Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern BC (BBBSNBC) is extending its arms and programs to embrace the Prince Rupert community in partnership with School District 52, Timothy Bennett, executive director of the northern franchise announced on June 14.
The agency has signed an agreement with SD 52 to provide in-school mentoring programs starting at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.
“Prince Rupert was identified early on as our priority for regional expansion and we are really excited to start matching children …” Bennett said. “We have already been greeted with such hospitality and are looking at building stronger relationships with the community”.
“We are very pleased that Big Brothers Big Sisters Northern BC are expanding to Prince Rupert. The organization has much to offer our community and School District 52 is looking forward to our partnership,” James Horne, Board Chair for SD52 said.
The BBBSNBC organization has been working in Prince George since the late 1970’s Bennett said, with a recent 2019 name change to reflect communities across the north. The Big Brothers Big Sisters agency has worked across the country since 1913.
Historically the agency focussed on serving single-parent families, however, that is just not the case anymore, he said.
“Our whole mandate is to provide proactive mentoring programs to children in need. We work really hard to provide programs that have a low barrier to access,” the executive director said. “We want to make sure that children who need a mentor and get a mentor.”
Bennett said there is no set curriculum for a “Big” and a “Little” – monikers that the participants are referred to as.
“It’s all about a mentor and child hanging out having a good time, doing activities together. That is done either in a one-on-one setting or done with a group,” he said. For example, two mentors may have a group of six youngsters to mentor and engage with. Typically children range in age from seven to 14 for the program happening in Prince Rupert, however their various online program where ages can increase.
The Prince Rupert program is starting at Conrad Elementary where children will be matched with a mentor to meet one hour per week at the school. The child will be excused from class at a time convenient to spend time with their ‘Big”.
“It’s not about academics. It’s about just providing that consistent adult support in the child’s life. They play games, they do crafts. They pick activities that they want to do each week. It’s all about building that positive, consistent relationship,” Bennett said. Once the program is established in Conrad, BBBSNBC will expand strategically in the city to not over-extend itself.
“We’re really hoping that individuals from the community are ready and eager to sign up to get involved as mentors. As well, we will have some children who are going to the events virtually,” Bennett said.
Volunteers will need to have a criminal background screening and be over the age of 18. A pre-match interview will be held virtually as well as a one-and-a-half-hour training session so matches can be made that will be benefit everyone.
“In terms of qualifications, you don’t have to have a set kind of skill set to become a mentor. It’s all about people who have the time and energy to participate in our programming,” he said. “We’re hoping to work over the summer to be able to get matches happening for the start of the school year.”
Prince Rupert resident David Walraven has been appointed to the BBBSNBC board of directors, and to introduce itself to the local community the organization will host its first event this summer. A glow-in-the-dark golf tournament is being arranged for August in partnership with the United Way. More information and details will be forthcoming once finalized, Bennett said.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor or know a child who could be matched, visit www.bigsnbc.ca .
K-J Millar | Journalist
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