Judith and Kiera

“3 years ago I was googling some possible volunteer opportunities that I could be a part of. After looking through a myriad of websites Big Brothers Big Sisters captured my attention.” says Big Sister, Judith.

“I came into this organization with an open heart, mind and with the intention of volunteering my time and making a difference in a child’s life. BBBS left more of an impact on my life. It taught me time management skills, planning skills and most of all patience.” she continued.

“Dealing with your lil mentee that you are paired up with can be very challenging, but rest assured that it is all fun at the same time. Your social worker will work tirelessly to make sure that the match is perfect. Simply seeing the smile on my Little’s face at the annual Christmas party made me feel that I was doing something right. The past three years with BBBS was life-changing and the best volunteer experience I have ever invested in.” continued Judith.

“When I was first paired with my Little she was very shy and reserved. Now today I can that her self-esteem shines through the books we read together, her speech and overall school experience.”

Lucas and Matt

The following story is credit of Molly Harding, Advertising features writer with the St. Catharines Standard.

At 10 years old, Lucas is a bright and friendly young lad, eager to talk and with a ready smile that’s contagious. Yet this is not how he’s been for the last three years, he says.

“I’ve been sad and not comfortable, and I haven’t done well in school.”

His words were echoes by his mom, Miranda, who became a single mom three years ago and said she has been really worried about Lucas ever since. It has been tough on her son, without male companionship, she says. He’s been unhappy so much, hasn’t wanted to interact with his buddies and has lost interest in school.

“He has needed someone to talk to, someone to take him places” – “and do guy stuff” her son added. What changed?

Matt Dagenais came into their lives. Six months ago, Matt became a Big Brothers with Lucas as his Little Brother. And it has made a significant difference in the lives of both Lucas and his mom.

Miranda has no idea how to help her young son, until she heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters St. Catharines, Thorold & District from a friend, who suggested she look into it.

“It was so easy,” she says. “We went to Big Brothers and talked to them, then had an assessment done. It took a month before they found a Big Brother. Then Matt became Lucas’ Big Brother, and he has been a different boy. Matt is fun, he takes him out every week, and they do things together. And since they have had this relationship, Lucas is doing much better at school.

Lucas tells it this way:

“I can do guy stuff with Matt. I call him Dude or Bro, and he takes me places on Saturdays. We’ve been to Happy Rolf’s and Clifton Hill. We went to Ripley’s Museum and to the moving theatre. And today we;re going to the Pumpkin Patch.”

“Matt and I play tennis – look, there’s my raquet over there. I like to skateboard – I’m just learning, though – and I do cross-country and play soccer. And I have a basketball net, I also collect rocks. It’s nice to be able to do things with my bro. And I can talk to him about anything.”

About girls and stuff?

“Yeah, maybe,” he grins.

Matt tells it this way:

“I’m in my second year at Brock and that’s where I heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters, Brock is very much involved. I dream of being a pediatrician. I love kids and this is my first time as a Big Brother. I thought it would be good to hang out with a Little Brother – I really wanted to make an impact and to be a role model.”

“I feel I’ve taken a leadership role here, but I don’t make all the decisions. We decide together where we will go and what we’ll do. Lucas looks out for me, and I do for him. Our relationship has grown a lot since April and we have a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to our days together.”

Matt and Lucas get together for a few hours once a week and it’s even made a difference in Lucas’ relationship with his mom, he says. They watch movies together and he is much more relaxed and happier in his everyday life.

“I just wish I had known about Big Brothers a lot sooner,” says Miranda. “Lucas would not have been so unhappy for so long.”

Making a “BIG” Difference in the Dominican Republic Part 2

This story is a follow up to our original story.

In that story, we introduced you to Courtney, a BBBS mentor who traveled to the Dominican Republic as part of a group called Live Different, to help build a house for a family. We recently received an update from one of the leaders from Live Different, letting us know that the family has welcomed a new member.

“On December 26th, the family received their late Christmas gift! Ceila Yorleny was born by Caesarian section and weighed 7 pounds. Ceila was born happy and healthy and both Daniella and Ceila are doing great!

Daniella and Ambiorix are such proud parents and told me that the best part of living in their new home has been being able to bring a new baby into a safe dry home and complete the family. Adrian tells me he is now excited to have a little sister, although Ambiorix said he was quite jealous at first.

Even though Ceila wakes up often in the middle of the night and Daniella doesn’t get a lot of sleep she somehow manages to keep her house absolutely spotless! I told Daniela to expect frequent visits from me as I am so excited to watch Ceila grow into the beautiful woman that she will become. ”

Sister’s Life Changed by Big Sister

Full credit for this story goes to Craig Sebert and Niagara News, circa 2006.

Aurora Anderson-Short says she loves her big sister, and they are not even related.

Since she was six, Anderson-Short, now 13, has had an adult mentor from Big Brothers Big Sisters. For the past two years, Bev Newton has been her Big Sister.

“I love having her as my Big Sister,” said Anderson-Short.

“We have so much fun together.”

Anderson-Short says she isn’t the only one in her family with a mentor from Big Brothers Big Sisters. “My two brothers have mentors of their own,” she said.

“We are a family of little brothers and sisters.”

Newton, a hotel manager in Niagara Falls says she became a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters about 10 years ago on the advice of a friend.

“It is a wonderful organization,” she said

“There is a real need for volunteers to do this sort of thing.”

The two got paired together based on their hobbies and personalities. As far as the two are concerned, it was a perfect match.

“We go great together,” said Newton.

“She is a very caring and considerate person who I am happy to be with.”

Newton says they spend about four hours together once a week.

“We do so much together,” she said.

“We love doing a variety of things.”

Anderson-Short says they paint, do crafts, go bowling, go to baseball games, sop, watch movies, eat chinese food and hang around.

“There is never a dull moment with us,” she laughed.

Her favourite part about having a mentor is being able to forget about everything and just be able to relax.

Newton says she is very proud of her little sister, and is pleased to see her mature over the two years they have been together.

“She is such a good spirited person and she likes to do things that don’t cost a lot of money,” she said.

Both agree the only bad part about their situation is when their schedules don’t work and they can’t meet.

Anderson-Short says she will definitely become a Big Sister when she gets older, and will still keep in touch with Newton.

For children and youth who haven’t gotten a mentor yet, Anderson-Short says you will have quite an experience ahead of you.

“You are going to have the best time of your life,” she said.

“Your life will change.”

Back to 80in80

A Match Made in Thorold

Original story by Becky Day and all credit goes to Thorold and Niagara News, circa September, 2009.

Ryan Day met Jacob in October 2007. Growing up, Ryan always had a positive male role model to look up to and he knew he would want to help young people some day.

“I wanted to do something to give back.” Day said. “Being a Big Brothers has given me a real look at the impact a positive male role model can have on a young boy. I can visibly see how excited Jacob is when I arrive to pick him up, and that alone makes it worthwhile.”

Day first began with the St. Catharines, Thorold & District agency when he was a student at Brock University and living in Thorold. While most most kids only focus on studies and socializing, he also became a Big Brother.

A full time student that works and volunteers a few nights a week for his church, Day has made time to spend with his Little Brother, Jacob.

“It takes a little effort to make a huge impact.” Day said.

“I’m very busy but it is one more thing I work into my schedule. I make it a priority.”

Both a little nervous for their first meeting, the pair now spend at least an hour a week together skating, going to movies, playing baseball, riding bikes and tobogganing.

“I like playing” said Jacob on why he likes spending time with Ryan. “You get to do more stuff.”

“He’s a fun kid to hang out with.” said Day. “It’s very rewarding to hang out with someone that needs it. It’s not a big time commitment and much of what we do is free.”

“They might not have anyone close to play with and someone to talk to.” said Jacob on why more people should consider Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“There is plenty of opportunity for anyone who wants to get involved in mentoring a child and making a difference in their lives to do so.” said David Hutt, Big Brother caseworker. “There is a need for volunteers like Ryan who can make the commitment to make a life-lasting impression on a child.”

“We also know that there are more children out there that could really use a mentor and we hope that getting the word out regarding some of the positive impacts our programs are having will inspire not only potential volunteers, but also parents or guardians of potential ‘Littles’ to make that call.”

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