Volunteering and the Meaning of Mentorship

For National Volunteering Week, April 16-22, we want to put the spotlight on one of our committed volunteers.

Introducing our Big

Our volunteer and Mentor, Lars, and his Little Brother, Francesco, have been matched for eight years.

Born in Lions Bay, but raised in Vancouver, Lars has been a Big Brother for more than 10 years. Now that’s a long time, but it’s flown right by!

He first met his Little Brother, Francesco – or as Lars calls him, “Chesco” – eight years ago.

As with most matches, it took a little bit of time to break the ice. However, as with most matches, they made a connection.

“I think the breakthrough was trying to find the things that we connected on. So we both like certain sports, like soccer, and anime. These are the kinds of things we started talking about and then once we had something to go on, then I could see him getting excited and opening up.”

Time well spent together

One of the more cheesy and long-lasting activities the two have a blast getting up to is trying new pizza joints around the city in the quest to find the best one.

“I think we’ve gone to the vast majority of them now,” Lars jokingly said.

However, when the powder is falling (not the parmesan kind) and the temperatures are low, this duo is in their element.

“The one thing that we both really like is getting out on the ski hills. I think it’s just something that we don’t get that much of a chance to do and we both kind of have a similar skill level so we get lots of fun runs in,” Lars said, adding that a real treat on those ski days is grabbing lunch up in the mountains.

Lots has changed since they first started hanging out and their relationship has evolved as Francesco has grown.

At first, the two played a lot of soccer and spent time at parks. Now-a-days they’ve begun to develop a new hobby: film.

They’ve picked up a habit of going to the movies and then taking deep dive discussion about the films afterward. Slowly, the two are becoming movie buffs, Lars said with a cheeky grin.

Of course they still get around to their go-to activities like kicking the ball around at the local park or playing videos games on rainy Vancouver days.

Looking forward and inward

Lars and Francesco enjoy spending time out in nature.

Francesco’s growth and his continually expanding interests is what keeps things engaging for Lars.

“Over the years we’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with each other and that’s allowed for a kind of a deeper conversation. We can get on to more interesting topics,” he said. “You kind of open up to each other and get on to more interesting topics and learn about the other person.”

Now as his Little starts to think of the next steps of his life, as he approaches the end of high school, its opened up a whole new experience for both of them.

“It’s very interesting to see him progress and develop throughout the years, see his interests evolve and see him start thinking about what he wants to do in his career and what steps he needs to take to get there to get to those kinds of jobs that he wants to do someday. So it’s really cool to see,” Lars said.

Seeing a younger person think about these kind of choices and pathways can make you reflect on your decisions.

“It makes you kind of think about what your interests are and what choices you make in your career. And having someone go through the same steps, from a like a blank canvas, makes you think about what you really like to do and whether you’re doing that or not,” Lars explained.

On volunteering for so long

Lars has been matched with two Little Brothers at his time at Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver.

The main reason is that, on a personal level, it feels good to give back in a way you can see, he said.

“Volunteering means taking your time and your energy and your brainpower and giving that back to the community in a way that helps the community and makes the place that you live a better place and helps people who can make use of that.”

“It feels good to be doing something positive, but also something that’s fun. When you’re doing these activities, my buddy and I have a huge overlap and interest. So really, what it is, is I’m going out and doing something fun with someone,” he said. “It feels good to be kind of guiding someone, but also, it’s kind of in a package of just doing something that you’d be doing anyways.”

There have also been pleasant surprises along his volunteering journey.

“One of the things that I really didn’t expect going into this program is that there’s still like a lot of a kid inside you. And when you just spend time with a kid you kind of find that kid in yourself and have fun without thinking about the complexities of adulthood. And that’s really nice.”

The meaning of mentorship

Throughout his time as a Big Brother, Lars has seen his role as being a mentor.

“Mentorship for me is being the best version of yourself around other people and letting them absorb that and take that to heart in their own lives,” he said.

“In the context of this program, mentoring is really just being a good role model and acting in a way that you think is the way that you’d like the world to be and providing that guidance indirectly. The program is always relationship-first. Build the relationship with your Little and I think the mentorship kind of comes naturally.”

Facing the horizon

As they approach graduating from the Big Brothers Community Program, Lars is looking forward to seeing what path Francesco chooses to follow and is excited to be able to say that they’ve “done the program to the end.”

Most of all though, he’s excited to keep their friendship going even after the programs ends.

For those curious about volunteering, Lars says there’s nothing to worry about and to just get your application in.

Once you get going and “get into gear” the whole process takes care of itself, he said.

“Overall it’s a great experience … It is a time commitment, but it’s a reasonable time commitment and you can balance it with the other parts of your life.”

“I’ve been doing it now for over 10 years now and it’s a really enjoyable experience.”


Want to volunteer or know someone who could make an impact? Then check our Volunteer Inquiry page to learn more about our programs and opportunities. 

Ready to apply now? Great! All you have to do is head to our Volunteer Application page.

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