For an hour every week, students in 100 Mile spend time with a mentor, playing games, baking or talking.
It’s part of the in-school mentorship program run by Big Brothers Big Sisters South Cariboo.
The program is in its third year and Kira Thomas, mentoring co-ordinator, is hoping to expand that program, as well as bring new mentorship programs to the South Cariboo this year.
“It’s an opportunity for a child to have 100 per cent of someone’s attention on them, to build on their interests and their activities that they want to do, talk, just a safe adult to talk to without judgment or parental involvement. Just that safe community person to share their life with. Maybe there are gaps at home or in the family or they are having trouble at school,” says Thomas.
Mentoring is linked to improvements in many different aspects in a child’s life, including socially and academically, she says.
She’s hoping to start a more traditional community mentoring program, where adults from the community are paired with children in need outside of school times, as well as an eight-week group mentorship after-school program focusing on active living, balanced eating, and positive self-esteem, to be lead by young adults.
As a result, she’s looking for new volunteers in the community, for any of the three programs.
“All of these programs are reliant on volunteers, so I’m actively seeking out a broad type of volunteer bases. So ultimately, anyone in the community interested in volunteering, to be a positive role model and have a really rewarding impact on a child’s well being.”
She says it’s a win-win for both the children and the volunteers.
“It’s such a rewarding experience to have them open up and share something with you that they wouldn’t share with other people in their lives. A really great thing to have happen as well is you get to see their change throughout the year,” she says.
“They may be shy and have some social challenges but by the end of the year, or by the end of the group, you see them really thrive and connect with others so that’s really really rewarding.”
Volunteers for the in-school mentoring program just spend time hanging out with the volunteers.
“As a mentoring co-ordinator, now when I check in with the mentees it’s also a really great feeling to see and hear from them that they are having fun, they are doing activities that they like. They think their volunteer is like a big sister. They feel safe with them, they have fun with them, you can see on their faces that it makes a huge difference in their lives as a whole, as well as every week they are looking forward to them coming and seeing them.”
Courtney Cave is a secondary school student who has been a mentor since the program’s debut. She says she enjoyed watching the change in confidence in her mentee.
“It’s just something that I really enjoy and it’s a lot of fun and it makes me feel good that I made someone’s day.”
Debbie Manweiler is a community volunteer who drives into town to see her Grade 1 mentee on a weekly basis.
“It keeps me active when I’m hanging out with her and it helps me mentally,” she says. “It makes me feel good to know that hopefully, I’ll be able to help steer this kid in the right direction when she comes across adversity.”
She hopes to stick with her mentee as the child goes through school.
“It’s so worth your time.”
Thomas says that due to the situations faced by those in the South Cariboo, this year it looks to be a slow start to the year, she says she’s always open to hearing from volunteers of all ages. While she says they welcome anyone to come volunteer, they’re on the particular lookout for positive male role models.
Volunteers will go through an interview and a record check, as well as a short training, before being placed with a mentee.
For more information on volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters check out their website at www.bbswlake.com, their Facebook page at Big Brothers Big Sisters South Cariboo, or contact Thomas directly at kira.thom as@bigbrothersbig sisters.ca or 250-395-5155.
“I think anyone in general, whether you are at risk or not, could always benefit from some one on one time. It’s so simple and yet has such a positive and a huge difference,” says Thomas.