The COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting isolation has had an unprecedented impact on Canadians, with many affected on both a personal and financial level.
However, one of the most impacted populations has been youth. With reduced support circles due to separation from peers and increased stress, especially for those who are learning at home, children need reliable and consistent encouragement, and mentorship programs can provide a kind of guidance that can’t always be found elsewhere.
Non-profit organization, Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver, offers free mentorship programs for locals to consider. These programs are designed to introduce a positive role model into a child’s life.
A lot of people have been reconsidering how to use their free time as a result of the ongoing pandemic, and many are turning to volunteer options. Because of this rise in volunteers, Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver is able to help more children get involved with their impactful mentorship programs.
The Big Brother program
The Big Brother program is what the charity is most well known for, which involves two to four hours each week where Big and Little Brothers — who are paired based on location, personal interests, and personality types — spend time together.
This program provides children with a role model and a friend to talk to and share their experiences of growing up. Through regular outings, a friendship is developed between the Big and Little Brother that is built on trust, common interests, and values.
This friendship-based program involves doing a wide range of low or no-cost activities that they both enjoy, from skateboarding to playing soccer.
The results can be life-changing for both the mentor and mentee. Since Big Brother’s is currently looking for Vancouver kids to participate, now is a great time to enroll your child.
“I can’t repay [my big brother] but I can pay it forward. Hopefully, I’ve lived a life of good, of trying to help people,” says one former Little Brother who still maintains contact with his Big Brother after 39 years.
Mentoring with Math
Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver has maintained its mentorship programs by making them virtual. Mentoring with Math is a fun, educational, and virtual way to help children (Grades 3 to 7) grasp math concepts at or below their grade level. Each 90-minute mentoring session is made up of two parts.
Students first work with mentors using the JUMP Math numeracy program to help them understand and foster a love of mathematical concepts, and then interact with each other through games that help solidify these concepts while building peer relationships.
Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver also has opportunities for children to pair up with younger mentors, like with their Teen/Roots Mentoring program. Here, children from grades 1 to 7 are paired with a Teen Mentor in grades 9 to 12 virtually through Zoom for one hour a week during the school year and are further supported by a Mentoring Coordinator.
This is a less academic-based mentorship in which Big and Little Buddies play board games, sports, or just hang out and get to know one another in order. The main purpose is to enhance the Little Buddy’s self-esteem and confidence through a natural connection with their Big Buddy. Alternatively, the In-School Mentoring program follows the same guidelines but supported by an adult, instead of a teen.
Meanwhile, Game On! is a virtual group mentorship program that teaches children how to make informed choices about healthy lifestyle practices. Sessions are structured around four themes (physical activity, healthy eating, self-esteem, and communication skills) and are designed to help children in the pursuit of life-long healthy lifestyles by engaging in emotional health discussions, communication, and developing life skills.
The benefits a mentor has in a child’s life can’t be understated — studies have found that compared to non-mentored youth, those who take advantage of mentorship programs are 98% more likely to believe that they make good life choices, 87% more likely to develop strong social networks, and 17% more likely to be employed.
Curating impactful relationships between Big and Little buddies is a passion for Big Brothers of Vancouver — they’re committed to sparking the potential of as many children as they can. To ensure they do, the organization works with a wide base of volunteers, and children and families from all backgrounds, gender identities, expressions, and sexual orientations.
Getting involved is incredibly simple and could make an unimaginable difference. If having a Big Buddy sounds like something your child or someone you know could benefit from, find out more or start the enrolment process at Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver.
After an information session and family assessment, your child could be on their way to finding a mentor who could become a life-long friend.