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Mentoring During the Pandemic

Mentoring During the Pandemic

We’ve all had to pivot during the pandemic, including our staff, volunteers, and families as we adjusted our programs to be implemented virtually to ensure safety in all mentoring relationships ✨

We want to thank everyone for your patience and in supporting us whether you’re a volunteer, a donor, family we serve, or a staff member of ours, that have kept mentoring friendships going through this critical time.

Here’s what Airi, a Mentoring with Math volunteer and also a Big Brothers staff team member, has said about her experience with our Mentoring with Math program:

“I have been part of Mentoring with Math for the past two years and have been paired up with many Littles. Each of them have been so different but when I think back from the beginning of the session until the very end, I see so much growth in every one of them, not only in terms of their math academic abilities but also them being more open and confident. Overall, being a math mentor has truly been rewarding!

Following the lockdown last March, I was hesitant of joining virtual Mentoring with Math. I knew it wasn’t going to be the same as in person but after talking to my Mentoring Coordinator of how it was going to be run, I was convinced of joining again and thank goodness I did! They did a great job transitioning to a virtual program that is delivered through Zoom. The Mentoring Coordinators have been super helpful in explaining how this was going to be run virtually, coordinating the matches and if I had any questions or concerns, they have been there every step of the way.”

Pictured: Little Buddy Selina, Mentoring Coordinator Madison, Volunteer/Big Buddy Airi

Ready to learn more on how to become a volunteer and mentor? Please visit: https://www.bigbrothersvancouver.com/our-programs/

A 20-Year Journey from Little to Big Brother

We sat down with Brian, a Vancouverite who has a particularly interesting tie to Big Brothers, in that he was a Little Brother over 20 years ago, and just over a year ago, he made the decision to give back some of the benefits he received when he was a child.

We were immensely curious what Brian’s Big Brother was like, and he said: “he is quite athletic, I was able to go skiing, biking, and hiking quite often – I wasn’t able to do these things prior to meeting my Big Brother and to honour him, I still participate in those activities to this day.” Today, some of the activities that Brian was able to introduce to his Little was kayaking through a Big Brother’s organized event, a VR room located within Brian’s office, and swimming in West Vancouver when they saw wild otters swimming along with them – all of which were truly memorable for both parties.

Initially, prior to volunteering, Brian carried a bit of anxiety with him about having a lack of experience with children. But, since he’s been matched with his Little Brother, he’s learning that children “aren’t that daunting” and he’s praised his Mentoring Coordinator who’s supported him along in this journey.

We were also curious about the kinds of differences he’s noticed in his Little Brother in the last year, and in many ways, his Little is seeing the same benefits that Brian experienced 20 years ago. More athletic, more interest in the outdoors, and a greater drive to express himself physically.

Finally, we asked Brian for what advice he would pass onto potential volunteers, and he stressed that “becoming a Big Brother really isn’t that hard – in fact, most people would make fantastic Big Brothers.” Also noting that “there’s no politics involved, you simply get the opportunity to develop a long-lasting friendship. Big Brothers has been around for decades and the support they provide is fantastic, especially with the matching process, my Little Brother and I are a great fit. One of the best parts of volunteering is that this is more one-on-one experiences compared to other volunteer opportunities.”

You don’t have to be a Little Brother to becoming a Big Brother. Remember, Brian mentioned, “most people would make fantastic Big Brothers.” If now is a good time for you to get involved, we invite you to learn more: https://www.bigbrothersvancouver.com/get-involved/volunteer/

“It’s not about changing kids, it’s about helping them to understand and learn new skills that will benefit them later in life.”

We’d like to introduce you to one of our GameOn! Big Brothers volunteers, Andy.

Andy has been generously volunteering his time with Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver for just under a year. During this time, he’s completed 3 rounds of our 8-week Game On! program.

We’ve had the opportunity of getting to know Andy well over the last year, he was highlighted to us by his Mentoring Coordinator as an example of an excellent volunteer and mentor. Andy is also an active member of the Big Brothers community, attending our ‘Big Appreciation’ events, spending time with other Big Brothers to share experiences together.

For a sneak-peek into what these events look like, click here.

Andy’s has personally learned that “It doesn’t take much to make someone’s day better, it’s usually a choice we can make”. We’re so grateful that Andy made that choice to make young people’s lives better by volunteering with Big Brothers. Now, Andy has committed to is helping others make the choice to volunteer their time too.

At the age of 4, Andy moved to Canada from Hong Kong where he was born. He told us about the challenges of the transition and how 2 people, in particular, stood out as great mentors in his life. Specifically, his cousin Richie and his hockey coach, Jack. He really looked up to both his cousin and coach as they took him under their wings, mentored, and taught him many key skills to be able to make friends and build his wider community.

Andy reminisced, “My parents probably hadn’t seen hockey yet, how could they have taught me to shoot a puck? The skills I learned from playing hockey, football, baseball, and soccer enabled me to build my confidence, helped me learn to fit in and make more friends. A challenge for any new immigrant and one I saw with the children in Game On!

In Greater Vancouver, hundreds of families and children are also new to Canada, just like Andy was. “To think there are kids that don’t have that opportunity to succeed would be tough. It’s not about changing kids, it’s about helping them to understand and learn new skills that will benefit them later on. I couldn’t imagine my life without those important mentors.

These key skills have stayed with Andy into his adulthood from “learning about teamwork” to “the relationship between effort vs. reward” and “that sometimes life isn’t always fair.”

When I moved to Vancouver 2 years ago from Calgary, it was an opportunity to build a community once again. One of my friends was a Big Brother at the time and he introduced me to the charity. I saw it as a wonderful way to give back and pass forward the support I had when I was younger.

Andy now has the first-hand experience of how much difference an 8-week program can make to a young person’s life. “Knowing it makes a difference to the children makes a good experience great!”

When we asked him what he would say to someone who is considering becoming a Big Brother, he replied saying, It’s a no brainer, I don’t know anyone who has too much fun! It’s a better use of your time and now my Mondays are now something to look forward to because of Big Brothers! Adding to the community makes my life better.

Many people think that 1-on-1 is the only way they can support children and youth through Big Brothers; but, have you considered dipping your toe in the water and exploring group mentorship programs such as Game On?

Game On! is our group mentorship program that runs for 8 weeks. 2-4 mentors (Big Buddies) hang out with up to 12 boys playing a variety of sports, eating healthy snacks, and talking about important things in their lives such as healthy eating, leadership, internet safety, and other prominent topics in the children’s lives.

To learn more about Game On! and to submit your application click here.

3 Reasons Why Volunteering in Game On Might Be Right For You

Meet Thanusan, he’s been involved in our short-term volunteering opportunity (Game On!) consistently since Fall 2016, and only missed 1 session in that time. Game On is typically offered every 3 months, so while writing this, he’s committed to almost 4 years of our 8-week program, making him one of the longest-standing volunteers in that program.

It’s One of Our Most Accessible Programs to Volunteer in

As mentioned above, Game On is an 8 week program, with 3-4 volunteers, and upwards of 12 children, focusing primarily on physical exercise, communication skills, teamwork, and healthy eating, (you can find more information here.) One of the major benefits of volunteering in Game On is that by nature, the program is easily structured, and you know what you expect – this resonated with Thanusan. Further, each session is wrapped up with a snack, and a group conversation about topics that are important in the children’s lives; for example topics like the value of teamwork, leadership, healthy eating, and the role that social media plays in today’s society. Thanusan notes that he “didn’t have much experience with children prior to this program, but the Mentoring Coordinator from Big Brothers was so helpful with getting me ready to be a Game On mentor.”

If You’re Looking for Consistency in Your Schedule…

Another notable feature about Game On is that each session, per season, is offered at the same location, day of the week, and time. Regardless of the mentor or mentee, you don’t need to be a super-athlete to volunteer, the program is inclusive in nature. Thanusan mentions, “you can tell which kids aren’t as physically minded, but after the first session, the kids in the program are still genuinely excited to be there.” Many of the kids that Thanusan has mentored have completed multiple rounds of Game On.

If You Want to Make a Difference in Your Community.

As a child, Thanusan was part of a group-based program that’s quite similar to Game On that was offered through his church. “As a kid, I didn’t fully grasp the value of the program until I was older, and then I truly saw the value of these kinds of programs when I started volunteering as an adult.” There’s something profound about helping coach positive behaviours through mentorship programs. Also, something we hear from both mentors and mentees is that they leave Game On with a new perspective on life, and this program gives them the space to live in the moment.

Thanusan finished the interview by mentioning to anyone who’s on the fence about getting involved: “regardless of the time required, volunteering in Game On is a worthwhile commitment.”

All the information you’ll need to know about getting involved in Game On can be found here. The application process is initially completed online, with the remainder done in person or on the phone; all of our volunteers receive an extensive training session and consistent guidance and support from one of our Mentoring Coordinators.

4 Reasons Why Volunteering With Big Brothers Might be Right For You

Today we sat down with Scott Pearson, an on-call firefighter here in the Lower Mainland. Our hope is to inspire anyone reading this who has considered volunteering with us to take the first step and learn more about our organization, and the benefits it can provide to your life, and in the life of a local child or youth.

#1 Boosting Your Career, and Life Outside of Work

As a firefighter, Scott values volunteering in his local community. 2 and a half years ago, it was an easy choice for him as he knew he wanted to make a difference. Regardless of what industry you’re currently or aspiring to work in, learning how to provide mentorship to someone is a critical skill that can benefit you and those around you.

#2 To Honour a Mentor of Yours

To Scott, along with many other men, his father was his greatest mentor. He reminisced that his father was always an advocate for Scott to pursue sports, and getting involved with his community. Scott says he’s “blessed to have come from such a loving family, and a stable group of friends growing up” and that “football was the biggest bonding mechanism he had with his father, through being coached and watching the NFL with him on TV.” Sadly, Scott lost his father to a battle with pancreatic cancer, and losing that role model inspired him to provide the favour to someone else.

#3 To Try New Things, and to Introduce Someone to Your Interests

When we matched Scott with his Little Brother, we knew that finding a Little Brother who shared his love for sports was critical. Some of the key activities that they take part in typically include sports at his Little’s local recreation center – basketball, football, skating, or swimming; anything physically active is what gives them joy. Scott is proud that he was able to introduce his Little Brother to basketball and baseball because since they’ve adopted those activities together, his Little has joined the basketball team at his school, and local community’s baseball team; which he’s thriving at. Scott has also been able to try some new experiences through tickets donated to our charity, such as Playland at the PNE, Vancouver Canucks games, and his most memorable event, which was a private suite experience with the BC Lions.

#4 You Want to Open Your Eyes to a New Perspective

Scott grew up in South Surrey, and becoming a Big Brother has given the opportunity to experience a different life once a week. He mentions, “Being able to see the world through the eyes of a 12-year-old in 2020 really shines a light on what kids are experiencing today.” Scott has seen what life can be like for a family who lives not that far from him, which opened his eyes to a new perspective. That being said, he’s also seen how his Little has taken notice about facets of Scott’s life that he would want to emulate later in his life. Scott is adamant about teaching a strong work ethic for his Little Brother to achieve his long-term goals and to hopefully inspire him to volunteer as a Big Brother when he’s old enough.

We hope that after reading this, you can agree that becoming a Big Brother is incredibly attainable, and equally rewarding. With that, we want to invite you to learn more here: https://www.bigbrothersvancouver.com/get-involved/volunteer/

3 Things You Learn When Mentoring Youth

This month, we sat down with Sebastian, who’s been involved with our Big Brother program for just under a year at this time of writing (March 2020.) He’s relatively new to the process of providing a mentoring relationship with a child, but there’s certain commonalities to his experience that he shares with other mentors that we’ve interviewed. Here’s 3 things you learn when mentoring youth:

That it’s Not Just Babysitting

One of the many fortunate aspects of working with Big Brothers is that you’re able to speak to, and learn from many of the volunteers; everyone in between starting their application, and those who have spent 10+ years as a Big Brother.

One topic that comes up in conversation with those who are about to complete their application is that they’re worried that this opportunity is simply just babysitting – which is not the case. We don’t ask our volunteers to be counselors, therapists, surrogate parents, or superheroes; we simply ask that you’re a consistent, reliable friend, and mentor to whoever you’re matched to.

This was initially something on Sebastian’s mind, but now that he’s spent nearly a year as a volunteer, he notes that “this experience is way more enjoyable than that, and children have such unique personalities, even from a young age.” Also that you get to watch small behavioural changes, and personality growths in your Little Brother, such as “being more confident to speak to the attendant behind the counter” whenever Sebastian and his Little are at a coffee shop or store. Adding it’s such a cool experience watching someone improve their daily habits.”

These small changes seem minimal, but the benefits of growing confidence cannot be overstated.

Both Big and Little Brothers Get to Try New Things

We also hear from many Big Brothers that this opportunity has given them the chance to explore outside of their “bubble” within Greater Vancouver and to ultimately develop a new perspective on their life – Sebastian is no different. Some of the activities that this Big and Little Brother match have been able to do are going to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, playing sports at their local YMCA, Science World, and watching the Toronto Raptors during the playoffs last year at a restaurant.

However, something new for Sebastian’s Little Brother was the time was when they rented bikes to cycle around the Seawall. This was new for his Little and it was something he was hesitant to do. With a little encouragement from Sebastian, they followed through with the bike ride, and Sebastian has seen a consistent change in his Little. “He’s more likely to try new things now, and to confront things regardless of being nervous.”

That it’s More Accessible Than You Might Think

This statement rings true for just about every Big Brother that we have a conversation with. Sebastian is originally from Colombia, and when he made his transition to Vancouver from Toronto, he knew that this was the right time to step up. “Go through the application.” Sebastian advises; “although it’s a commitment of 2-4 hours a week, it might sound like a lot, but it’s very reasonable.”

We hope you found this to be inspirational! It’s evident that through the conversation we had with Sebastian, that he’s getting as much out of this opportunity as his Little Brother is.

Start your journey by learning more today: https://www.bigbrothersvancouver.com/get-involved/volunteer/

“Health is Wealth, and the Secret to Living is Giving”

In this inspiring interview, we sat down with one of our Big Brothers, Jordan, who’s been involved with our charity for over 2 years. Jordan and his Little Brother, Noah sparked their friendship through a love of basketball, which Jordan introduced to Noah when they were initially matched together.

Jordan and Noah typically have a consistent routine of what they like to do together, predictably, basketball followed by their favourite local pizza shop. This Big and Little Brother match is proof that being a mentor doesn’t have to be an elaborate, complex relationship – it’s merely a coming together of mutual interests and bringing out the best in each other. Today, Noah is a part of his school basketball team, which he’s (rightly so) proud of, and grateful for. Jordan is acutely aware of the saying “you’re the sum of the 5 people you spend the majority of your time with”, and he feels at ease knowing that Noah has met a positive, driven group of friends through his school team.

We first met Jordan in person at our first Big Appreciation Night events. What makes these events so unique is we designed this event specifically for like-minded men and women who are involved in our programs to share stories about their experience – giving them a chance to meet other men and women who are involved in our programs to hopefully find some common ground and to share stories about their experience. (Here’s a video we captured at our first event) We also ask our volunteers to invite friends who might be interested in learning more. Moreover, Jordan has recruited 2 of his friends to become Big Brothers! (one of which has been highlighted in this story here).

One of the primary motivations that Jordan had when applying to become a Big Brother was his older cousin that he grew up with, whom he “idolized in every way.” His cousin was a fantastic role model for him, and Jordan also admits that he had a great support network, which he’s incredibly grateful for, and he ultimately felt that he had a responsibility to give back some of the positivity he benefitted from as a child.

Because Jordan has been through the first year of volunteering, and he’s built a strong foundation with his friendship to Noah, we allow the opportunity for Big and Little Brothers to meet a minimum of once a month. With that being said, Jordan still commits to his once a week routine seeing Noah, as he looks at mentoring something he actively wants to do, as opposed to needing to out of obligation. Health is wealth, and the secret to living is giving according to Jordan, and he’s embodying that mantra truthfully in his life.

This interview was inspiring, and reassuring experience for us, that Big Brothers provides genuine value to our local community through friendships seen between people like Jordan and Noah. Jordan finished the interview by mentioning that he feels like an extended part of Noah’s family and that Jordan’s family feels the same to Noah.

We hope that if you’ve made it to the end of this interview, you feel inspired to learn more stepping up as a Big Brother here.

Making a Difference Through Playing Sports, and Conversation

We sat down with Bhwandip – a devoted Game On! volunteer since 2017. Game On! is our shortest commitment program out of all our volunteer opportunities, amounting to only 6-8 weeks at a local community centre or elementary school, during generally, after-school hours. Each Game On! session is traditionally split into 75 minutes of physical activity, and 15 minutes of snacking and having a meaningful conversation.

For Bhwandip, his parents had quite an impact on his upbringing: specifically teaching him to have the drive to give back and to always take the opportunity to support others. The drive to volunteer in his community was strong. What made Big Brothers appeal to Bhwandip was specifically the opportunity to mentor and help motivate and inspire young men through physical activity and conversation just as he saw the value of the mentorship from his parents.

When Bhwandip was in school at KPU studying Criminology, one of his professors, Navdeep Gill, also had a profound impact on him. He admired her desire to go “above and beyond” for her students; specifically by setting aside time to discuss long-term goals with him and how he wanted to give back. His professor spoke highly about the value of volunteering with our organization, especially with the degree that Bhwandip was pursuing. Having direct experience with members of your local community lends itself well to a future career in law enforcement. Bhwandip also decided that making a lasting impact long-term with young men resonated deeper with him, as opposed to volunteering at a one-off event.

One of the misconceptions that Bhwandip had about volunteering prior to getting involved was that he might not have enough time. He was diligent about expressing his praise for our Mentoring Coordinators who provided him flexibility with his volunteering commitments. Namely, if your volunteering application is successful with Big Brothers, we add you to a pool of volunteers, and we offer you 3-5 locations, every 3-4 months. If you’re not able to volunteer now, that’s not a problem – you’re welcome to volunteer later.

When asked about his personal experience, he mentioned: “a lot of these Little buddies are specifically chosen for this program, and sometimes early on you can tell who’s a bit more shy, but specifically engaging with those kids one on one, they begin to have fun and enjoy themselves more and more. One-on-one time genuinely leads to the youth opening up and sharing themselves and being more engaged in the activities and discussions. All of the children are unique and they all simply just want to have fun.

We asked what advice Bhwandip would provide those who are considering becoming a volunteer with Big Brother, and his response was simple, “If you’re looking to make a positive impact on someone and see the change in real-time – this program and mentoring youth does just that. It’s all about giving back and inspiring someone to be better than when you first met them. A lot of these children are missing the positive male influence and it’s an amazing feeling to be that outlet.

Does Game On! sound like an interesting opportunity to you? Learn more here: https://www.bigbrothersvancouver.com/get-involved/volunteer/

“If you knew that (volunteering) would make the rest of your week better, would you not do it?”

Did you know that the volunteers involved in our flagship program, Big Brother or Community (one-on-one mentorship) simply dedicate 2-4 hours a week, which amounts to anywhere between 108-216 hours of quality time within a year with a local child or youth? A small act really can amount to a big impact.

Meet Dan, at this time of writing (March 2020), he’s been involved in our Big Brother program for over 14 months, stating that “it seems like a no-brainer to get involved – developing a relationship with a child while also giving back to the community is a win-win; it’s like having your cake and eating it too”

One of the reasons that Dan wanted to get involved with our program is that he noticed a behavioural trend with those that he looks up to, specifically the ones who work hard at what they do, but also make time to give back to the community, and that’s something he wanted to emulate.

At Big Brothers, we’re incredibly fortunate to be able to interview individuals who are stepping up and committing to our programs, and something that rings true with many of the men who we speak to is just how accessible these programs are.

One of the best memories that Dan has with his Little Brother is when they were able to meet Vancouver Canuck hockey players after a game that they were gifted tickets to from our charity. Dan went on to mention that his go-to activities that when he sees his Little Brother are playing sports like basketball, soccer, hockey, but also simply getting bubble tea or sushi. Some of these simple outings would often times yield some of the most spontaneous, inside jokes or memories that Dan cherishes the most.

For example, Dan admits that he’s notorious for quickly drinking his bubble tea when he’s with his Little, until recently his Little Buddy dropped a “wisdom bomb on him” by saying “you have to savour it! How are you going to be able to savour your life?!” Dan also agrees that this program offers just as much benefit to him, as it does to his Little Buddy, and that after he returns home, he “has a glow that he carries with him.”

Towards the end of the interview, Dan shared a little bit about his motivation for getting involved with our agency, mentioning that he didn’t have many positive adult role models growing up, and wanted to provide that opportunity for someone else. Also confessing, “the 2-4 hours I commit to this program is genuinely do-able; you’re awake for 16 hours a day, and I’m happy I’ve built this into my life. If you knew that (volunteering) would make the rest of your week better, would you not do it? It’s not a time-drain; it’s a mental-boost!”

If Dan’s story has inspired you to learn more about the journey of becoming a Big Brother, learn more from our volunteer page here: https://www.bigbrothersvancouver.com/get-involved/volunteer/

The application process takes about 20-25 minutes, and we can promise that becoming a Big Brother is more accessible, and rewarding than you can imagine.

“My free time is best spent with my Little Brother”

Our staff at Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver were first introduced to Manuel (Manu) at our first Big Appreciation Night where we celebrate our current volunteers for their time spent with their Little Brothers/Buddys, and to create an opportunity where “Bigs” can share their experiences with other volunteers. We also ask our existing volunteers to invite a friend who would want to learn more about our agency, and what the process of becoming a Big Brothers mentor is like.

Manu mentioned “I’ve known about Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver for years”, and the opportunity to attend one of our Big Appreciation Nights is what inspired him to learn more. “Although I spent a long time thinking about volunteering, now that I know how accessible and rewarding these volunteer opportunities are, I’d tell anyone who’s considering volunteering to just do it – it’s worth it.”

At the time of writing this, Manu has been matched with his Little Brother, Gabe for about a year and a half. “I was at a stage in my life where I wanted to give back to the community, and this type of opportunity specifically resonated with me; I feel that I can make a massive impact with someone, one-on-one.” Manu also mentions “spending a small amount of time with a child can make such a difference; even if you only commit to a minimum of 1 year with the Big Brother program. You’d be amazed at how much you can change a young person’s life.”

Being involved with one of our programs has also lead to Manu learning the virtue of patience – some of our Littles take time to warm up with their new Big Brothers, and that’s perfectly normal. Manu has been able to build such a strong relationship, even within the 18 months they’ve been matched. Manu is adamant that his “free-time is best spent with Gabe.”

Although we’re often told that our volunteers feel that we give them an understanding of what being a Big Brother is actually like, something Manu mentioned that changed for him, is how often he reflects about his time with Gabe, even when he’s not there. “I was on vacation recently in Vietnam, and that’s when I first noticed how excited I was to bring back a souvenir for Gabe, and how often I think of stories and remember moments of my life that Gabe would find funny which I can share with him when I see him next.”

Manu made it clear for us that anyone who commits to this program can make a massive difference in a year’s time, and if you feel like now is the time for you to learn more, here’s a link to our volunteer opportunities: https://www.bigbrothersvancouver.com/get-involved/volunteer/  Alternatively, feel free to email volunteer@bbgvf.com – we’d be happy to answer any questions you have.

A 20-year Halloween Tradition of Pumpkin Carving

“I really like the values that Big Brothers subtly passes on through the relationships: consistency, responsibility, respect, friendship, trust.”

When Bill Crow moved to Vancouver from Ottawa, he had to say goodbye to his first Little Brother. “I told him I was going to have to leave, and he wasn’t saying anything. And I told him that the Big Brothers organization could find him another Big Brother. He looked up at me and said, ‘I already got a Big Brother.’ I still cry when I tell that,” says Bill, tearing up as he relates the memory. He is still in touch with his first Little Brother, who is now an engineer with kids of his own.

Bill’s experience as a Big led him to apply to be a Big Brother again when he got to Vancouver, and he was matched with 10-year-old Shaun, whose father had recently moved out of the country. “Shaun was really sensitive, it was a really hard time,” recalls Shaun’s mom, Barbara. Having volunteered as a Big Sister in university, Barbara knew about the Big Brothers program and signed up both her sons – Shaun and his 7-year-old brother, Devon – for Big Brothers. She felt that it was very important for her kids to have positive male role models and didn’t want those relationships to come from someone she was dating. “I wanted it to be their own relationship with someone who has really good values and really is concentrating on them,” she says.

“Shaun was very tentative – he wasn’t rude or anything but it would’ve been a challenge for Bill to crack through that tentativeness. But he really needed that; he really was struggling,” says Barbara.

Bill confirms that things got off to a slow start with Shaun. “I remember Shawn being a quiet, solemn little kid. It was really tough – he wasn’t mean or anything, he wasn’t lashing out, he just didn’t say anything; he was really quiet…He’s 3 years older and he took the fact that his father left much harder than his little brother. He was just really mad at the world and not happy at all. A few times I’d go over there and he’d hardly say anything; you’d ask him some questions and nothing was coming out.”

“But just like it was supposed to, we got more comfortable with each other and after a while, we hit it off. We hung out once a week without fail for probably 8 years.”

In their first two years together, Bill and Shaun sometimes spent time with Devon and his Big Brother, playing tennis or other sports together. When Devon’s Big Brother had to quit volunteering, Bill stepped up. “He just sort of adopted Devon, too,” laughs Barbara. Even after the boys’ father moved back to Canada and became part of their lives again, Bill continued his relationship with Shaun and Devon.

Neither Bill nor Barbara remembers how or when their tradition of Halloween pumpkin carving began. “Bill’s an artist and he loves doing that. It was probably just Halloween rolling around and we were going to carve the pumpkins, so we probably made it one of the once-a-week nights,” she says.

For Bill, pumpkin carving has been a highlight of his time with his Littles. Shaun and Devon were always excited about it, and they quickly picked up on Bill’s artistic ability and used their own competitive nature to make more and more elaborate designs. “They just blossomed,” says Bill, “and their styles are not like mine at all, if you saw the 3 pumpkins you could pick out who did which one every year…We always line up the 3, take a picture of them, lit and everything.”

“Several years ago when they’re men, I’m saying ‘Guys, you know you don’t have to do this’ and they’re going ‘Are you kidding?’ They make me do it, they will not miss it, and they call me now and say ‘When are we doing it?’” Bill says with a laugh.

Their tradition still continues after more than two decades! “It doesn’t seem as if they have any intention of giving it up,” Barbara confirms, noting that all three are fiercely competitive.

Looking at this life-long friendship, Barbara is happy her sons had a Big Brother like Bill. “I really like the values that Big Brothers subtly passes on through the relationships: consistency, responsibility, respect, friendship, trust. It’s a great organization.” Barbara has shown her support for Big Brothers by donating both used clothing and funds, and is volunteering to teach resume writing skills to our Youth Leadership participants.

“The kids are 33 and 36 now,” says Barbara proudly. “Shawn’s got his own production company, he’s a videographer; Devon is a corporate executive. They turned out well – good job, Bill.”

For his part, Bill is grateful to have been a part of Shaun and Devon’s lives. His Little Brothers know his wife and kids well, and Bill was honoured to attend events like their high school graduations and Devon’s wedding. After so long together, they truly feel like family.

“When the boys got older, it became more like a real brother relationship,” says Bill. “I never had a brother growing up, so I finally got two! I feel that was something I was missing in my life. I really feel as if Shaun and Devon are my brothers now.”

When asked what he’d say to someone thinking about becoming a Big Brother, Bill says, “What I’ve told people is don’t do it because you want to do some charitable work; just do it because it’s really fun. I never saw it as a burden. Because we did stuff I liked – you find stuff they like that you like, too – it was never a problem fitting it in. You’re not a hero for doing it, you do it because it’s fun. You know you’re doing good but it’s just really enjoyable.”

Inspired by what you’ve read about Bill, Shaun and Devon? – No two Big Brother relationships are ever exactly the same, start your journey here https://www.bigbrothersvancouver.com/get-involved/volunteer/ 

The truth about mentoring youth when you already have kids.

“I would have done this no matter what.”

We spoke to Victor – one of our newest Big Brothers in Squamish to learn more about what made him want to volunteer, and despite being a young father, why now is the right time to get involved with our organization.

Growing up in Ontario, Victor’s Father and Uncles were also volunteers at the local Big Brothers agency at the time. Giving back is simply part of the culture in his family and now following in his family’s footsteps with 2 children (aged 4 and 8), Victor feels as though he’s in a stable position to give back and support his local community.

Learn more about the process here: https://www.bigbrothersvancouver.com/get-involved/volunteer/big-brother/

In Victor’s words, as a Big Brother, you’re not a parent, you’re “a patient friend to lean on, and you approach things differently as a friend and mentor.” He’s discovering that there is a distinct difference between parenting his children. Ultimately though, he’s building a set of skills and talents that he believes will make him a better Dad to his children too.

By listening and talking without leading the conversation, he encourages his Little Brother to speak up and think independently. “Mentoring taught me to understand different opinions and I gained a new way of looking at things and a different way to parent.” While writing this, Victor is only 5 weeks into the Big Brother experience, but he’s positive about the future of the relationship and he’s enjoying the process so far.

“There was no jealousy or resentment from my family as we recognize we’re fortunate to be in the position we’re in, my wife and kids were supportive during the application process.” Victor believes that it’s important to teach his children the benefits of supporting others and being a positive role model.

“All adults need to spend time with children.” The ability to be present, to see the beauty in the small things and to appreciate what we have in our lives. Being involved in our volunteer opportunities typically provides as much value to the ‘Littles’ as it does to the Big Brothers.

When asked what he would say to someone who is considering volunteering, Victor replied “everybody has the time to listen and talk – it’s about prioritization. Choose this rather than sitting in front of the TV; although the time may sound daunting, it’s so achievable!”

Looking into the future, Victor hopes that his “Children see a way to give back and a way to help others too, hopefully, one day they’ll volunteer and share what they’ve learned from me”

Does Victor’s story inspire you? Despite how hectic your schedule may be, Victor is living proof that volunteering with us is achievable. Here’s the program he’s involved in https://www.bigbrothersvancouver.com/get-involved/volunteer/big-brother/

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