The local Big Brothers Big Sisters program may have changed its office location, but programming will remain the same as mentoring coordinator Kira Thomas steps away from her role to prepare for the arrival of her first child, welcoming Marilia Vieira into the position. Raven Nyman photo.

Big Brothers Big Sisters find new home at Raven Youth Activity Centre

‘Nothing is changing in terms of programming’

The local Big Brothers Big Sisters may have changed its office location, but programming will remain the same as mentoring coordinator Kira Thomas steps away from her role to prepare for the arrival of her first child, welcoming Marilia Vieira into the position.

Thomas has been the mentoring coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters South Cariboo since the in-school mentoring program kicked off in 100 Mile House to foster connection and community engagement in the lives of young people.

Vieira will be the new mentoring coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters. She was born and raised in 100 Mile House, and gained her education at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops before returning to settle in the South Cariboo with her partner. Vieira is excited about her new role and has past experience in Early Childhood Education.

“It’s a good community program,” she said of Big Brothers Big Sisters. “It helps families that need that support with their children. Having outside, big-kids to look up to is always a good thing for younger folks.”

Currently, Thomas and Vieira have been working together to ensure that Vieira is properly prepared for her new position. They will continue working through the training process together until they both feel comfortable that Thomas can safely step away from the role, which she anticipates will happen by month’s end.

“Nothing is changing in terms of programming,” promised Thomas. “Our community match program and our in-school mentoring program will continue as it has for the last four years. We don’t anticipate any changes there, but there are some changes in terms of staffing and location.”

The new office location for Big Brothers Big Sisters is inside the Raven Youth Activity Centre, at 372 Taylor Way.

Thomas said that it was a natural time for the organization to transition as she prepares to step back from her role.

“The Raven Youth Activity Centre (RYAC) is a part of the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre (CFEC) and everyone felt it was a great fit for the Big Brothers office to relocate here, as RYAC is about youth programming, so it’s a natural fit.”

Related: CIBC barbecue raises $441.35 for B.C. Children’s Hospital and local Big Brothers Big Sisters

From the beginning, CFEC has been instrumental in supporting the local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter, said Thomas.

“They’ve supported us with office space, admin support, and things like that. Now, they’re opening this space to us.”

On average, there are about 20 to 30 elementary and high-school students participating in the programs.

“The in-school mentoring program pairs elementary school students with, generally speaking, high-school students, in a mentoring relationship that takes place at the elementary school during school time,” explained Thomas. “They work on social skills, building self-confidence, self-esteem, and just being a positive role model and someone that they can talk to and hang out with one-on-one.”

The community matches are a bit more personal and long-term.

“That’s [when children are] paired with an adult that goes through quite a rigorous screening process. They participate in community activities, activities in the volunteer’s home, things like that, and build a more supportive, long-lasting friendship.”

Children who participate in the programs offered by Big Brothers Big Sisters come from a variety of different families.

“Whether that be single-parent families, new to the community, or maybe families with multiple children, or children that are already leaders but could benefit from some better encouragement as they make the transition to high-school.”

Internal referrals for students come from the school but students can also be referred to participate by their parents.

“This year will be my first year that I have a volunteer for three straight years with the same men-tee matched at the elementary school, so that’s a really great milestone to have,” said Thomas. “Considering the program is four years old, this would be the time that those milestones start happening.”

Thomas was hired to start the satellite office of Big Brothers Big Sisters South Cariboo four years ago. Stepping away has been a tough choice, but she’s confident that Vieira will help the programs continue to succeed.

“These programs are very near and dear to my heart, I’ve put a lot of work into establishing them and they’ve thrived,” said Thomas. “It’s been an honour to work and connect with everyone, all working together to contribute to the well-being of children and youth.”

She noted that in addition to the local changes, Big Brothers Big Sisters has launched a new brand campaign on a national scale. Over the next year or so, local branches will be at work to role out those new logos and imaging.

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