At very young ages, Cally and her sister lived with their mother and her boyfriend. They both looked to mom’s boyfriend, Brian, as a father figure since both of their real fathers were never a part of their lives. When Cally was only 7, her and her sister were removed from their home. Cally and her sister were placed in foster care and were only allowed to visit their mother once a week for a few hours. Brian never came to these visits. The relationship between the girls, their mother, and Brian became especially strained as it felt like their mother and Brian were no longer a part of the girls’ lives. Moving from foster home to foster home proved to be too much for Cally’s sister, and she began to run away over the course of the next year until she was separated from Cally and moved to a group home in another city. This meant that Cally’s sister was no longer able to attend family visitations and the sisters lost contact over time as they saw each other less and less. Cally explained that she “felt all alone, like I was slowly losing the people I cared most about, so I put all of my focus on school. School remained one of the only constants in my life, and I knew for sure it would always be there”.
After 3 years in foster care, Brian’s parents decided to take action and fight for custody since they had been a part of her life from a very young age. Cally disclosed that if they had not taken her in, she would have been moved to another foster home, with the possibility of never seeing her family ever again. It was not an easy transition by any means, since she had to start over and settle in with a new family again when she was just finding some stability in her life. Shortly after, her grandfather, “who was the biggest role model in [her] life at the time” was diagnosed with, and later died from cancer. This was a devastating loss to Cally, but she kept busy with school and pushed forward. Cally expressed that she “had lost control over most things in [her] life, and daily stresses were increasing.” She felt that she had every reason to give up. As she started to face more personal and family challenges, she began to feel depressed and as though her life revolved around her anxiety and panic disorder. She revealed that “every time I got upset there was an elephant on my chest, and my throat felt like it was closing, like I was suffocating”. Always moving didn’t allow for peer support, and Cally felt abandoned and alone.
Cally decided to get a Big Sister which “didn’t seem like a big deal, but without her there this whole time, I wouldn’t be here today”. Cally expressed her gratitude for her Big Sister, Leah. “She may not know it, but she means the world to me. She has been my inspiration, and my motivation. But most importantly, she has been my saviour”. Cally looks up to her Big Sister and when she wants to give up, she thinks about her and how she has been doing amazing things like traveling, finishing school, and moving up in life. Cally sees her work hard for what she wants and sees her struggle and then persevere.
Cally confirmed that “it is because of friendships like mine and Leah’s that I hope Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Go Girls! will continue. They gave me happiness in the saddest of times, and they gave me hope. Big Brothers Big Sisters can help other girls like me find a safe space with mentors they trust and friends they can talk to. I want others to be able to have someone like this in their lives, who they can look up to just like I do. With these programs (designed especially for young girls), I believe the lives of many other young girls can also be changed.
With Big Brothers Big Sisters programs, come amazing opportunities. Through BBBS, Cally had applied too and was awarded the CIBC scholarship worth $38,000. This opportunity was available to all littles in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program across Canada. “I will be able to do so much more with my life. I will be able to go so much farther than I would be able to without the scholarship. If these programs didn’t exist, I would have never had this chance.” she announced.
Cally recognized her Big Sister’s role in her successes by saying “that without the presence of my big sister in my life, I might not have been able to excel as greatly as I have today. She has been a tremendous role model and a true constant in my life, which is something I’ve always needed”.