Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kincardine expanding to include Brockton, South Bruce

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Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Kincardine is expanding to include all of southern Bruce County, including South Bruce and Brockton.

“It came out of necessity,” said Yolanda Ritsema, executive director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Kincardine.

Ritsema explained that no one was looking after the Brockton and South Bruce area, while calls kept coming in looking for help.

“We were in a position to expand,” she said.

The decision was made to go ahead during the summer.

September is Big Brothers Big Sisters Month, and Ritsema said a campaign is underway to get 30 mentors in 30 days.

This will be vital to the success of the program – one-to-one mentoring across the entire area.

In addition, there’ll be an in-school pilot program offered in Kincardine, which Ritsema said she hopes to expand to the rest of the area.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program provides the kind of mentoring that can make such a difference in a child’s life.

Ritsema asks people to think back to when they were young, to the mentors in their own life who were there to help. And she asks them to consider doing the same for a young person.

The COVID-19 situation has added a lot of stress to everyone’s life, and right now, “it’s a toxic stressor for all young people,” Ritsema said.

“All it takes is one hour a week to make a difference,” she said.

Mentors are asked to commit to one year. There are already five matches in Brockton and South Bruce.

Ritsema explained that effort is taken to match a youngster and adult mentor according to common interests. Someone who likes hiking and outdoor activities will be matched with a “Little” who enjoys similar things. That one hour a week could be spent on local trails and in parks. There are “Big” and “Little” matches where the common interest is cooking – they might bake cookies together. Where art is the common interest, there can be visits to a gallery or taking a sketch book to a park.

It’s a matter of being a caring adult with whom a child can share a friendship.

It helps the child become more confident, and better able to build social connections. And it’s equally rewarding for the mentor.

Ritsema said two special information sessions are being held for people interested in learning more about becoming a mentor. “Bigs 101” is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 27 and Wednesday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m. Both sessions will be virtual. Contact Ritsema at yolanda.ritsema@bigbrothersbigsisters.ca.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada’s website states the organization is a “no-cost community program for young people who can benefit from an additional relationship with an adult.”

Many families of Little Brothers and Little Sisters live with financial stress including precarious employment, single income with many dependents, and more. As stated on the website, often, extracurricular programs, tutoring or counselling do not fit within the household budget.

“Our programs have been provided at no cost to families for over 100 years … we believe all young people deserve access to personalized, supportive skill-building opportunities and our Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors provide just that.”

Families enroll their children in Big Brothers Big Sisters programs for many reasons, but in general, because they recognize that their children have less access to opportunities and face barriers to potential success.

Some live in areas where they’re exposed to violence, or are victims of bullying. Some are socially isolated, or their caregiver cannot be fully present when needed.

An adult mentor can make all the difference in the world to a child by expanding possibilities, expressing care and providing support.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times

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