By Tina Comeau
You wouldn’t believe the difference an hour a week can make, says Shawnda Parnell-Shaw.
She just wishes more people – young and old – would get to experience this.
Parnell-Shaw is the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Yarmouth and she is referring to the mentoring program that the organization is involved with.
The mentoring program matches an adult with a child for one hour a week with the meeting location being the child’s school. The mentoring program has replaced the traditional matches the organization first became known for, which saw adult volunteers, known as bigs, spending three to four hours a week with their littles. The reason for the changeover was that the shorter weekly time commitment makes it easier to attract volunteers.
Although still not enough of them.
“(Our) latest stats with matches is 25 with many, many children waiting for an adult to volunteer,” Parnell-Shaw says.
“We are in dire need of more adults. We have plenty of children requiring a mentor but not enough adults coming forward,” she says. “I’d take as many as could come forward, that would be wonderful.”
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization in Canada. To mark this milestone the organization has launched a year-long public education campaign to give Canadians fresh insights into the societal value of youth mentoring.
A five-year study, which tracked the experiences of almost 1,000 children and teenagers registered with Big Brother Big Sisters agencies across Canada, found that those with a volunteer mentor are significantly more confident in their academic abilities and considerably less likely to display behavioural problems.
Last fall, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Yarmouth introduced a new teen mentoring program at Drumlin Heights Consolidated School. The program matches students in the higher grade levels with students in the lower grade levels for an hour a week, similar to the mentoring program that involves adult matches. The make-up of Drumlin – being a Grade Primary to 12 school – and its geographical location were considerations behind starting up the program, Parnell-Shaw says.
“They spend an hour a week with them being their friend,” she says. “It's exactly the same as the mentoring program expect that it’s encouraging teens to be involved with the youth as well.”
Although it’s main office is located in Yarmouth, Big Brothers Big Sisters also has a satellite office located at Université Sainte-Anne, which, over the years, has allowed the organization to expand its services and programming beyond just Yarmouth County and into Clare-area schools as well.
Meanwhile in Yarmouth the organization is gearing up for one of it’s major fundraisers of the year, this being the annual Bowl For Kids Sake event at the Brunswick Bowling Lanes. The event runs Saturday, March 2, from 1-3:30 p.m. Sponsor sheets for the event can be obtained from the Bigs office at 32 Hawthorn St. or online through their website www.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/yarmouth. People can also make donations online.
This is the 32nd annual Bowl for Kids Sake event. This year’s theme is ‘Step Up to Strike Out Bullying.’