Big Brothers wants you

Big Brothers needs a little help. Right now the charity doesn't have enough "bigs" to match up with their "littles. There's a waiting list several children long.

Big Brothers needs a little help.

Right now the charity doesn’t have enough “bigs” to match up with their “littles.”

There’s a waiting list several children long, said Harold Sher, the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Yukon.

Last week Sher was hoping to recruit a few more volunteers to fill out the ranks, but it was a disappointing showing at the information meeting.

He had expected seven people, but only two showed up.

For more than 30 years Big Brothers Big Sisters has provided mentorship services for boy and girls in the Yukon.

The national organization has been around for almost a century.

The mentorship services Big Brother Big Sisters offers makes a big difference, said Sher.

“The statistics are overwhelming,” he said. “Even one year of mentorship can have a huge impact on a child’s life.”

That’s something that Aaron Mones has seen first hand.

Five years ago the 31-year-old insurance agent became a Big Brother.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Mones.

One of his friends had grown up without a stable, positive role model.

Seeing the impact that had on his friend’s life, motivated him to become a Big Brother.

“I realized here is a situation where I can make a difference,” he said.

At the time, Mones didn’t have much experience with children and didn’t really know what to expect.

“I was a little worried that his mom would look at it as a babysitting service,” he said.

She didn’t.

“His mom was amazing, for the record,” said Mones. “We actually ended up being pretty good friends.”

The only caveat she placed on the relationship was that the two didn’t just end up playing video games – though that did happen sometimes.

“It was great from the get-go,” he said. “We had an exceptional relationship.”

Mones provided a sounding board, an adult to talk to that wasn’t a parent.

“We’d talk about girls and things that he didn’t want to talk to his mom about,” he said

“Sometimes I couldn’t give him an answer but just to have someone listen is important.”

The relationship wasn’t just a one-way street.

“I got a lot out of it too,” he said. “It kept me young just as much as I helped him grow up.”

Mones isn’t a Big Brother anymore. His “little” moved to Vancouver a few years ago, but they still keep in touch.

Mones even agreed to help him buy his first car when he turns 16 in a few months.

That kind of lifelong friendship isn’t uncommon, said Sher.

“Not all matches work out,” he said. “But a very high percentage do.”

The organization goes through great pains to try to make the matches compatible, said Judy Laird, the mentorship co-ordinator.

Potential mentors have to fill out a questionnaire, provide three references and submit themselves to an RCMP criminal record check.

Then there’s an interview process.

While it is vital that the “big” and the “little” get along, there are other considerations, said Laird.

“Getting the parent or guardian in on the relationship is very important,” she said.

Even after the relationship starts, the organization keeps tabs on the situation.

“We monitor matches closely, especially during the initial stages to see if anything needs to be adjusted,” said Sher.

Big Brothers Big Sisters offers two different types of mentorship programs.

There is the traditional type that Mones took part in, but also a school-based program.

The in-school mentoring program is a little less of a commitment so it’s sometimes a good way for mentors to start, said Laird.

It’s one hour a week and only during the school year. Right now it’s offered to Whitehorse Elementary students in grades three to five

“It builds self esteem and helps them feel a bit more confidant about going to school,” said Laird.

For the regular mentorship programs they ask for a year commitment, but that’s not set in stone, said Sher.

“No one is obliged to stay,” he said. “I can tell you with complete certainly that the impact is positive, but you have to be comfortable.”

Being a Big Brother can be a little awkward at first, said Mones.

“There’s no blueprint for the relationship,” he said. “But it was a great experience.

“Watching him grow up was really cool.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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