Big Brothers Big Sisters changes lives… and right now, they’re looking for mentors to help lead children to a rewarding future.
Kate McKenzie is Director of Engagement and Enterprise at Big Brothers Big Sisters. She explains that the organization matches children and youth who are facing adversity, with a caring mentor.
“Sometimes those challenges could include family separation, experiencing bullying, mental health issues, or financial stress that could be linked to poverty,” shares McKenzie. “Any of these might be overwhelming for a child, and having a consistent adult in their life can help them become more resilient.”
At Big Brothers Big Sisters, they see children facing many challenges, who when matched with a mentor, are able to overcome some of that adversity.
“I think of this incredible young woman who recently performed at our Big Brunch,” reflects McKenzie. “She was one of our Little Sisters and was matched with a mentor when she was quite young and overcame various adversity pieces. Even from a young age, it was apparent that she had this skill for music, so her mentor encouraged that in her. She's gone on to record albums and has become a professional musician. Today she’s studying Education at Mount Royal -- taking everything she's learned through music and through her time being mentored, to now make a difference for other youth. That's one example of a young woman whose life has been changed by having a mentor.”
Right now, Big Brothers Big Sisters are seeking mentors for their in-school programs at two schools in Airdrie: A.E. Bowers which is K-5, and Ecole Airdrie Middle School which is 6- 8.
McKenzie explains what happens when someone becomes a Big Brother or Big Sister and is matched with a youth at a school.
“When new mentors join us, they're never alone in that situation. We always have a mentoring coordinator on site with them, providing them with training and support.”
She says that their time together always begins with reading and helping kids improve their literacy skills.
“Just being able to read a book with someone who's not a teacher, exploring the joy of reading. We also provide games and other activities for the mentor to do with their mentee, so they can start building that positive relationship.”
McKenzie adds that people sometimes have concerns about becoming a mentor, wondering about the time commitment, and whether they would even be good enough to become a mentor. She puts these concerns to rest.
“It takes as little as one hour a week to make a difference in a kid's life,” she reveals. “And we're not looking for people who are perfect. We're looking for people who are persistent. We're looking for folks who want to keep showing up for a kid and to make a difference for them.”
“It doesn't take a lot to make a huge difference for youth in Airdrie. It's that one hour and it's showing up and being consistent. In fact, if you've had to overcome obstacles in your own life, you'll make a great mentor because you'll be able to relate to some of the things our kids are going through.”
The benefits of volunteering as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters are many, shares McKenzie.
“Many folks are surprised at what a big difference being a mentor has made in their own life. We hear from our mentors that it increases their motivation, it gives them a sense of fulfilment, and allows them to feel connected to their community. A large part of that is because they get to reconnect with what it's like to be a child. They get to explore, play, be creative, and just enjoy the best parts of life.”
McKenzie notes that many companies encourage employees to volunteer and even provide time during work hours to do so or will match their volunteer hours with a monetary donation.
“It's worth checking to see if your company would support you in volunteering with Big Brothers, Big Sisters!” To learn more about becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, visit https://icanmentor.org/airdrie.
In response to Canada's Online News Act and Meta (Facebook and Instagram) removing access to local news from their platforms, DiscoverAirdrie encourages you to get your news directly from your trusted source by bookmarking this page and downloading the DiscoverAirdrie app. You can scan the QR code to download it.