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Celebrating 10 Years of Brotherhood

Celebrating 10 Years of Brotherhood

It’s not everyday you get to celebrate a 10-year anniversary. However, today Little Brother Alex and his Big Brother, Roland, are celebrating a decade of brotherhood.

“I’ve seen him since he was seven-years-old. Now, he’s all grown up,” Roland proudly said.

It’s been quite the journey for the dynamic duo! Alex, now 17, met Roland for the first time at David Lam Park, but it didn’t get off to a stellar start. Back then, the younger Alex had mixed feelings about the new encounter.

“I just wanted to go home because I was so young and I missed my mom,” he remembered.

But all that changed very quickly. The pair quickly bonded and now they enjoy swimming, playing soccer, watching movies, eating out together and lots more each week.

“Stand-up paddle boarding is the ‘funnest’ because you can push him off,” Alex joking said.

Since then, the two have formed a strong bond and have left a lasting mark in each other’s lives.

“He’s someone I can rely on and depend on,” Alex said. He’s even been inspired by Roland to get an early start into the world of investing as one of his new hobbies.

“It’s a real fun and funny friendship,” Roland said. “I’d like to say it’s kept me younger to some degree.”

Both Alex and Roland have also been able to take part together in things they would not have otherwise been able to, such as sporting events and concerts, thanks to organizations donating tickets to Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver for our matches.

Alex’s mother says the two have become a great team together over the past decade.

“I don’t know who Alex would be without Roland,” she said.

What she does know, though, is that Alex’s future is brighter than ever before thanks to his Big Brother, Roland.

Watch the video below for the full story of Alex and Roland’s Big Brothers match.

Events & Marketing Coordinator: Katinka Neumann | Meet Our Team

Katinka has been working with Big Brothers as the Events and Marketing Coordinator for just over 6 months. In her role she helps to plan fundraising events that help to fund our programs, mainly Katinka supports these events by designing the marketing materials. Before starting with Big Brothers, Katinka received an education degree from SFU, with prior experience having worked at a variety of children-focused non-profits for a few years in various administration and communication roles.

When asked about a mentor in her own life, Katinka shared, “I owe a lot of who I am today to one of my high school teachers. She saw how interested 12-year-old me was in graphic design and went above and beyond to nurture my passion for it. Despite not being a graphic designer herself, she provided me with ample resources, classroom time, community connections and even got me a job in a local print shop where I had the chance to learn about the industry. I don’t think I would be lucky enough to design things everyday as part of my role here at Big Brothers if it wasn’t for her commitment to mentorship.”

Outside of her role at Big Brothers, Katinka shared the following:

What’s your favorite way to spend a day off?

On my days off you will find me tending to my plants, doing a puzzle, going for a walk around my neighbourhood or in the kitchen baking some cookies!

What’s your favourite book?

I have loved “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll ever since I was a kid. That combined with my love of books and design has led me to collect various different illustrated copies over the years. I currently have 26 different version and am always on the hunt for more!

Mentoring Coordinator: Cindy Chan | Meet Our Team

Cindy has been a Mentoring Coordinator at Big Brothers for over a year. Before working with us, she had worked in the banking industry then went back to school at an Aboriginal University to get her Bachelors in Social Work. Cindy had her practicum at the Aboriginal Mothers Centre for a couple years, working with women fleeing. After that, she helped with the starting stages of setting up a non-profit organization that provides afterschool programming for children in the Downtown Eastside.

As a Mentoring Coordinator, Cindy supports the mentoring matches in the Community Big Brothers Program, Adult Virtual In-School Mentoring Program, and the Mentoring with Math program. “To me, mentoring is building a safe space for people to walk alongside and journey through life together while learning how to deal with different life experiences.”

Working directly with matches, Cindy hears first-hand about the positive impact Big Brothers makes on the communities it serves. Between the guardian, child, and mentor, each plays their own part and makes their own contribution to the mentoring relationships. With consistency, trust is built and the relationship grows from there. She loves to see the enthusiasm and interactions within the matches, in addition to watching children’s confidence grow along with the belief in themselves.

When asked what she would say to her 13-year-old self, Cindy said, “Go for it and dare to be, be free to be me, be yourself.”

Engagement and Inclusion Specialist/Supervisor: Navkiran Brar | Meet Our Team

Navkiran has been with Big Brothers now for over 6 years, and she also spent 2 years working at Big Sisters before that! Navkiran is our Engagement and Inclusion Specialist/Supervisor; she looks at different ways of engaging our Big Brothers/Big Buddies, Guardians, and Little Brothers/Little Buddies through enhanced training, events, and learning opportunities.

Additionally, Navkiran advances our strategic commitments to Equity, Inclusion, Reconciliation, and Anti-Racism by examining and updating policies and procedures for the programs at Big Brothers to ensure we continue to remain relevant to the communities we serve. She also co-chair the Inclusion Committee at the agency; the committee promotes dialogue and advances knowledge through conversation and education, building toward intentional actions toward allyship.

Navkiran’s favourite part of working at Big Brothers is match meetings, when the Big and Little Brothers meet for the first time and decide if they want to be matched. “When the two have an immediate connection and click, it is the best. Sometimes the Little has been waiting several years for a Big Brother, it is a true warm fuzzy moment to see it finally happen and their excitement for that new friendship.”

According to Navkiran, as a 13-year-old she felt full of teen angst and uncertainty. When asked what should would tell herself at age 13, she says, “I would tell myself to believe in myself and that my voice matters. Most importantly, to embrace my heritage with pride because that is where I will find strength, not from trying to fit in.”

She loves baking and spreading joy with cookies, a quality her coworkers are extremely grateful for! Navkiran also loves to play board games (though, she’s been known to be a tad overly competitive!); her current favourite game is Ticket to Ride.

Community Program Manager: Shannon Hyunh | Meet Our Team

Shannon, our Community Program Manager, has been working with Big Brothers for over 10 years! Her prior experiences volunteering as a Big Sister, studying social work, and working with newcomers is what led to her pursue her career in helping others.

 

As the Community Program Manager, Shannon oversees the Big Brothers Community program including adult assessments, family assessments, and supporting our staff in these areas. As she put it, “These are all areas I have a strong interest in and I love what I do. I work with really kind, open-minded people who truly believe in what we do, which makes work meaningful and enjoyable.”

 

One of Shannon’s favourite things about working at Big Brothers is seeing the Bigs and Littles with completely different interests and personalities share some of the strongest friendships! How do they do this you ask? According to her, they take an interest in learning about each other’s hobbies, keep an open mind, respect each other, and truly care about one another.

 

Shannon is a cat lover; when she’s not at work you’ll find her hanging out with her 12 year old family cat.

Development Officer: Luke Coad | Meet Our Team

Luke has been working as the Development Officer with Big Brothers for 8 months now. In his role, Luke is responsible for writing and managing grant applications, reports, donor management and our holiday fundraising campaign, amongst a few other things.

Luke brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the team; prior to joining Big Brothers, he worked for non-profit organizations in the UK and Canada for the last eight years, primarily in the field of mental health. This included some frontline work, social enterprise, and now as a grant writer and fundraiser – a real mix! He even founded a football (*soccer) club in the UK for adults with mental health conditions, and reflects, “Although I am no longer involved in the running of it, I’m really proud to see how it keeps growing and providing an outlet for more and more people.”

When asked about a mentor that’s made an impact in his own life, Luke shared “I’m very fortunate to have had a few mentors in my life, something I have grown to appreciate more and more as I have got older. My grandad was especially important to me, he was a real family man who put everyone else first. He lived life to the full and taught me that life is to be enjoyed. He passed away a couple of years ago but his influence lives on, I often ask myself ‘what would grandad do?’”

Starting with Big Brothers during the pandemic unfortunately means that seeing much of our programs first-hand as Luke would have liked hasn’t been possible, however, “A real stand out moment for me is from the Big Brothers Golf Classic where I was finally able to meet a match in person. It was really great seeing how much they meant to each other.”

When he’s not at work, you’ll find Luke snowboarding, preferably with a big blue sky!

Senior Program Administrator: Kimiko Yamada | Meet Our Team

Kimiko, our Senior Program Administrator, has been working at Big Brothers for 12 years! She works with the Charity team at Big Brothers, which deliver all the programming for children and youth. Her main role is database management, file management, as well as reporting and statistics. Kimiko also supervises two positions, Volunteer Intake Coordinator and Administration and Events Assistant. Before she came to work with us, Kimiko worked at a financial cooperation in Tokyo.

While she doesn’t interact with matches directly in her role, she has heard many stories from her Mentoring Coordinator co-workers of the positive impacts having a Big Brother has had on Littles in the community. Kimiko understands the importance of mentorship, she reflected, “I was born and raised in Japan and I think this goes for many Asian countries, but mentoring is not recognized. I always wished that I had a mentor who I could have talked to without being judged when I was growing up.”

Since Kimiko has worked at the organization for a long time, she has had many great times and memories along the way. She recalls having been pregnant with her son Max at the same time as her supervisor that she shared an office with was also pregnant, and how much fun they had together. Later on, she brought her son to the office and felt proud to be able to show him where she works.

As a single parent with an active 8 year old boy, her days are based on her boy’s schedule. After work, you’ll find Kimiko tending to her garden, taking care of her two pet Guinea pigs and playing with her boy. She loves to go dining and enjoy the diverse and authentic restaurants Vancouver has to offer.

The Brotherly Bond of Matt & Max

Little Brother Max and Big Brother Matt are celebrating. After seven special years of friendship, support, and mentorship, Max is turning 18, and they have come together – via Zoom – to celebrate their graduation from the Big Brothers Community Mentoring program.

Straight away, it is clear to see that they have developed a brotherly bond over the years. Reflecting on the first time they met, Max remembers that his first words were, “WOW, he looks so old.” Matt – 24 at the time – accepts that he looks “really old now” seven years later.

Matt was first drawn to the mentoring program because it provides a real opportunity to make a long-term impact on a child’s life. “With Big Brothers, you are not just giving a little bit of money or showing up to events; instead, you are investing your time in one person, and hopefully making a bit of a difference to their life.”

Max and his mother, Felisa, joined the program when Felisa realized she was “not running fast enough to catch the Frisbee anymore – and it felt like something was missing.” Felisa said she was “a bit nervous at first, but Big Brothers made it feel so comfortable, so safe.”

It didn’t take long for Max to begin showing the impact of having a Big Brother. Felisa explains that “when he was younger Max would imitate Matt, he would come home and speak the same way Matt did. I was really happy to see him copying Matt as a role model.”

The foundational support from Matt has had a hugely positive effect on Max over the last seven years. Matt took Max to his first-ever sports game and even helped him see the importance of school. Max says he “was the type of kid who complained about school, who thought all of the courses were dumb. But over time – and with Matt’s help – I started to see the importance of some of them. I still think some of them are dumb, though.”

As Max prepares to move abroad for University, it is an exciting moment to reflect on Matt’s role in reaching this point. While this is the end of their time with Big Brothers, Matt and Max agree this is not the end of their friendship.

Visit our website today if you would like to learn more about our programs, or to make a donation so that we can create more of these special connections across Greater Vancouver – https://www.bigbrothersvancouver.com/

Cameron and Quan’s Exceptional Friendship

When you meet Cameron (Big Brother) and Quan (Little Brother) for the first time, you can immediately tell that they have an exceptional friendship.

Matched three years ago, Cameron became a Big Brother with Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver because he wanted to give back to the community and become a mentor. “I’ve always known about Big Brothers because of the clothing donation program, so it has always been back of my mind, and when I was ready, I just knew and applied. I was then matched up with Quan, and it has been such an amazing friendship,” says Cameron.

Quan, now 12, recalls the first time he met with Cameron, “I have cousins, but never a big brother. Mom suggested getting a Big Brother for me, and at first, I was uneasy because I didn’t know what to expect. But now, it’s cool to have a Big Brother! We do a lot, and he shows me what happens when you get older.”

Cameron recalls the first time hanging out with Quan, when they had decided to play chess. Quan proceeded to beat Cameron 6 times in a row and taught Cameron something. When asked what they like to do when they hang out, they had a long of fun activities that have a special meaning to them, including golf, cooking (they’ve even made sushi), ice skating, sharing a love for Harry Potter (including making butterbeer) and more.

The usual foundation of a friendship between Little and Big Brothers is built on face-to-face interaction, so the pandemic has been challenging for all Big Brother matches. Mentors and mentees had to find creative ways to stay connected. Cameron and Quan played online games to continue their tradition of challenging each other.

When asked what they think of each other, Cameron describes Quan as a creative, happy, and excited young man. Quan says Cameron is “fun to talk to; I can trust him when I have a problem. If I can’t talk to my mom, I can talk to him.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the Big Brother program and be a part of exceptional friendships like Cameron and Quan, please visit https://www.bigbrothersvancouver.com/our-programs/big-brother/ whether to enroll your child or becoming a volunteer.

Events Officer: Andree Nash | Meet Our Team

Andree has been the Events Officer at Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver for nearly two years. She works with community members, partners and sponsors of all sizes to build fundraising events and campaigns, all in support of children and youth development through essential volunteer-led mentoring programs.

With over 7 years in the non-profit and charity industry, she has developed a wide-array of projects, from large scale fundraising initiatives building homes for families with corporate community partners to community engagement events supporting local infrastructure and youth in underserved communities.

We asked Andree some questions to get to know her better!

What does a typical day look like for you?

No day is ever the same, in the life of an Events Officer it is always different which is something I really love about it, it never gets boring! Event days start at 5:00am; packing a truck with everything from sponsor gifts and signs to table cloths and organizing the volunteers for a great day, directing photographers, welcoming sponsors, arranging catering, organizing and displaying marketing materials, managing volunteers and making sure all pieces fall carefully into place. While office days are spent working with sponsors, venues, volunteers and donors, building auctions, picking up materials from new donors, and finding unique and creative ways to bring experiences to life.

What does mentoring mean to you and who is a mentor that has impacted your life?

Mentors are advisers, teachers, sources of knowledge and guidance in careers, jobs, schools and life choices. Above all, mentors are motivators and role models, who believe in their mentees, see their potential and help them get to where they want to go even if they don’t know where that is just yet. During my youth, I believe I would have floundered without a mentor. I would not have known what to do, what schools to attend, what career to pursue, what classes to take or what steps to take to become an adult. It is with the support of my ski coach and mentor ‘Smitty’ as I call him affectionately, that I was able to steer the course when I lost by father during High School to Kidney Failure and who I still call on to this day for his support and guidance.

What would you tell yourself at age 13?

There is a great big world out there; just work hard, stay strong and keep your head up and you will get a chance to explore it. Through exploration you will find the importance of Ubuntu, ‘I am; because of you.’ Nelson Mandela describes Ubuntu, “In the old days when we were young, a traveller through a country would stop at a village, and he didn’t have to ask for food or water; once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is, are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you, and enable it to improve? These are important things in life. And if you can do that, you have done something very important.”

Assessment Lead & Supervisor: Pamela Marin | Meet Our Team

Pamela has been working with Big Brothers for over 4 years, having brought to the role her prior experience as a youth support worker. As Assessment Lead and Supervisor, Pamela assesses families and volunteers that are interested in participating in Big Brothers programs, and also provides support for community matches in the program – giving her first-hand experience in seeing the difference our programs make for both Littles and Bigs alike.

“My favourite part of working at Big Brothers is seeing the growth in friendship between a Big and Little. From being there at their first meeting together where it’s a bit awkward, to a year (or years) later, when you can see how comfortable they have become with each other. It is also always so nice to hear how much the Little enjoys hanging out with their Big and how much they value their Big’s time.”

Pamela also shared the following when it comes to her passions outside of her work.

What’s your favourite thing to do in Vancouver?
My favourite thing to do in Vancouver is to eat. There are so many good food places in the city and new ones are constantly popping up! I also like to follow up a good meal with a nice walk to soak in the nature Vancouver has to offer.

What’s your favourite place to travel?
Hawaii has to be one of my favourite places to travel. I’ve been there a few times and I always love it just as much as the first time I went. The flights to get there are not too long, they have warm weather, nice beaches, and Hawaiian food is delicious! That is my paradise!

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/

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