It’s About Showing Up

Jan. 27, is Thank Your Mentor Day. But what does it mean and look like to be a mentor? Well, stick around and find out because we want you to meet a volunteer we’re thankful for!

Introducing our Big

A man sits underneath a tree with a monkey on his shoulderA born and raised Vancouverite, Zayd, 36, knows all too well about how much of an impact a role-model can have when you’re growing up. In fact, his parents had “like 10 siblings” each! So, he always had a family member, or two, to help him pave his way.

It’s the reason why he was drawn to become a Big Brother. Throughout his life he was lucky to not only have his family but also great mentors through his school and work life and had thought about applying for the program for years as a way to pay it all forward.

Then in February of last year, Zayd met his Little Brother, Kayden, for the first time.

“I didn’t anticipate how hard this would be,” Zayd said with a hardy chuckle.

Meeting your Little Brother or Little Buddy for the first time is always a bit of a challenge, but as someone who has worked in management and is experienced in meeting and mentoring new people, Zayd felt confident.

To overcome the challenge and the first-time awkwardness Zayd leaned on a conversation he had with Kayden’s father, during the matching process, who had told him about how good his son was at soccer.

Having played soccer for the last 10 years himself, Zayd leveraged their shared love for the sport and succeeded in breaking the ice on their first outing.

“We did a whole bunch of soccer drills and we got to kick the ball around. And after that, we went for bubble tea, which is like one of his favorites,” he said. “That’s the first time we bonded.”

Growing into yourselfA man downtown Vancouver in a dress shirt

Showing up is the most important part, but you have to bring your authentic self, especially during those first meet ups, Zayd said.

“I think there’s some awkwardness in the beginning more so from the child’s side. They’re trying to determine why you’re really there. Are you truly there to build a relationship with this person? Are you doing it because it’s, like, your volunteer job? Is it a job? Or is it something that you want to do,” he explained.

What helps a lot is that you’re never alone when you choose to volunteer with Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver. The charity’s staff do a really good job facilitating the space to make real a connection with your Little, Zayd said.

“At the end of the day it’s like a community. It’s a community for the Littles. It’s a community for the Bigs. I can feel that the Littles, they really do value this – and the Bigs.”

Having support from the organization such as regular individual check ups with your mentoring coordinator and group support calls with other Bigs to share and talk about your experience has made it easy to volunteer, he said.

“With all of the events that they planned and all of the free tickets to all the sports events and all. It really takes us away from having to force a conversation. It really enables it to happen naturally just through having fun together. And that’s what it really has been. It’s been a lot of fun in this experience.”

One particularly memorable day was when they took a trip to the PNE.

“What stood out was just the excitement of trying out these new rides, like the roller coasters and things like that,” Zayd said.

In the past Kayden may not have taken on those types of challenges or risks.

“But he kind of pushed himself and he did it. Even I was scared of some of those rides, but I went with him as well,” he said.  “I just remember how happy he was that day. Just thrilled about trying something new and just thrilled about the overall experience.”

“It was a big bonding moment for us … I feel like that was one of the days where our relationship went to like a new level and he was very comfortable with me after.”

What it’s all about

A man in downtown VancouverAt the end of the day, being a mentor is about the friendship you forge.

“I would say, I see myself more as a friend. A mentor, I think of that more in a professional way. Like someone that’s just sharing their perspective with you all the time. But like this experience, it’s more of a two-way street,” Zayd said.

“One thing that I learned through this experience is youth, children as a whole, they can read your body language very easily. They’re paying attention to that. And one thing that helped me through the challenge is realizing that, if I’m more myself, just having fun being charismatic, he feels that energy and he opens up more to me.”

But at the same time as you learn more about yourself, you see the changes in your Little.

“I noticed a huge change,” Zayd said. “He recently started high school and has gained so many friends. Like, I truly feel that because of this experience that me and him went through together, like forming this relationship through Big Brothers, it didn’t just help my social confidence, it helped his and I see him showing up as such a different individual now.”

For those thinking about volunteering, Zayd’s advice is to “just do it.”

“Now that I’ve done it, I’ve realized that it would have been so easy for me to just take the steps a few years ago and just get right into it. So I’d say if you’re thinking about joining this program, there’s probably a reason for that and I feel like those reasons will be highly fulfilled, once you start,” he said.

“There’s no point second guessing yourself. Just get into it … because it’s such a wonderful program to be a part of, and I know there’s many kids waiting for a match right now.”


Ready to start your mentoring journey? Then apply today!

Want some more questions answered before committing? We’re here to help! Inquire here.

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