Andrew and Gurtej are quite the pair.
“He’s very mischievous … He’ll try to get away with as much as is humanly possible” Gurtej, Andrew’s Big Brother, said. Though not in a bad way, he added with a grin.
“He reminded me a lot of myself. Someone who has a lot of energy and it just needs to be channeled in the right way. He’s a good kid at heart. Great kid at heart.”
A common thread
Gurtej, 27, was born and raised in Delta and continues to live there today. A talented soccer player, he had planned to become a professional athlete and even had university covered by a scholarship.
However, after his first year in post-secondary, Gurtej decided to take on a different path and perused finance. His dedication and hard work on the pitch transferred flawlessly to his new goal off the pitch and upon graduating he started his own company.
Not unlike his Big Brother, Andrew also loves playing sports.
“I play football full-time and I play soccer at school at recess and lunch,” Andrew explained, adding he’s played soccer for more than seven years and that he’s a great goalkeeper.
Breaking the ice
Now 11-years-old, Andrew first met Gurtej three years ago when he was seven. The two would then go on to influence each other’s personal growth much more than they could have imagined.
In their first get-together though, Andrew remembers having mixed feelings about the program.
“I was scared, it was weird, and it was exciting at the same time. I didn’t know what to think of him,” Andrew recalled. “He looked old and he looked formal. Like he wasn’t fun guy – but now it’s changed.”
Reflecting their two personalities, Gurtej dressed in full formal attire while Andrew donned comfy pants and a little T-shirt.
“It was a little bit awkward at first, [but] it was mainly me – Andrew was very open. I just wasn’t really sure how to connect with him, what avenue to use. But slowly, we just sort of [started] connecting over little things. Initially, it was just soccer and then we would talk about other stuff. And then, over the years, you get more and more comfortable with each other,” Gurtej said.
Creating a bond
Though first meets are often a nervous experience for both Little and Big, the two none-the-less got off to a great start.
Now-a-days, their weekly Sunday hang outs are rarely planned ahead of time and are instead spontaneously decided between the pair when Gurtej comes to pick up Andrew in the car. Their go-to activity on a warm and sunny day is playing soccer at the local park, of course.
Another “fan favourite,” as Gurtej puts it, is laser tag as well as of Ninja Tag, an activity where you score points by touching LED lights in an obstacle course.
It’s because of these activities that Andrew doesn’t see his Big Brother the same way as he did the first time they met. In particular, Gurtej just doesn’t appear so “old-looking” to him anymore.
“He’s athletic, which makes him, like, not old,” Andrew said, adding Gurtej runs fast, plays soccer, and his athletic ability really shines when they’re at Ninja Tag running up and down the walls and up and over obstacles.
Their adventures don’t only centre around athletics. The duo likes to mix it up with trips around Greater Vancouver, such as a memorable visit to the Vancouver Lookout, or just take it easy at the movies or by playing video games, like Roblox, together.
Development and growth
“The relationship has grown quite a bit now. It’s very comfortable now where it’s not formal at all. We’re joking with each other a lot [and] we’ll tease each other,” Gurtej said. “It’s become less about the activities and more about us just hanging out.”
Though it’s still lots of fun and games, the two feel like they can talk about anything with each other and it has made a noticeable impact on both of them and their respective character.
Going into the Big Brothers Community program, Gurtej knew he was quite a serious and formal person and spending time with Andrew has gotten him to loosen up and enjoy the moment more.
“He’s made me less serious. I get told from my friends a lot that I don’t really have an off button or I can’t just hang out. He’s made me much more relaxed in some aspects, or more childish, or more playful in some areas of life,” Gurtej said.
For Andrew, there has big increase in maturity, his mother, Leanne, said.
For example, when Gurtej got engaged, and then married, he shared the experience of what it was like with Andrew: all the excitement as well as the tedious details, like planning, paying bills, and organizing a wedding. She feels that it’s the little things like these that have help Andrew grow into a more well-rounded person.
“Just understanding life and, like, being able to have that male role model in his life has been a great influence for him … Andrew appreciated that he treated him as a friend – not just another kid,” Leanne, said.
Through their friendship, Gurtej has been able to see Andrew grow up physically, but also as a person.
“I’ve seen him mature quite a bit in a lot of aspects. I’ve noticed he’s become more empathetic with people … [and] he’s just he’s gotten a lot smarter over the years,” Gurtej said.
He’s not just talking about book-smarts. What catches Gurtej by surprise is how Andrew has developed an awareness about the world around him and his place in it.
Feeling good about the future
For Gurtej, what makes their friendship so engaging is being able to share his personal experiences, his thoughts, or just giving his advice on any curious questions Andrew may have.
“I would honestly argue that’s the most rewarding part, just being able to talk to him and give him advice. I am very much looking forward to when he is older and [has] questions of ‘what do I do in school’ or ‘what do I do career-wise’ or ‘what do I do on this earth?’ All these questions that you would have as a teenager and beyond – I’m excited for those conversations as well,” he said.
“He really does feel like my little brother now.”
Like the photos? Read all about our BIG day at this year’s Annual Big Brothers Photoshoot here.
Want to read another heart-warming story? Then click here for Giving Mentorship an Early Start: Cora & Gisele.