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.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Topical youth issues addressed at inaugural CIBC Youthvision 15th Anniversary Digital Youth Forum

On June 20th, 2013, CIBC hosted its inaugural CIBC Digital Youth Forum on Academic Success celebrating the 15th anniversary of the CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Program.

Moderated by MTV Host Aliya-Jasmine Sovani the forum connected over 450 CIBC Youthvision Scholarship recipients, families and mentors from the past 15 years as they listened to a panel of experts and discussed solutions to challenges many kids face while achieving academic success.

More than 50 past and present CIBC Youthvision Scholarship recipients took part in the Forum, either from CIBC’s head office or online from across the country and as far away as New Zealand. They were joined by dozens of friends, family and program partners.

The forum addressed a wide range of youth issues that prevent youth from achieving academic success such as maintaining self-esteem and motivation while facing issues like bullying and the pressure to succeed in school, striking a balance between competing life priorities, transitioning from student to the workplace and finding employment and learning to budget in ‘real life’.

The Youthvision orientation also included speed mentoring with CIBC GenNext employees, a visit to the CN Tower and a series of seminars and workshops.

Participant feedback -

"These conversations are critical. Mentorship - ongoing, and via forums like this - is life changing!"

"Believe it or not, we all share the same challenges. Most of us in the room have the same questions, and the experts and resources posted today help me know that I am not alone."

Watch the archived forum-


Password: CIBC

For 15 years, the CIBC Youthvision scholarship program has supported academic achievement for youth who may not have the financial means or support system to easily pursue a post-secondary education.


Friday, June 21, 2013

I learned far more from them than they learned from me...

A reflection of our work in the Flying Dust community

by Karen Shaver
V.P., Agency Services
When I sit quietly, I can hear the drums measuring the heartbeat of the dancers whirling around the flagpole, evoking the movements of hunters and animals. With my eyes closed, I can see the feathers and intricate beadwork, painstakingly sewn onto the deerskin by mothers, aunties and grannies. I can just imagine, centuries ago, how challenging it would have been to craft the regalia, how mesmerizing the singing and dancing would have been to young children crowded around the fire.

I have been fortunate, in my role with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, to be able to work with Flying Dust First Nation to expand our mentoring programs to their community. Flying Dust – Kopahawakenum in the Cree language - is a small community located in Saskatchewan with a population of about 500 members, on reserve. Although I was excited by the opportunity to work with the community to figure out how Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring programs could be delivered in Flying Dust, I was also quite uncertain. In a community where everyone knows everyone, where, in fact, many people are related in one way or another, how do you ensure confidentiality? In a community where volunteers are already taxed, how will they find time to volunteer with yet another initiative? How could I even talk, without feeling foolish, about the concept of structured mentoring in a community where knowledge and history are traditionally passed down through informal mentoring?

After many visits to meet with the community, to participate in a Harvest Celebration, and dance in a Pow Wow, the program was launched as Nistesak ekwa Nimisak. Nine Cree and Métis high school students mentored nine children at the Kopahawakenum elementary school over the course of a school year. The evaluation of the initiative showed some positive progress for both the children and the youth, especially in terms of community connection, civic engagement and attitude towards school.

Bruce MacDonald (left), president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canadaand Flying Dust First Nation Chief Jim Norman signed the agreement in 2011 to work together.
Working in partnership with members of the Flying Dust community has taught me much: if a healthy partnership with First Nations is predicated on relationships, then it’s important to share enough of yourself to build a real relationship; confidentiality isn’t important in this First Nations community (if you don’t know someone needs help, how can you help them??); and, in hindsight, not surprisingly, the Indian Act is one of the biggest barriers to success for First Nations communities and any efforts that can be taken to rectify the injustices codified in that Act should be taken.

On some level, I expected to be able to bring the resources of a national charity to bear to assist a First Nations community requesting assistance. What I found was a resilient and strong community doing all they can to provide guidance and leadership to the children and youth living there. Their culture is strong and vibrant. Their leadership is visionary. Their youth have hope for the future. They needed my support only a little.

And just like our Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentors say about their mentees, I learned far more from them than they learned from me.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Meet the 2013 CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Recipients!

We are proud to announce the CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Program ‘Class of 2013’– 33 young Canadians from across the country who will join the ranks of over 450 program participants and alumni from the past 15 years.

Daniel Scheffer, Victoria BC
Aziza Abdul Qader, Vancouver BC
Anna Maria Baeva, Vancouver BC
Theresa, Vancouver BC
Angela Winsu, Vancouver BC
Leo Ou Liu, Burnaby BC
Bhanu (Priya) Sharma, Burnaby BC
Sara Lavoie, Churchbridge SK
Chantelle Chernick, Winnipeg MB
Cassandra Sanderson, Winnipeg MB
Rayna Critchley, Lanark ON
Caitlyn Lyver, Bowmanville ON
Braydon Middaugh, Sault Ste Marie ON
Melan Mustafa, London ON
Austin Pay, Orangeville ON
Shania Reed, Orillia ON
Brandon Winnicki, Welland ON
Logan Winterhelt, Toronto ON
Kevin, Hamilton ON
Denzel Innis, Hamilton ON
Darlene Lyon, Hamilton ON
Dawape Isekeije, St. Catherines ON
Sidra Khan, Bramton ON
Samantha Hartmann, Toronto ON
Anannya Sahadev, Toronto ON
Aliza Siebenaller, Toronto ON
Taufiq Stanley Toronto, ON
Logan Winterhelt, Toronto ON
Banujan Thambithurai, Scarborough ON
Emily Lillies, Côte Saint-Luc QC
Jermaine Andrade, Fredericton NB
Sharee Burry, St. John’s NL

What the 2013 recipients are saying about CIBC Youthvision:

This scholarship will motivate me to continue doing my best at whatever it may be, whether it's school, work, or just in my everyday life. This scholarship is just a reminder of the potential that I do have to be the best I can be, and I will use it to reach that potential.
Savannah Menton, Toronto, ON

I feel so overwhelmed and a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and my family. I feel so honored and blessed. The fact that people you don’t even know are willing to help you achieve your dreams is incredible. This is one of the best things that has ever happened to me and I will cherish it forever. CIBC has given me the chance to follow what I believe in and to never give up.
Sharee Burry, St. John’s, NL

As part of the 15th anniversary celebrations all 2013 recipients will be visiting their local CIBC branches to open up a CIBC bank account and then travelling to Toronto on June 20th to:

• Learn how to manage their finances and plan a strong financial future through a Money Smarts for Students Seminar
• Gain valuable career advice through speed mentoring with CIBC GenNext
• Participate in CIBC’s first-ever digital Youth Forum connecting over 450 CIBC Youthvision recipients, families and mentors from the past 15 years. Moderated by MTV Host Aliya-Jasmine Sovani, the forum will feature an expert panel discussing issues young people face while achieving academic success.

Follow this event on Twitter #cibcyouth

Learn more:


Monday, June 17, 2013

Financial Literacy with Jamie Golombek from CIBC!

We welcome Jamie Golombek as a guest blogger from CIBC. Jamie is a panellist at the upcoming CIBC Digital Youth Forum celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Program. If you would like to hear more money management advice from Jamie, please tune-in to the Forum, next Thursday, June 20th, 2013 at 5 pm EST.

How to Tune-In-

About Jamie: As Managing Director of Tax and Estate planning, Jamie works with colleagues across CIBC to support high net worth clients and deliver integrated financial planning and strong advisory solutions. He joined CIBC in 2008 after 12 years with Invesco Trimark and previous to that was with Deloitte & Touche. He is often quoted as an expert on taxation, writes a weekly column called “Tax Expert” in the National Post and is a regular personal finance guest on The Marilyn Denis Show. In his spare time, Jamie teaches an MBA course in Personal Finance at the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Financial Literacy with Jamie Golombek from CIBC
June 17, 2013

Whether you’re a child who has just received his first allowance, a teen with a part-time job while in high school or a graduate student who is beginning her career, getting used to setting – and sticking to – a budget is probably the most important piece of financial advice you will ever receive.

But before even trying to set a budget, you should set a few goals for yourself. For a goal to be meaningful, it must have both a specific, measurable outcome and a timeframe for achieving that outcome.

For example, let’s say your goal is to get an iPad. While that goal itself may be exciting, it’s far too vague to be achievable as it’s not specific enough and no timeframe for achieving it has been established. To make the goal real, you do some research and determine that the model you want will cost $550, including all taxes. You would like to have the iPad to enjoy during winter break, say, by late December.

Now, we have a concrete, objective and measurable goal: To buy an iPad, that costs $550, by December 25th.

Now comes the harder step - how are we going to achieve that goal? That’s where budgeting fits in.

A budget can help you save for that iPad by forcing you to set aside funds on a regular basis so that your goal can be realized in time. Part of a budget involves looking at how much money is coming in and comparing that to your expenses. The excess – if any! – is what’s available to set aside to fund that goal.

Let’s say you do some babysitting each week and earn about $50 weekly. Most weeks you end up spending this money on a movie, snacks, or a trip or two (or three!) to McDonald’s. But what if you were to only spend $30 per week on your current expenses and were disciplined enough to set aside $20 from now until December to be able to buy that iPad.

By doing so, in just over six months’ time, you will have accumulated the $550 needed to buy your iPad. Yes – it involved sacrificing your current lifestyle in return for the reward of achieving your goal by the end of the year, but it was worth it!

If you can master the ability to set goals and stick to a budget when you’re young, it will serve you well throughout your life as you apply these very same principles to help you achieve larger financial goals, like buying your first car or even one day, a home.


Monday, June 10, 2013

CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Program celebrates 15 years of changing lives through access to education!

This spring, CIBC Youthvision is celebrating its 15th anniversary – a one-of-a-kind scholarship program that has changed the lives of hundreds of young Canadians since 1999.

CIBC Youthvision is a scholarship program unlike any other. The important difference is the program’s early intervention at the critical time in grade 10, which research shows not only relieves financial stress, but also builds confidence and self-esteem. It also encourages independence, enables students to do more in-depth life and educational planning, and ultimately, motivates them to do better.

The Program invests annually in 30 high-potential young people involved in a mentorship program with Big Brothers Big Sisters or the YMCA, who might not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue a university or college education. The $38,000, six-year program supports them with mentoring, summer internships and tuition contributions as they complete high school and their post secondary education. The 2013 CIBC Youthvision Scholarship winners will be announce June 20. Stay tuned!

You’re Invited!

To celebrate the 15th anniversary, CIBC is holding its first-ever Digital Youth Forum connecting over 450 CIBC Youthvision Scholarship recipients, families and mentors from the past 15 years. Moderated by MTV Host Aliya-Jasmine Sovani, the forum will feature an expert panel discussing solutions to challenges youth face while achieving academic success.

Topic- Boost: maintaining self-esteem and motivation while facing issues like bullying and the pressure to succeed.
Panelist - Dr. Joanne Cummings, Knowledge Mobilization, PREVNet

Topic- Balance: striking a balance between competing priorities at school, with friends, and at home.
Panelists - Adam Van Koeverden, Olympic Champion and Pan-Am Athlete in Kayaking, Eugenia Canas, Community Engagement, MindYourMind

Topic- Breadwinning and Budgets: transitioning from students to the workplace, finding employment and learning to budget in real life.
Panelists - Jamie Golombek, Tax and Estate Planning, CIBC, Megan Thomas, Employment and Community Services, YMCA,Pattie Lovett-Reid, Chief Financial Commentator, CTV NEWS

Date: June 20, 2013 from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm EST

Participate Online:
1. Like
2. Click on the Youthvision Tab
3. Click on the Webcast Button
4. Enter password CIBC
5. Post comments and questions online via the social stream.

If you do not have a Facebook account, email to receive a special link to the Webcast.

Or, join us in person:

CIBC Head Office, 199 Bay Street, 56th floor, Toronto

Please RSVP to letting us know whether you will be tuning in online or attending in-person by June 17, 2013. In-person guests please arrive by 4:30 EST.

Learn more about the panelists and meet some fellow Youthvision recipients.

Visit and click the Youthvision Tab. #cibcyouth

For more information on the CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Program-


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I’m Overhead….and Proud of it!

‘70% of Americans believe that charities waste money, according to an NYU survey. Our goal is singular: within ten years, to have 70% of Americans believe the opposite.’ -Charity Defense Council

Perhaps one of the most frustrating questions posted to the leaders of charitable organizations is the dreaded ‘what is your cost of administration?’ For at least a decade it seems that a series of factors have been leading Canadians to a place where the percentage of funds spent on infrastructure is the sole determinant of the value of a charitable organization.

From exposes on copycat charities to instances of obscenely high costs of fundraising to a genuine desire to delineate between the 80,000 charitable organizations in Canada, people have been trying to create a common measure for comparison. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the pendulum has swung too far.

‘Cost of administration’ simply cannot be the only criteria used to assess the value of a charity.

Should charities have measures in place to show transparency and accountability as stewards of contributed funds? Absolutely. Audits from credible firms, checks and balances relating to internal processes, high functioning Finance and Audit Committees etc. all form part of a system that demonstrates professional management and provides reassurance to donors and sponsors.

But what if it takes more than 15% to provide a quality service that is making a difference and fulfilling the mission? Should not the need, quality and outcomes warrant a deeper conversation about whether a charity is responsibly delivering on its mission? Organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters are counting on it.

The emerging belief, that spending more than 15% on administration, is one of the most dangerous, long term trends to have emerged in decades. It undermines the ability of organizations to have the necessary resources to deliver quality programs. It creates a climate where charities accept ‘bad deals’ for funding simply because it is the only deal available. In the long run, it will negatively affect the capacity of organizations to attract and retain talent, ensure that corners are not cut in program delivery and ultimately achieve the high quality outcomes that society has come to expect.

The time has come for the sector, collectively, to speak out and attempt to stem this ongoing conditioning. Overhead, administration, capacity. These words need to join the lexicon of words seen as positive, not negative for they help ensure quality and accountability. I, for one, am overhead and proud of it.

What do you think? Are you proud to be overhead? How do you choose the charities you support? Do you think my observations are off base? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Bruce MacDonald
President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

*During their recent AGM, Imagine Canada welcomed several new board members including our very own President and CEO Bruce MacDonald. Bruce states that he "...hopes to connect with the broader trends facing the voluntary sector and hopefully make a contribution to charities and non-profits in a wider context."

Bruce was elected alongside illustrious individuals such as: Darlene Jamieson (Merrick Jamieson Sterns Washington & Mahody Barristers); Derek Gent (Vancity Community Foundation); and Mike Pedersen (TD Bank) and joins existing members such as Stéphane Vaillancourt (Les YMCAs du Québec) and Owen Charters (MS Society of Canada).