September 24th, 2021
Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Island (BBBSWI) is issuing a follow up statement today to emphasize the current need for male volunteers in the West Island community, and the impact this lack of male mentors has had on their agency, in particular for the children on their wait list. As a result, the organization has decided to take action and officially launch a second wave of their male volunteer recruitment campaign.
The need for male mentors at Big Brothers Big Sisters West Island is an ongoing reality, as their current wait list holds 25 male youth awaiting mentorship. The majority of these boys have been on their waitlist for over a year now, with some having been on it for 2 years. The request for male volunteers comes not only from agency staff but, more importantly, from the youth themselves. Katrina Starr Caseworker at Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Island highlights this need, explaining that: “despite all that we do to recruit Big Brothers, there are simply never enough to go around. It’s been proved time and time again that mentorship changes lives. Our hopes are that, through joining this program, more men realize that they can help re-write the stories of a lot of these little boys. In such uncertain times, these kids need something and someone to believe in.”
As youth in the West Island Community continue the transition back to school, and learn how to navigate their new “normal” amidst the fear of the ongoing Delta variant, mentorship can provide them extra support during this crucial time. “As close to one million elementary and high school children prepared to go back to school, many Quebecers are simultaneously relieved their children are embarking on a relative return to normal, and deeply worried about exposing their children and themselves as cases surge before classes had even begun and the frighteningly contagious Delta variant inexorably becomes the dominant strain.’’ [The Montreal Gazette, https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/return-to-school-amid-covid-19-again-brings-mix-of-anxiety-and-hope]
Parents are overwhelmed and worried for the safety of their children; this causes barriers for children to open up about their own anxieties in order to not add more to their parents list of worries. “COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress, fear, and worry for many families. Worries about sickness, finances, and isolation, coping with grief from loss, and having less outside help has made parenting more stressful. Many families report increased behavior problems in their children, including anxiety and acting out’’ [CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/features/COVID-19-helping-children-transition-back-to-school.html]. Having a Big Brother or Sister can help relieve stressors in youth, and provide additional resources to champion their mental health and well-being throughout the school year. However, in order to ensure the children on our wait list receive the additional support they need to reach their full potential during these trying times, we need more male role models willing to step up.
Current Big Brother Nitin describes mentoring as “providing [a youth] with guidance, and to help steer them towards a path they want to be going down.’’ He encourages others to sign up, stating the benefits of the experience: “Besides the obvious reasons of just helping kids, this creates patience. It allows you to have a broader mindset, and become adaptable because you’ll never know why these kids are in the program or what challenges they may face. You’ll experience personal growth.’’
Ashley Tillotson, Fundraising and Outreach Coordinator
Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Island
Video link – https://youtu.be/Ffs_A7FCjQg