Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria and Area has been serving communities on Vancouver Island since 1977. Our mission is to “provide mentoring programs for children and youth.” We believe every child has limitless potential, and that potential is our community’s most precious resource. This is the fundamental belief that drives the unwavering support we receive from our community and it is the motivating force behind every life-changing mentoring relationship that we create with care and intention.
One of the ways that our donors support us is through endowment funds. We have enjoyed a long relationship with the Victoria Foundation and, with the support of their staff, donors have come to learn more about our programs, their impact and the ripple effects of our work in communities across the Capital Regional District and Comox Valley.
When we consider the variety of programs offered by our agency – all of which focus on mentoring children and youth who don’t have enough positive relationships around them – most people know someone who has contributed to, or benefited from, the Community Mentoring Program. This program in particular has had a lasting impact, touching thousands of lives over many years. The simple act of caring about a young person within a one to one relationship, thereby increasing their social emotional competency, is proof that positive, intentional and supportive relationships are a critical intervention for young people facing adversity.
Children and youth, aged 7 to18, are matched with a mentor who meets with them weekly, in person or online when necessary. The mentor expresses care towards the child, challenges their growth, provides support, shares power and expands their possibilities. They do this through everyday activities – exploring their community, sharing common interests, setting goals and participating in school and community events together. Mentoring relationships are based on mutual respect and are supported by our staff – professionals who are trained in child safety, developmental relationships and implementing national standards for service excellence.
Over 200 children and youth are served through this program annually. For these young people, mentoring relationships are not just nice, they are necessary. Neuroscience tells us that a nurturing, caring relationship is critical for buffering the impact of toxic stress on a child’s brain. The common denominator of successful adults who experienced adverse childhood experiences is the presence of a mentor. The evidence is clear. When we provide young people facing adversity with a committed mentor, we decrease their risk factors and ignite their potential.
Over 75 children and youth in Greater Victoria are currently waiting for a mentor in this program. Young people who need a caring adult to stand in their corner. We are also seeing an increase in the demand for services as a result of the pandemic. Without intervention, social isolation, rising mental health concerns and developmental disruption in children all have alarming short and long-term impacts and we are committed to closing the gap between children served and children waiting for a mentor.
To this end, we have committed to growing all our programs and have set an ambitious goal of mentoring 1000 children and youth by 2025. The families we serve, the mentors who share their time and lives, the donors who demonstrate compassion for their community, and local businesses who feel a social responsibility will all be critical partners in our future endeavors. We thank you for your continued support.