The village that raises a child: Why mentoring youth matters

LAUREN KLASSEN

Whether a mentor or mentee, the community organization Big Brothers Big Sisters positively impacts the lives of those involved in the program. It also provides a unique opportunity for University of Saskatchewan students who want to help make a difference in Saskatoon.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Saskatoon is an organization that has a variety of community programs that aim to help provide a positive influence in a child’s life. The organization has been in Saskatoon for over 30 years and currently has over 250 children matched with mentors, while Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada has matched over 40,000 children with mentors.

Two programs in particular have proved to be especially beneficial — the Bigs and Littles program and the in-school mentoring program, both of which U of S students can get involved with.big bros

Children in these programs range in age, from six years to 18 years in the Bigs and Littles program, and the in-school mentoring program involves those from grade one to grade eight.

The Bigs and Littles program involves a mentor, who becomes a Big Sister or Big Brother to their mentee, the Little Sister or Little Brother. Mentors take their Little out to enjoy various activities, such as a walk in the park, community events or to the movies.

From sports to the arts, the mentors and mentees choose something they both enjoy doing. This program takes place outside of a school setting, so it is done on the mentees and mentors own time, which they decide on collectively — these activities usually happen once a week. 

The in-school mentoring program involves a mentor visiting a mentee for one hour each week at their elementary school.

During this hour, mentors and mentees can spend time together doing activities similar to the Big and Littles program, but, all activities take place within the elementary school. The activities can range from board games, arts and crafts, sports, baking, reading and various other options in which the mentor and mentee decide upon.

These programs are beneficial to those on both sides of the experience. For the children involved in this program, it provides them with a supportive and encouraging figure and friend who can help them engage with life in a positive manner. Having a mentor may even give the child a reason to look forward to attending school.

Anastasia Hauser, second-year english student and Big Brother Big Sister mentor, explained to the Sheaf how being a mentor benefits her personally.

“It gives me time to unwind. I end up doing activities like drawing and painting for an hour a week that I wouldn’t normally set aside for myself. It also helps me to prepare for my future career in teaching. It gives me a bit of perspective on my own life and the problems that I face,” Hauser said.

The program is a great way for U of S students to gain volunteer experience while getting involved in the community.

Students who are concerned that volunteering may interfere with their studies should be aware that in-school mentoring takes very little time out of a university student’s schedule, as the program is devised around the mentor’s availability.

The team behind the organization is understanding towards students’ academic situations, particularly crunch time when it comes to final exams.

There is a dire need for volunteers in these programs, especially for the Big and Little program — as boys must currently wait two to three years before being matched with a Big Brother.

For more information on volunteer opportunities with Big Brothers Big Sisters, check out their website at bbbssaskatoon.org.

Image: Laura Underwood / Layout Manager