“Kids are so genuine. We always had such a good time, laughing and joking together,” says Freda Fong, a police officer who has been a volunteer mentor to three Burnaby children.
“Each of the kids that I built friendships with were really different,” explains Freda, who mentored two girls and one boy since she began volunteering in 2011. “But what they all really needed was that consistency — someone hanging out with them for an hour a week.” As part of the In-School Mentoring program, Freda visited her Little Buddy at his/ her elementary school once a week during school hours.
“I remember with [my Little Buddy] Danny*, just showing up at his school made him really proud. He would tell his schoolmates, ‘That’s my friend — that’s my friend, Freda’ and then he would high-five them as we walked down the hallway,” recalls Freda.
At the time, Danny’s mom was dealing with an illness that kept her mostly bed-ridden. For Danny, the time he got to spend with Freda gave him the boost of confidence that he needed as he became a teenager. “Staff at the school would tell me how much more articulate he was, how much better he was at communicating with adults,” says Freda. In fact, another parent at the school took notice of how well Danny was doing, and approached Freda to learn more about the program. Eventually, that parent was able to find a volunteer mentor for her daughter as well.
“The Big Brothers caseworkers put a lot of effort into finding the right Big Buddy for each kids,” explains Freda. She was matched with her first Little Buddy Rose* because they share a love of basketball and food, which were perfect activities for their weekly visits. “We often made cupcakes and cookies in the school kitchen.” “I have so many favourite memories with each of my Littles — all those hours playing Battleship, of making cards for each other. I had a chance to go to Danny’s school play and Christmas concerts. When I was in elementary school, I remember how special I felt when my brother and sister came to my school events — I would look for them in the crowd. My Little’s family wasn’t always able to attend his events, so I would go and he would look for me in the crowd.”
“Saying goodbye was hard,” admits Freda, whose Little Buddies eventually moved away or graduated from elementary school. But each time, she stayed committed to mentoring another Little Buddy.
There is currently a list of children who are waiting for a Big Brother/Big Buddy mentor (all genders welcome). Find a volunteer opportunity that suits your schedule or refer a friend here.
*Names have been changed to protect the safety and privacy of the children whom we serve.