What’s in an hour? To some students, everything!
Big Brothers Big Sisters of London and Area is part of a national movement that provides mentoring to children and youth across Canada. Most mentoring happens in people’s homes, parks or places like the Palasad. My story focuses on the school setting.
I am a School Champion of the Big Brothers Big Sisters in-school mentoring program.
Students come from various backgrounds and home settings with their own unique set of needs. For some students, schools can be either a safe haven or a place of stress and chaos. Within our school, students arrive from all over the world. In the last three years, our school has experienced the largest influx of Syrian Newcomers in all of Southwestern Ontario. Many of our students are in various stages of comprehension and verbal expression of the English language.
Every year we seek the assistance of Big Brothers Big Sisters to provide programs that range from one-to-one in-school mentoring to group mentoring programs such as ‘Go Girls!’ and ‘Game On!’. Through these programs, our students gain confidence and knowledge. They also develop a sense of belonging and community within these groups. Students with various background and personal needs are welcomed within the in-school mentoring program. Matches are selected with the students’ needs at the forefront. Numerous times the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors have similar ethnic and cultural backgrounds as the student. This specialized matching helps the students feel comfortable, respected and gives them a sense of inclusion.
I am proud to share a story about one of our mentees who had just arrived from Syria. Her mother was gravely ill. I inquired about an in-school mentor for this student for many reasons. Beth Ann (Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Coordinator) helped to match this student with an Arabic-speaking, older female mentor. At the beginning of this match, the student’s mother passed away. During this match, this student developed a strong connection with her mentor. This connection helped this young student in many ways; being able to feel comfortable in a new country, being able to converse in her own language, having a caring and supportive older female role model to talk to and having a weekly positive outlet to look forward to. Through this match, this student was able to feel comfortable and integrate more confidently into our school.
Our students are excited about meeting with their in-school mentors. It is an hour a week that these students can further develop their social interaction skills while building a friendly rapport with a caring, supportive adult role model. For some students, this caring volunteer may be the only consistent positive relationship they have.
It is through the generous support of Lerners that Big Brothers Big Sisters can continue to provide this valuable service that helps to create happy, productive, civic-minded students. This in turn becomes a huge return, not only for our school, but also for our community.
Learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of London and Area