Emily and Rebecca

Emily met Rebecca met when she was in her first year at Niagara College, in 2008. Rebecca had been on the wait list for quite some time, because of a listed allergy to pet dander. Emily didn’t have any pets so once she completed her application, she was matched up with her immediately.

“Rebecca and I were a great match from the start. She was very quiet, but over time, we developed a great friendship and mutually enjoyed our time together.  By the end, I was happy to be able to have frank conversations with her about each other. While it was a mentorship relationship, it was also important to me to show Rebecca the importance of being a good friend, as well.” says Emily.

“We did all kinds of stuff together. We were both active and up for anything, but also we are realistic with timeliness and the busyness of our lives. Meeting up every week ranged from simply coming over for dinner and hanging out for a bit, to going biking, rollerblading, bowling, swimming and more.  Though Rebecca was tentative, she was also a great sport, and was willing to try anything, after her mother or I could coax her into it :)” continues Emily.

Their memories together are fond.

“I appreciated how great my family was with Rebecca, and how they were able to build a relationship with her as well. I remember having her over for dinner at my parents which was fun. I remember her climbing a tree in my parent’s backyard and not realizing how quickly she could climb. Next thing I knew, we were calmly trying to tell her to make her way down the tree.”

Rebecca believes mentorship matters because it provides another role model for children.

“Some kids need that, not necessarily because they are in a bad situation in their family, but because they don’t naturally find themselves in a broad community. Mentoring, specifically with Big Brothers Big Sisters expands a child’s world, giving them exposure to more people, different perspectives and different opportunities that they might not have otherwise. It enhances a child’s perspective to hear from others and have positive role models to consider when developing their character, personality and life choices.”

“Volunteering is important for the exact same reasons. It expands your exposure and broadens horizons.  That is why I have always loved volunteering.  It allows you to connect with people you would not have otherwise.  This was one of the ways I did that and was very glad I did. It is a powerful program with great results. I was honoured to be a part of Rebecca’s life for those few years and invited into their family. I will never forget that.”

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Cally: A Story of Strength and Resilience

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”.

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The Founding of the Agency

The year is 1937. The population of Canada is 11,045,000, and the population of St. Catharines in 25,000. The cost of bread is .09 cents per loaf – the cost of gas is .10 cents per gallon! Talk about the good old days…

Our agency was officially formed on Tuesday, May 18th, 1937. A little over a week later, on Friday, May 28th, Judge George Stanbury calls a meeting that would alter the future of St. Catharines. At his Chambers in the Court House, Stanbury would welcome various appointees from Service Clubs, Fraternal Societies and all other formal organizations of men to propose the Big Brothers Movement in St. Catharines, Ontario. On that day, our agency was born.

The founding members of the organization would be Judge George Stanbury and Ellis Jones. That year, there were 24 cases and 3 were given to other institutions.

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Charles and Davin

We sat down with Charles, Davin and Davin’s mother, Melissa, to discuss their bond and why mentoring matters. Charles and Davin have only been matched for a little over a year, but you wouldn’t know that by the way they’ve bonded in such a short time.

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