Encouraging folks to sign up with Big Brothers and Big Sisters is of course a year-long initiative, but in September the goal is that much more emphasized.
This month is Big Brothers Big Sisters month across Canada, and the local branch is working to build awareness about the tremendous difference a mentor can make in a young person’s life.
Christel Shuckburgh, mentoring coordinator for Stettler’s BBBS, noted that serving as a mentor during this period of such uncertainty with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is even more important.
“This is a September like no other. The kids are going back to school and trying to figure out that whole thing that they haven’t done for six months. Even with the socializing, it’s something that they have to get used to again, so I think having a mentor is a really big part of that – helping them to recover from that isolation,” she explained.
“We tried also to keep our matches connected virtually during that time as well, and then we did go back to person-to-person matches at the end of June,” she added. “That was nice, because it meant that through the summer they were able to connect with their mentors.”
Shuckburgh added that one of the concerns these days are with mental health issues. “Right now, lots of people are reporting that so mentoring can help with standing in the gap, and also help people with that issue, too. We want to have more mentors because there are probably more kids with mental health issues than ever before,” she said, adding that currently, there are 20 kids on the wait list.
There is typically much more of a need for male mentors, too.
“So we are always looking for mentors, but this is a month where we want to celebrate Big Brothers Big Sisters and we also want to raise awareness for the need that still exists for mentors – now more than ever,” she added.
“Definitely, I have more Big Brothers than I have ever had, and that’s very exciting! And I’ve had a few more put in applications lately, and I think that’s due to COVID – people have been looking for ways that they could help – so that is really exciting,” she said, adding that Sept. 18th is the official Big Brothers Big Sisters Day.
“We are just getting the word out there and letting people know that Big Brothers Big Sisters exists in our community, and that we are also here to help support kids’ mental health and families’ mental health – and we have been here the whole time doing that,” she said. “So that is really important.”
Looking ahead, the Heartland Youth Centre will be launching various sorts of programming this year – and parents can sign up for that on Sept. 16th online.
“We will have a link for them to sign up on our Facebook page,” she added.
She also noted that due to the pandemic, the Centre was forced to cancel its annual auction this year.
“Instead, we are doing an online auction which will run October 6th to 8th,” she said.
For the ‘HYC Awesome Bids for Kids – COVID Edition’, items will be added as donations are received. Folks are encouraged to bid online and support local youth.
The online auction will be held at https://www. 32auctions.com/HYCAuction2020
Meanwhile, the in-school mentoring program isn’t in place these days.
“Volunteers aren’t able to be in the schools right now, but we have figured out a way to do that onsite – so we will still be offering our programs at the Youth Centre,” she said.
“We’ve also switched a couple of our in-school matches over to community matches, so that’s good as well,” she said.
For those opting to sign up as a mentor, the rewards are plentiful.
“I always ask what keeps them going and what they like about it, and they say they just have so much fun, and they also didn’t realize that it was going to be this easy,” she said.
“They also say that they feel they get as much of a reward out of it as the youth get, if not more.
“And what I do hear from the kids mostly is that their mentor is like their best friend – so that is great!”
Shuckburgh pointed out that, in general, there is flexibility for folks looking to get involved as a mentor.
The community-based program is two to four hours per week. Anyone 18 and up can be a Big Brother or Big Sister.
“It’s about imparting what you know to a kid. We are very flexible – and we also have a ‘couples match’ where a couple can mentor a child together.”
Since 1913, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been matching children and youth with role models. In Stettler, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been operating since 1985.
“We are still going strong and still accepting applications for mentors.”
For more information, find the Heartland Youth Centre on Facebook or check out https://stettler.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/