Big Brothers and Big Sisters has been operating in Red Deer since 1976 and has been matching adults and children in meaningful relationships ever since.
David Murphy, executive director of BBBS of Red Deer and District, said the program is meant to help kids reach their goals and develop confidence and self-esteem.
“The mentoring program really works towards building up kids’ resiliency when they are challenged. We do it in a fun way where the adults and children are spending time together doing things they’re both interested in.”
BBBS is always looking for mentors and Murphy said there are currently about 30 kids on a wait list looking for their adult matches.
The idea is to have an hour or two each week for the pairs to spend together.
“We know that the more time they spend together, the bigger the impact. It’s not a lot of time and it doesn’t cost anything.”
Murphy said BBBS can sometimes provide passes to events for the pairs including hockey games, movies and other local attractions that they might be interested in.
“The program is really a win-win situation. It’s not just the child or adult that gets something out of it, they both benefit.”
Murphy said some of the adults enjoy getting to be a ‘kid’ again and taking part in things that they might not otherwise participate in on their own.
“We don’t ask our adults to be another parent, it’s just a matter of being a friend and helping the child or youth be what they want to be.”
Pairs are also invited to be a mentor team to a child and Murphy said it can act as a bonding experience. It can also provide the child or youth with another point of view as well as a sounding board for any issues they may have.
Mentors have to be at least 18 and Murphy said a one-year commitment is ideal, but a longer commitment is better.
“It’s tough if kids go through the application process and then six months down the road the match doesn’t work out.”
Mentorship can make a huge difference in the lives of youth and Murphy said BBBS works towards having children and youth transition successfully into adults.
“We’re creating opportunities for kids to be successful. The more positive relationships children and youth have, the more successful they will be as adults.”
BBBS provides support to the mentors throughout the program whether it is answers on how to deal with problems or ideas for fun outings and ways to spend time with their match.
Murphy said a lot of people who have been matched with their youth for a long period of time see the growth in the child as well as a change in them in ways they deal with problem-solving and interpersonal relationships.
“People end up feeling really good about themselves and they feel connected. Plus, they’ve met someone new.”