A lot has happened in the past few months, and we would like to provide you with an update of where we are at as an organization and our next steps. The current COVID-19 pandemic has shifted our world and this is a very uncertain time for our local and global communities. We are an organization dedicated to supporting mentorship relationships for children and youth. We have all been facing social isolation, but it has been especially challenging for the vulnerable young people that we serve.
We have also been engaging in important reflection and discussion about the events that have highlighted anti-Black racism and the systemic and deeply rooted racism that continues to exist in our community. It is especially poignant that two such profound issues are in the public sphere so prominently at this time.
We know there is more work we need to do as an agency to create equitable and anti-racist spaces, policies, and procedures. At Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver, we have a long history of focusing on inclusion and diversity at the Board level and among our staff. We recognize the need to develop actionable changes, continuous education, and long-term commitments. We are currently engaged in a wide-reaching strategic planning process, which will guide our direction for the next five years. This process will embed these actionable changes, educational initiatives and long-term commitments into the core of our organization.
OUR COMMITMENTS TO EQUITY, INCLUSION AND ANTI-RACISM
We are in support of the principles embedded in the Black Lives Matter Movement and we recognize that racial discrimination and oppression have also had a devastating effect on Indigenous peoples and others in the community. We are actively listening and further educating ourselves on how to help children and youth navigate and dismantle the systemic inequalities and realities that they face. Responsibility for this work starts internally.
There will be much more to come on this when we roll out our strategic plan, but specific deliverables will include:
– Led by our Boards of Directors and Management Team, develop an action plan to adopt anti-racism practices and move our commitments forward, in consultation with our staff and members of the communities we serve
– Learn more about racism in Canada and BC, and about Black History in our communities in an effort to undo the erasure of that history from our education curriculums and dominant discourse
– Continue this important reflection and explore our unconscious biases through access to resources and learning opportunities to advance toward practicing anti-racism across our organization
RESUMING IN-PERSON MEETINGS FOR COMMUNITY-BASED MATCHES
At the beginning of the pandemic, our matches were not able to see each other in person. Despite this challenge, our mentors were engaging virtually in order to provide much needed support and friendship during this confusing time for the mentees. It is through these relationships that children build resiliency. Hearing stories from our matches on how they are still striving to connect has been heart-warming and encouraging.
Last week, we started the process of providing information to our matches on resuming in-person visits. British Columbia is one of the leading provinces in minimizing the spread of the virus and our Provincial Health Authorities continues to lift restrictions. With the announcement of Phase 3 of the BC Restart Plan, we recognize that matches will want to resume their in-person visits (while following safety recommendations) and our agency is providing our volunteers, children, and families with information that will protect the health and safety of everyone involved in the match. This information has been approved by the BBBS National Office; please reach out to your Mentoring Coordinator if you have not reviewed the COVID-19 material/protocols. The information is also consistent with the recommendations of the Provincial Health Officer.
As our ability to engage with our family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours has become increasingly challenging the past few months, we are learning how essential these connections truly are. Thank you to our volunteers, families, and partners that have supported us during this time.
OUR OFFICE AND PROGRAMS DURING THIS TIME
The staff at Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe and healthy during these times. Thank you for your flexibility and understanding while we learn to adapt and transition our mentoring programs to a virtual platform. It has been wonderful seeing Bigs and Littles continue to connect virtually during the pandemic, and we have also been excited to welcome a number of new Bigs who will be ready to be matched to their Little in the Fall.
Our Mentoring Coordinators and staff returned to our physical offices on June 22, 2020. Some staff will continue to work from home while others will work both remotely and on-site at the office. BBGV offices will remain closed to the public until restrictions related to social distancing lift. During this time, our Mentoring Coordinators and Assessors will continue to connect with you virtually or by phone.
Site-Based programs will continue to be virtual until our schools and community partner sites are ready to support in-person programs at their sites. This summer, Game On! and Mentoring with Math are being offered virtually. Our other Site-Based programs are planned to begin again in the Fall, and include: Adult In School Mentoring, Teen In School Mentoring, ROOTS, and CATCH as well as more Game On! and Mentoring with Math programs. Please connect with your Mentoring Coordinator to find out more.
CLOSURE OF THE SEA TO SKY OFFICE
We are very sad to note the previously announced closure of our offices in Squamish and Whistler where we had served the communities for over twenty-five years. Unfortunately, our funding crunch did not permit us to continue operations and we thank the staff for their years of dedicated service to BBBS Sea to Sky.
CLOTHING DONATION OPERATION CONTINUES TO BE ON-HOLD
We are working hard to resume normal clothing donation operation and thank you for your patience during this time in holding onto your donations. We hope to start up the home pick up service this summer. If you would like to be notified when we resume service, please sign up at http://www.BigClothingDonation.com
If you need to donate your clothing right away, we encourage you to drop off your donation at our Kingsway office or the following Value Village locations where partial proceeds benefit Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver:
Surrey – 6925 King George Blvd
South Coquitlam – 1301 United Boulevard
Vancouver – 1820 East Hastings
Vancouver – 6415 Victoria Drive
Richmond – 8240 Granville Ave
A BIG THANK YOU TO OUR SUPPORTERS
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you – our supporters who have gone above and beyond for us during this pandemic.
Through hardship, comes resiliency. The pandemic has allowed us to have valuable and thoughtful discussions on the future of Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver as we go through strategic planning process of what our organization will look like in the next 5 years.
The most important thing we know, is that we can’t do what we do without the important support of volunteers, families, donors, and many more.
Thank you for sticking by us so we can continue to provide valuable mentorship experiences to children and youth, especially during these challenging times. We know we will come out even stronger after this, and we can’t wait to share with you our new strategic plan.
Valerie Lambert, CPA, CA, ICD.D
Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver