Here’s a Richmond volunteer opportunity to share your love of sports and healthy living with children and youth, read on to learn more on how you can make a community impact today.
“I never really expected myself to be an adult and now actively want to volunteer. And it’s tough to say why.”
Brett is a born and raised Richmondite and has volunteered for Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver’s Game On! program since 2021.
During his younger years, he wasn’t an active volunteer – minus the obligatory hours his Planning 10 course had him do at the local community centre in high school.
It was only in his university days when he began to think seriously about giving back in a bigger way to his community, in which he still lives in today.
He thought it would be nice to be a mentor to someone younger and have the opportunity to be there for someone in the ways that he didn’t have when he was growing up.
“I didn’t necessarily have a positive male figure in my life to walk me through a lot of the things that I needed to or in the ways that I needed,” Brett explained.
“I thought the Game On! program would be really nice because it’s really about play – and play has been something that’s been dear to my heart. Play is something that’s taught me a lot about how I interact with life and have fun when I was growing up. I really like how the program is a group setting, but it’s also small enough that you get to connect individually with each of the Little Buddies. It was just a really good fit.”
Game On! is a group mentoring program that supports youth through fun active play and healthy lifestyle learning with a focus on physical activity, balanced eating, social-emotional learning, and communications skills. It connects two volunteers to lead a group of elementary school boys through activities and discussions for 1.5 hours per week over an eight-week session at a local school or community centre.
Meeting your group of Little Buddies is always an exciting occasion and is usually accompanied by playing a lot of different sports like soccer, badminton, basketball and other team games.
“The first day is really just getting a feel for the group. Getting a feel for each of the Little Buddies. What they like to do, what they don’t like to do. It’s always a challenge,” he said. “It’s really just a feeling-out process between them and us. From there, the more you get to know them, the more they get to know you, the more they’ll open up,” Brett said.
Another, often understated, component of the program is the communication and social-emotional discussions each group participates in.
“The topics are important and I think they’re important to go through even if a boy has been in the program multiple time because they’re always relevant to today,” Brett explained. “Topics might be stress, relationships, social media use, screen time is a really big one, the pressures of what it’s like to be a boy, or the differences in terms of society between the experience of being a boy versus being a girl or another gender.”
In the discussions, the Mentors aren’t necessarily there to give Little Buddies the answers, but to give them the space to think critically and reflect on their own experiences, Brett said. It’s about providing them with safe space to openly talk with their peers and with adults who care about them.
Making an impact in the community
Creating a positive space for children to play and grow is a rewarding experience, but it can be hard to visualize the impact you have after only spending a couple of months with your group of Little Buddies.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if you don’t get to see the changes months down the road. A lot of the impact that you have, you’re just starting it. I think they’ll experience the fruits of the program after they leave as well,” Brett said, adding a lot of the impact you have often gets passed down to the volunteers through your Mentoring Coordinator who supports each volunteer and family enrolled in the program.
That being said, Brett has still been able to see huge growth in the relatively short time he’s spent with the children he’s mentored in terms of the confidence they exude and in the way the can positively express themselves with their peers.
On the other end of the spectrum, Brett not only found a fruitful avenue to give back to his community, but also rich and rewarding experience that helps to develop himself personally and professionally.
“From where I started to where I’m at now, I think that I’ve definitely grown a lot as like a facilitator and someone who’s able to be there side-by-side with the youth,” he explained. “I don’t think of it as work that I’m not getting paid for. I think of it as a chance for myself to grow my facilitations skills, to grow my mentoring skills, to have more experiences in the field that I care deeply about.”
“I’m feeling this year around especially rewarding because I feel like I’m able to connect and impact the kids’ experiences even more so this time around. So, I’m quite pleased about the progression that I’ve made over time. I think that’s what you can expect if you are volunteering with Big Brothers … The more time you spend in the setting with the Big Brothers programs, the better you’re going to get at that and the more of an impact you’re going to be able to have with the kids that you work with.”
As Brett continues to volunteer with youth in Richmond through the Game On! mentoring program, he sees his role in a unique way.
“Honestly, the work that I’ve done with youth I’ve never really thought of myself as a Mentor. I guess by the definition of it, like the work that I do, you could probably consider it that type of role. But I just see myself as someone who meets youth where they’re at. Wherever they’re coming into, in the setting that we’re together, I’m just there to see them, to be present with them, to help them feel comfortable and safe so that they can be their authentic selves in the space,” he said.
Interested in becoming a Game On! volunteer in Richmond or in your community? Then check our Volunteer Inquiry page to learn more.
Ready to apply right now? Great! All you have to do is head to our Volunteer Application page.