a seven to 10 week program that aims to shape lives of young women and girls, helping them build a positive self-image; the Game On program, though similar in its goals, is directed toward boys and young men.

The two programs are a good fit for Western students wishing to contribute, Chater said, because they don’t require a year-long commitment like serving as a big brother or sister.

“Without Western, and the investments students are making in the community here – which is not necessarily their community, we wouldn’t be able to do those programs,” Chater said.

With mentoring programs in more than 1,000 communities from coast to coast, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada has served roughly 425,000 children and youth since 1913. This translates to some 112 million volunteer hours provided by members of local communities, roughly 3 million hours each year. The organization employs more than 1,000 people and delivers mentoring programs worth more than $30 million each year.

In 2011, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada provided mentoring services to more than 33,450 young people in Canada, a 9.5 per cent increase from 2009 and a 16 per cent increase since 2008.

The organization is seeking $26 million in funding to continue its services and plans to move forward in mentoring young people across the country.

Student mentors, big brothers and sisters are helping young people see themselves from a strength-based perspective, which helps youth make decisions that will set them on a path of success, Chater said.

“We want to say thanks to the Western community, and for the community to know the success of our organization has been largely in part of their contribution to our organization.”

But it’s not just the lives of the youth that have changed as a result of Western’s involvement. Members of the Western community have also been affected, crediting their involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters for personal growth and meaningful relationships.

Clare Tattersall, manager of career development and career-based learning at Huron University College, said being a big sister helped her focus on what really matters in life.

Matched with her little sister, Courtney, 10 years ago, Tattersall said the pair is still “matched,” even after graduating from the program.

“Courtney is an amazing woman who I completely admire; she has impressed me every single step of the way,” she said.

In a decade, she saw the young girl grow into a young woman, having many ups and downs.

“Being a (big brother or sister), you can be that cheerleader, that support person who can listen to them going through struggles. If you can be there for a period of time, you can help save someone’s life. And you go from trying to be a role model in their life to admiring them for being a role model for others,” Tattersall continued.

“Courtney was at my wedding. She had a baby and asked me to be a support for the delivery – that gives you an indication of the depth of relationships.”

Tattersall said Western students are a perfect fit to volunteer as a mentor or big brother or sister.

“Students are not too far removed from the struggles ‘littles’ will go through. You can give them real advice, support and mentorship. And you get as much from it as you give,” she said.

And Taylor Plumb, a Kinesiology student who has been a big brother for the past two and a half years, agrees.

“It’s a rewarding program. You’re giving back and helping, seeing improvement in one individual and thinking you had some small part in that improvement,” he said. “You get to grow with someone, have someone that cares for you while you care for them.”


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