Some matches at Big Brothers Big Sisters have a way of impacting the mentor as much as the mentee. The story of Keegan and Nicole’s friendship started as a mentorship, but would quickly become something therapeutic for both.
“Keegan, like myself, was a Young Carer, and I saw a lot of myself in her. Young Carers are children, youth and young adults who are in a caregiving role for a family member needing assistance with their daily lived experience due to disabilities, illnesses, mental health issues, and addictions. Young Carers take on extra stresses and responsibilities, and as a result, can experience high levels of stress. Having experienced similar challenges as a youth, I recognized our outings together as a time for Keegan to take to take a break from her care giving roles and responsibilities.” says former Big Sister and friend, Nicole.
“Keegan, like myself, was a Young Carer, and I saw a lot of myself in her."
“Funnily enough, not long after Keegan and I were matched, I switched jobs to a youth agency that supported Young Carers. This position allowed me to connect Keegan to the Young Carers movement in our area. Keegan attended lots of the events I ran and organized with the agency alongside me and eventually volunteered and completed her school placement with the agency long after I left.” continued Nicole.
“Throughout our time together Nicole helped me in so many ways, one in particular was helping improve my self-esteem and showing me that there were other people in the Niagara Region like me. Nicole introduced me to the Young Carers program in St. Catharines, where I was able to attend some events with her and learn more about the organization and what it meant to be a Young Carer.” said Keegan.
Ultimately, the trend that began to emerge from this match was one of compassion and caring for others.
“Throughout our time together Nicole helped me in so many ways, one in particular was helping improve my self-esteem and showing me that there were other people in the Niagara Region like me."
“For me personally, mentoring Keegan mattered because I felt we both learned and grew so much from the experience; how to build and maintain relationships, how to communicate better and have hard conversations, how to problem solve and how to care and be cared for by another person.” Said Nicole.
“I have always been interested in helping at-risk youth and providing them with the support services they need to thrive in today’s society. This was definitely something I learned from Nicole and her experience working with Young Carers and being exposed to that environment.” Said Keegan.
This trend of caring for others would eventually come full circle some years later. While working as a Youth Outreach Worker, Nicole called on Keegan for some professional advice.
“My coworker and I were preparing for the Grow grant application process and needed some advice and support from another agency who had been a successful recipient. We noticed the Kristin French Advocacy Centre on the list. I recalled a Facebook post of Keegan’s stating she had started with the agency and reached out to Keegan for her experience with the Grow process.” Said Nicole.
“Keegan and I met at my office and were able to information share about our roles in the social service sector and the agencies we worked for. Keegan supported me through our application writing process and offered advice based on her experiences with the Trillium Foundation.” continued Nicole.
“I was able to provide Nicole with some insight in regards to the survey’s they ask us to have completed, the data collection needed and what our key areas that we are looking at. During this meeting we were able to share information on current roles in our organizations and what we were currently doing. This was a great way to network and learn more about each other’s roles and how we can assist each other with program referrals and client needs throughout the Region.” Said Keegan.
“Calling Keegan for help in a professional context felt like my mentoring experience had really come full circle. I am so proud of all she has accomplished! I may have walked her around the office introducing her to my coworkers as ‘my little’, with pride!” professed Nicole.
The question of whether or not being matched with Nicole helped inspire Keegan’s future career choice was a no-brainer.
“Calling Keegan for help in a professional context felt like my mentoring experience had really come full circle. I am so proud of all she has accomplished! I may have walked her around the office introducing her to my coworkers as 'my little', with pride!”
“Being in the BBBS program and knowing Nicole did have an impact on my decision to get into the field that I am in… I have always been interested in helping at-risk youth and providing them with the support services they need to thrive in today’s society. This was definitely something I learned from Nicole.” says Keegan.
“Keegan has done some really amazing things in life. It makes me smile to think that perhaps, even in a small way, I may have helped contribute to the accomplished person she is today. As much as I hope my mentoring Keegan had a positive effect on her life, I cannot say enough about how much having her in my life has changed me.” said Nicole.
To learn more about the Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre visit http://www.kristenfrenchcacn.org/
To learn more about the Niagara Falls Community Health Centre visit http://nfchc.ca/
To learn more about the Young Carers Initiative visit http://www.powerhouseproject.ca/
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