It takes a village to raise a child. But if it includes Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), you’ve got a truly fantastic, caring foundation to work with.
As a community-supported organization dedicated to the healthy development of children and their families, Big Brothers Big Sisters supports numerous families across the country and provides many youth the chance to succeed.
“There’s so much that the agency does,” says Sentsetsa Pilane, Program Development/Newcomer Coach at Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area (*BGCBigs). “As a safe place for kids to receive adult mentorship, they also have the opportunity to go to a place to learn, and most importantly, have fun with other kids.”
Providing a supportive network
Reaching out and creating support networks isn’t always an easy task. For many families new to Canada, their support systems may be far away and a language barrier might prevent easy access to new social groups. BBBS ensures that no person is left behind, whether they’re a child or adult.
“As our newcomer and immigrant families continue to grow, we are honoured to walk alongside of our new neighbours,” says Liz O’Neill, Executive Director, BGCBigs. “By bringing caring adult mentors into these families’ lives, we’re supporting them in this new journey by providing after school programming and support in Edmonton.”
Finding a community partner in Canadian Western Bank
Canadian Western Bank (CWB) understands this mission on a deep level and follows a similar philosophy to BBBS by funding programs and initiatives that contribute to the support of communities and families. It was this similar mindset that drew the initial partnership. Over the last decade, we’ve donated over $2.1 million dollars to its chapters across western Canada.
CWB recently committed $250,000, over three years, to the Edmonton and Calgary BBBS chapters. We also supported BBBS of Canada where we assisted in sending youth to their western and central Canada conferences. Their attendance was important to ensuring their ideas were heard and so BBBS could learn from their experiences.
“We are so grateful to our friends at CWB for empowering us to nurture life-changing mentoring relationships for children and youth in and around Calgary who are facing adversity,” says Karen Orser, President and CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area.
“This partnership is ensuring that young people in our community will have the supportive relationships they need to become resilient and realize their full potential.”
“When you think of organizations that assist kids, your mind automatically goes to Big Brothers Big Sisters,” says Dean Proctor, Calgary Main’s VP & Branch Manager and BBBS board member. “They provide the right resources to ensure our next generation receives the support they need to thrive and excel. This partnership will be the catalyst to many youth’s successful futures and I look forward to seeing the positive impact it has on their development and our communities.”
Having a genuine impact on families
Impact is something that the BBBS understands well.
Not long ago, a family of six, new to Canada, came to the BGCBigs for support. Although anxious at the beginning, the family credits a large part of raising their children in Edmonton to the club. Now, the older children have graduated high school, received scholarships and the younger ones are thriving in their new environment.
“Every penny and every dollar donated or invested to support newcomer and immigrant children and youth is a dollar invested in the future of Canada as they are one of Canada's recognizable growth points,” said Pilane. “They are resilient, hopeful, willing to learn and every effort to help them integrate and optimize their diverse creative potential is a step in enriching our communities.”
Changing lives through mentorship
In Calgary, Joel, an elementary-school aged boy, tragically lost his brother in a gang-related shooting near their home. This traumatic event terrified him, and the rest of his family, resulting in Joel not wanting to leave the house or go to school. One of his teachers referred him to BBBS’ in-school mentoring program and Joel was matched with a positive, caring and confident mentor from CWB.
The change in Joel was almost instantaneous. He still was afraid to come to school, but he never missed a day when there was a planned visit with his mentor. At the end of the school year, he was asked what he felt he learned from his mentor, to which he replied,
“He taught me that no matter how hard things get, never give up.”
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*In 2011, Edmonton's Boys & Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters merged to become one organization.
*Name changed to protect the child’s identity and privacy