Stettler Big Brother Big Sisters is encouraging more ‘little sisters’ to check out the programs and consider signing up.
These days, the organization is seeing more Big Sister mentors coming onboard then girls, which isn’t an overly unusual situation, explained Christel Shuckburgh, mentoring coordinator for Stettler’s BBBS.
“We have 14 women who are in the process of becoming mentors, and we have three girls who on the wait-list. And then we have 17 boys on the wait-list, and three men that are in the process,” she explained.
“It’s not unusual. This is always how it has been. I’ve been talking to a few other agencies, and they’ve done recruiting for little sisters in the past. So no, it’s honestly not unusual. I think it’s different things – sometimes males don’t necessarily see themselves in that role, for one thing. Recruiting can also be quite female-based which we are also trying to change,” she added.
Women can tend to also be more naturally nurturing, so they can often more readily see themselves in a mentoring-type role as well.
“I haven’t had this many women signed up before – I also think it’s (partly) because of the pandemic and they are asking how can we help? They may also have more time because they aren’t doing some other extra-curricular activities these days.
“So that’s part of the reason we are seeing more females willing to mentor,” she said.
Still, there are times when a young girl could use a Big Sister in her life.
“Maybe the child is the eldest, and there are a lot of siblings. They just aren’t getting that one-on-one time and they need some extra time – just to have that extra ear.
“Or if parents are going through a divorce, kids can always use an extra listening ear and someone to just be there for them because the parents are going through their own situation,” she explained.
“And sometimes, in a blended family it can be difficult for the kids when they are going through that adjustment, so a mentor can help out then, too. I’m also thinking of some of our in-school kids who may struggle with friendships, or with making friends or with being a friend. Having a mentor can help teach them to be a friend,” she added.
“Sometimes, it’s a situation of the more caring adults in a child’s life, the better,” said Shuckburgh. “That’s what we have always said as an organization.
“And sometimes, there are children that need a lot of extra time. That’s just the way they are – they just need some extra time and attention,” she said. “So mom and dad will identify that as a need.”
Occasionally, a different dynamic within the organization can work as well.
Sometimes, kids are being raised by grandparents so they could benefit from either a male or a female mentor.
“We also do this other arrangement which is really cool, and it’s called a ‘couples’ match. If a couple wants to be matched with a child, or even two children like a brother and a sister, they can do that,” she explained.
“Or they can be matched with just one child – so really it’s like both of them are doing the mentoring,” she said. “We’ve had that in the past couple of years.”
In the meantime, Shuckburgh noted that serving as a mentor during this period of such uncertainty with the pandemic is even more important.
Plus it’s a fulfilling venture.
It’s also a great way to get to know others if you are new to the community.
“When I moved to Stettler, I was 24 and I remember thinking how I didn’t know anybody and that I wasn’t sure how to meet others. I had already wanted to volunteer, so I thought this is perfect! I can meet other big sisters and meet families and mentor, too. So it was really great to get involved with the Youth Centre and meet other like-minded individuals as well.”
For local men considering becoming Big Brothers, there is also a boys group.
“If men would like to check out what it’s like to be a mentor, they can come and be a part of the boys group before they even start mentoring,” she said, adding that the group meets once a month.
“Almost every single mentor, when i ask them about it, they say that they get as much if not more out of the experience as the child does,” she said. “The other thing I hear them say is that they (initially) thought it would have been much harder.
“They thought they’d have to do so much more, or do such specialized things, but really they can just do their regular things with the kids, and it’s totally fine!
“And with almost all of the kids, when I ask them what their favourite thing is, it’s that the (mentors) listen to them. That’s easy – how hard is that? And that’s what they want the most.”
For more information on how to get involved, find the Heartland Youth Centre on Facebook or check out https://stettler.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/