Big Brothers Big Sisters looking for volunteers
By: Allison Chorney
| Posted: Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 06:00 am
Big Brothers and Big Sisters (BBBS) needs volunteers to help in the various mentoring programs available in Airdrie.
“It’s just amazing to me,” said In School Mentoring volunteer Kim, whose last name is omitted to protect the privacy of the child she mentors. “One hour a week doesn’t sound like much, but one hour a week after three years – the progress we’ve made is just amazing.”
Each week during the school year, Kim goes to her “Little’s” school to meet with her for an hour.
Kim always brings some kind of activity to the meetings, be it a craft, baking or whatever she thinks her Little will enjoy. However, sometimes Kim and her Little spend the hour simply talking and sharing.
“It’s not like parenting, it’s like grandmothering. You just get to be proud and share,” she said.
Kim joined BBBS In School Mentoring program three years ago because she retired and was looking for a way to give back to the community.
“This was a good fit for me because I like seniors and I like kids,” Kim, a 30-year Airdrie resident, said. “It’s one hour a week. I mean who can’t give one hour a week?”
Once Kim decided she wanted to get involved she underwent an interview with BBBS, a thorough background check and match training.
Kim’s Little was also asked about interests and goals in order to make the right match between mentor and Little.
After the match had been made, Kim and her Little had a supervised first meeting with Cassandra Clem, a satellite program coordinator for BBBS in Airdrie, who helped the pair ask questions and develop a match agreement.
“I can tell when I’m with matches who’s connecting at a heart level and challenging their Little to do more,” Clem said.
She said in the case of Kim and her Little, she has seen the Little grow from someone who downplays her achievements to being proud of what she’s accomplished and “sparkling.” She added the relationship has had a noticeable impact on the girl’s confidence.
“You can tell they’ve had some really great conversations about how to be more confident,” she said.
“It’s heartwarming really. You just get more proud and more connected,” Kim said.
Clem said there are various reasons kids may benefit from having a mentor but more often than not it’s about building relationships, trust and encouragement.
“If I tell her I’m going to be there next week, I’m going to be there next week,” Kim said.
She said being a mentor does not require a large time commitment but allows you to give back in a large way.
“It has affected me because we started as strangers and she has become just one more person I care a lot about,” Kim said.
She added her Little has become someone that is a part of her heart now and that she doesn’t really have to go out of her way to get activities to do together because her Little is always in her mind. If Kim is out and about and sees something she knows her Little will enjoy, she picks it up just like she would for anyone else in her family.
“It’s crazy how rewarding just one hour a week can be,” she said.
BBBS is looking for volunteers to participate in their In School Mentoring, Power Youth Mentoring and their Community-based Mentoring program. The programs ask for a variety of time commitments each week, from one to five hours depending on the program, and are geared towards varying age ranges from six to 18.
“There is a huge need for mentors for the 13 to 18 year olds,” Clem said, adding the waitlist for kids six to 12 is also large.
She said she understands the fear of not knowing what to say or do with a Little but added, “a child may not always remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel.”
“You get to grow with them,” Kim said.
BBBS in Airdrie currently has 32 mentor matches but the goal is 40 by March 31, 2014, Clem said.
“I’m a big believer in ‘It takes a village,’” Kim said. “The demand is much bigger than the resources available.”
For more information, visit www.bbbscalgary.com and click on Mentoring in Airdrie and Area under the Programs tab.
“There’s a need, whatever that need is, and if that need is not being met these kids are at a greater potential to fall through the cracks. If just one kids falls through the crack we all lose,” Kim said.