At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we believe every child should have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential – both as individuals and citizens. We believe that by changing the course of young lives we can in turn be changing the course of a community’s future.
Start Talking is a place where we want to raise awareness of key issues that face today’s youth. We will sometimes advocate, sometimes educate, sometimes inform, sometimes ask questions and always invite discussion about the pressing concerns that involve the younger generations of today.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Toboggan Ride to Leadership Development

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada welcomes guest blogger Jim Cargrae!

About Jim Carfrae

I have been privileged to be a big brother for six years, lead a three year corporate sponsorship with big brothers big sisters (BBBS) and be on the BBBS alumni committee. I am also a co-founder and animateur of the Leading Better roundtable series, and have worked at a number of successful companies, currently Santa Maria Foods, a fast-growing deli company.

For many years I have been an active mentor, mentee, leader, follower and observer. I am lucky to have a curious nature that leads me to a wide variety of circumstances and experiences. I wish I could have shared a coffee with Richard Feynman.

How being a Mentor helped me

One amazing and unforgettable day my little brother Adam accidently went tobogganing down the ravine at Bronte Park, without a toboggan, amazingly through the trees and luckily without incident – one time! A conundrum, `mom` would not be happy to hear the story, and yet the thrill could not be stifled, and a request for silence would pretty much guarantee it being told with the lead-in, ``Jim said not to tell …``. Life is filled with accidents, I think I am a bit more understanding with my kids because of the day at the park.

In many ways the greatest benefit of being mentored is the comfort of knowing someone is looking out for you, believes in you and wants to support you. I believe this is massively empowering and provides the courage to experiment, practice and live fully.

When I started as a big brother I worked hard to plan our outings. One day I didn’t plan anything, we just hung out, played some Lego, some space invaders. On the way home he asked “can we do that again?” At first I didn’t understand. So much of life is over-planned; Adam taught me the joy of just enjoying someone’s company, and his was wonderful.

Leading might be defined as creating a vision strong enough for action by others. And leadership could then be the conversations and agreements that led to that action; and the space set up for those interactions to happen in a safe and fruitful way.
As I recollect there are over 30 million cartons of Royale facial tissue sold in Canada every year. For three years the bottom of every Royale carton told the simple message of BBBS:

• Over 18,000 children are mentored, (at the time); and there continues to be a need for `bigs`
• Kids who are mentored are more likely to finish high school and less likely to do drugs

I still remember suggesting this idea to our owner, wondering if it might be asking too much. He was immediately supportive, and now I am never shy to ask, people are welcome to say “no”.

I believe there is great overlap in mentoring and leading, and that great personal leadership development can realized by the practice one gets in being a mentor. It really is hard to imagine that a person who was once a big brother or big sister would not record that experience on their resume or Linked In profile for their entire life. It is equally hard to imagine that a potential hirer would not see that as relevant experience, even if 20 years ago.

It is my belief that the best leaders of tomorrow are already developing and practicing today, many as mentors. On top of the wonderful personal interaction as a big sister or brother, the benefit to the little sister or brother and their community; the many mentor programs offered provide an easy and enjoyable way for personal development.

I invite you to check it out, information is at There are also many alumni who are happy to share their personal experience, almost certainly someone you know, if you ask around.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An Award Winning Speech by Little Sister Savannah

Is it Tuesday already? I love Tuesdays. After homework club, I race home and get ready. I stand by the door and just wait for her car to pull in..........I wonder what we will be doing tonight?

Honourable Judges, parents and fellow competitors, I want to talk to you about one of the most precious gifts I have ever received -One that has changed my life, tremendously. That gift is my big sister, Shelby and the organization responsible for connecting the two of us.

Shelby isn’t my big sister by blood but instead she was matched with me through an organization called Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Georgian Triangle. She is VERY special. You see, Shelby chose to commit 2-4 hours of her time, weekly. She went through a screening process to make sure she was a safe adult with positive things to share. And after an interview she was ready for her little sister. Me!

Sometimes when we get together we talk about some of the tough things associated with being a kid..... like school, siblings or bullies..... and other times we are carefree, we goof around and giggle.

Shelby and I love to watch movies together, play games, do crafts, hike, skate, and even bake.

Once we tried baking Pumpkin peanut butter brownies but we substituted many of the ingredients, TRYING to make it healthier. Well.....have you ever heard that expression “it’s the journey, not the destination”? I finally get what that means. We had so much fun mixing everything together but when I bit into those brownies. Ick!!! I did try to pretend they were okay but I was eager to suggest that I should bring them home to share with my family instead. I could tell that my family thought the same thing, they were gagging at every bite. It was like revenge of the little sister and it made the experience that much sweeter.

Maybe you are wondering how someone becomes a little brother or sister. Well, some kids have tougher family situations and need someone positive in their lives and others come from busy families with only one parent......That’s my life in a nutshell. I have a great mom who is very busy trying to take care of everything for everyone. I also have a brother and two sisters and we always have something on the go. It’s really hard to steal some time alone with my mom. Having Shelby in my life gives me the extra 1 on 1 attention I need.

So what does the big brother or sister get out of the relationship? Well, they get a chance to act like a kid, all over again and they also get the satisfaction of making a real difference for a child and maybe even changing the direction of their life.
Studies show that mentoring helps kids stay in school, avoid risky behavior and grow up displaying respect for all. Helping kids reach their full potential can lead to positive community outcomes too, like lower poverty and unemployment rates. It can also lead to safer schools and communities.

Unbelievable, all of those positive changes simply from an adult choosing to be a friend for a kid who needs them! I bet most of the kids in the program don’t even realize how fast their lives are being transformed, because they are too busy.....just being kids and having fun.

Yep, for me, being part of Big Brothers Big Sisters has been one of the most powerful experiences. Only a few years ago I suffered with a condition that made it impossible for me to talk. It wasn’t until I was matched through the program that I came out of that shell and gained some confidence. And here I am today standing before you with LOTS to say. My marks are good, I was chosen as a star camper at camp last summer for being courteous and caring and I was even chosen to be the junior ambassador for our local fair this year. I’m feeling pretty great about the direction my life is taking. But none of these accomplishments would have been as reachable without the kind of support I have received.

Shelby has shown me the importance of volunteering and I have already decided to do my part. I am currently one of the main fund-raisers for Big Brothers Big Sisters, but what I can’t wait my turn to be the Big Sister and teach a little girl all of the special things Shelby has taught me.

Thank you to everyone at the organization, from the Board members to the Staff members and of course, all of the volunteers. And a very special thank you to Shelby for all of the time you give to me – I will always cherish it and make you proud.

Thank you,

Little Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Georgian Triangle

Friday, April 19, 2013


Inspiration. It is the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions. We all need some at some point or another.

Ours came from an unexpected source this week. Big Brothers Big Sisters hosted 100 youth in Ottawa for the Social Innovators Youth Summit 2013. The goal of the summit was to offer practical tools and skills to inspire and empower these youth to go back to their communities and lead positive social change.

As we followed their activities through Twitter, Facebook and this blog – we, in turn, were inspired.
The enthusiasm and energy with which they devoured every opportunity was motivating. The thoughtfulness of their responses to the presentations they participated in was compelling. The gratitude they showed for the opportunities presented during the event and the role models/mentors that have made a difference in their lives was refreshing.

A recent UNICEF report card on children’s well-being ranked Canada 17th out of 29 wealthy nations. Basically, as a nation, we are failing our youth in areas such as mental health, education and physical well-being.

Last week, Big Brothers Big Sisters released results from a recent survey that revealed that Canada’s teenagers are very optimistic about their future and an overwhelming number of them, 8 in ten say they are committed to giving back to the community and 91 per cent of those surveyed believe young people have much to offer to influence positive change.

However, though they feel they have a lot of positive contributions to make to their communities, many teens felt their ideas go unheard. Nearly half of teenagers (44 per cent) believe they are prevented from making a difference - simply because no one listens to them.

OK, I know what you are thinking – all teenagers think that adults don’t listen!

But maybe they’ve got a point. When you listen to the voices of the youth that participated in the Social innovators Youth Summit (You can view some of their thoughts through our You Tube channel), you can’t help but feel inspired to start something.

You don’t have to start something BIG. You can start by truly listening.

We’d like to give a BIG shout out – to all the former and current Littles who participated in the Social Innovators Youth Summit 2013.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

All in A Day’s Work! Parliament Hill, Miss America 2012 & Kardinal O

Though it was a rainy day in our nation’s capital, 100 youth made the trek to Parliament Hill excited and ready to speak to MPs from across the country! Alongside Big Brothers Big Sisters representatives, the youth were eager to talk about their community involvement, causes they are passionate about but most importantly, to represent youth of today.

A gathering with the Speaker of the House introduced our former Littles to the Senator’s Chamber where they learned the historical background of the room as well as had the opportunity to ask the Speaker of the House questions about his involvement in politics along with the causes he is passionate about. While in the Senator’s Chamber the 100 youth had the opportunity to meet and listen to Senator Don Meredith speak about his passion and dedication to Canada’s youth. He left them with several significant and powerful messages such as “Don’t let others define you, define yourself”.

After an eventful day on the Hill, the youth then welcomed Miss America 2012, Laura Keappler. Laura joined our 100 former Littles to chat with them about overcoming adversity, setting goals and staying focused. Her main message – do not let your past define your future.

Last, but certainly not least, WestJet, a long time Big Brothers Big Sisters supporter, surprised our youth with the performance of a lifetime, a surprise concert from Kardinal O and Karl Wolfe at Canada’s Aviation and Space Museum!

As stated by Senator Don Meredith to the 100th youth- “You may only be 20 percent of our population but you are 100 percent part of our future”.

*Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to see all upcoming post about this year’s Youth Summit.

Facebook page

Twitter : @bbbsc
Hashtags: #YS13 #SocialInnovators


Wednesday April 17th, 2013 - The sun is shining, the smiles are bright and the atmosphere in the room is remarkable! A morning filled with key note speakers such as Richard Bartrem the VP of Communications, Creative Services and Community Relations of WestJet as well as a once in a lifetime opportunity to welcome Donovan Bailey to the Youth Summit 2013!

As everyone was on high energy, Donovan expressed his gratitude for being invited to meet these incredible youth and reminded them that “You are all already leaders; you just need to surround yourself with great people to help you make your action plans a reality”.

An honorary visit to Rideau Hall was held in the afternoon where the youth had the opportunity to receive a personal tour as well as had the honor to meet the Governor General of Canada, David Johnson. His Excellency spoke to the youth about education, the importance of giving back to your community as well as the importance to always be humble.

Rideau Club was the next stop! Our 100 youth had a night on the town with MPs, Big Brothers Big Sister’ Corporate Sponsors, Minister MacKay, Donovan Bailey, Miss America 2013 well as Canadian sports legend Bobby Orr who was present to sign autographs and give some words of inspiration to all our youth!

Jessica Wall, one of our youth from the Youth Summit 2013, brought the room to tears while she shared her story on behalf of the 100 youth that were there to emphasize the importance of Big Brothers Big Sisters in her life. Thank you Jessica for sharing your story, great words of encouragement and inspiration!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Social Innovators Take The Lead.

Monday April 15th, 2013 - Rise and shine! It was an early start for the 100 youth at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Social Innovators Youth Summit 2013 but with bright smiles and incredible energy, they were ready and eager to get started.

Today, leadership was the key focus with detailed workshops on leadership styles, public speaking and an inspiring message from our key note speaker, Olympic Team Trialist (Sprinter) and 2013 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award Recipient, Tania Archer. With her down to earth charm and charismatic personality, Tania motivated the youth to reach their true potential not only as leaders but also as champions in their own communities. 

Tomorrow we head to Parliament Hill where the 100 youth will be meeting with MP’s from across the country.

Stay tuned for all the updates from the hill!

*Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to see all upcoming post about this year’s Youth Summit.

Facebook page

Twitter : @bbbsc
Hashtags: #YS13 #SocialInnovators

Monday, April 15, 2013

And it Starts!

Today we welcomed 100 youth to our nation’s Capital for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Social Innovators Youth Summit 2013!

We’ve got a busy week ahead of us with key speakers such as Olympic Team Trialist (Sprinter) Tania Archer, Sports Legend Donovan Bailey, Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler and WestJet’s VP of Communications. They will be inspiring and motivating our young leaders to pursue their goals and aspirations.

A key highlight of the week will be a visit to Parliament Hill to meet with MP’s from across the country to discuss the youth’s community project.

As we gathered this evening to officially meet and greet the youth, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada’s President & CEO, Bruce MacDonald, had some insightful words for our Social Innovators of the Youth Summit 2013.

*Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to see all upcoming post about this year’s Youth Summit.

Facebook page

Twitter : @bbbsc
Hashtags: #YS13 #SocialInnovators

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Most Stressed Generation…

A couple of weeks ago we read a blog that caught our attention: Millennials Come of Age as America's Most Stressed Generation by Arianna Huffington in the Huffington Post.

It got us thinking about why that would be the case…

At first we thought about how Millennials have fewer hardships to face than previous generations as they came of age, such as WWI, The Great Depression and WWII...

So what are they complaining about? Why all the stress?

But then a second article caught our attention “Building resilience in our children” and the pieces of the puzzle fell back into place.

All youth will face adversity. Yes, some will face more difficult challenges than others but at some point they will all face negative moments and situations. They key is having the capacity to bounce back and cope with the challenges.

This is called resilience.

It is natural, as adults, to want to shelter our youth by trying to remove all negative circumstances they may encounter. However, is that possible? I think you know the answer to that.

In addition to trying to make the world a better place – it is becoming increasingly obvious that we, as adults, should also focus on giving our youth the tools and ability to deal with the not so wonderful aspects of the world, should we not?!

For more information regarding resilience please visit our mentor resources on our website: