Salwa Takar moved to Canada from India with her family when she was nine years old. The youngest of seven children, Salwa understands the importance of positive role models. Learning a new language, making new friends and getting used to a new home was difficult, but she found comfort in following the example of her older brothers and sisters – which lead her to volunteer with Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver.
This September, Salwa will be going into Grade 11. “I am the youngest child in the family. I didn’t grow up with kids. I was thinking about my future, and thought why not volunteer as a mentor in the Teen Mentoring Program to see if I wanted to be the kind of doctor that works with kids,” says Salwa about her motivation for joining the program.
Salwa applied to become a Teen Mentor last year, and received leadership and mentoring training through Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver. Not long after, she was paired with a seven-year-old boy named Nate*.
“When I first joined, I was kind of shocked. It was my first time volunteering. At first, it was awkward meeting my Little Buddy, Nate. I didn’t think he liked me. It was tough because Nate didn’t understand that I was there to be his friend, not just another adult,” explains Salwa.
Nate is seven, an only child, and lives with his mom in Surrey. Nate and Salwa were paired based on their personalities and interests. They both wanted to be active, play sports and try new activities together.
“It took a while to build a bond. He usually wanted to play sports, but I wanted him to have balance, so we read books. In the beginning, he was more reserved, he didn’t talk to other people. I encouraged him to become more outgoing. After a while, he became comfortable making friends, and even started showing off his reading skills to me!”
While Nate continues to blossom in the program, the program provides benefits to Salwa as well. She describes what it is like being in high school. “The Teen Mentoring Program is really great because high school students are stressed. The program is an hour of relief from stress. We get to play and do kid stuff. [Volunteering] is one of my favourite things.”
Being a mentor to Nate has also given Salwa the confidence to speak her mind. “When I’m with Nate, I have to be assertive, so now I feel more comfortable being that way in other areas of my life.”
She describes gaining an appreciation for her siblings, strengthening her own family relationships. With new found confidence, stronger family support, and the unique experience of mentoring, Salwa says, “I know now I want to be a family doctor, just so I can be with kids more.”
To experience first-hand what Salwa has learned from our Teen Mentoring program, click here.
About the Teen Mentoring Program
The Teen Mentoring Program matches elementary-aged children with a teen Big Buddy from a nearby high school. The children have been identified by their teacher or other school staff as students who would benefit from some additional attention from a caring role model. Big and Little Buddies meet once a week on school grounds along with other Big and Little Buddy matches. While the focus of the program is to enhance the Little Buddy’s self-esteem, teen mentors benefit from improved leadership skills an interest in volunteerism.
If you’d like to get involved as a Teen Mentor, click here for more information.
*Name and photo have been changed to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the children whom we serve.