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.

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's okay to say no

With over 85,000 registered charities in the country each of us as Canadians are bound to be approached for donations multiple times throughout the year. Most of us have come to accept this fact, yet for many of us the idea of being asked for money is unpleasant to say the least. It can carry feelings of guilt and pressure to “do the right thing”. Having been in the business of fundraising for over 10 years I can tell you that this is not how effective fundraising is done and you should not be made to feel this way.

I can also tell you that it is okay to say no. While guilt may work temporarily, it is not a sustainable or long-term fundraising technique. It does not build relationships, and it does not inspire people. Giving is your choice, and above all else, it should make you feel good.

For some of us, it is hard to say no. We are asked around every corner. We are asked by those closest to us, we are asked where we shop, where we eat, and in our homes. I suppose many of us could probably afford to give a few cents or even a nickel to every charity in the country, but would this really be an effective way of making a meaningful contribution to society?

And don’t forget that every donation carries with it a cost of administration. Like any other business, charities need to effectively manage their money, manage their staff, market their brand, and of course bring valuable service to the community, all under the intense scrutiny of both the government and the general public.

I am not suggesting that you stop donating. Most of the 85,000 charities across the country not only deserve your support, but depend on it to exist and to continue to strive to enrich the lives of Canadians. Big Brothers Big Sisters is no exception. With less than 20% of our funding across the country coming from various governments, we will always depend on financial contributions from individuals simply to exist.

I am suggesting that you be thoughtful about your donations for the year. Be strategic and research your options. Look for impact in the community and for real results. And yes, push yourself to give more. It will feel good. You are making an investment in the community, in the life of a child, in the well-being and the future prosperity of the planet. I really believe there is no investment more important.

Garner Beckett
Director of Development
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Life is too short for hatred.

As a young woman and making the first steps into the world of adulthood, I often look back at a simpler time. I look back at the events that have paved every milestone brick into the long branching road that we call life, and as I do, I recall that to be where I am today, I have been through the most unpleasant part of growing up. This portion is commonly referred to as bullying. In retrospect, my childhood was riddled with many harsh words and cynicisms. I am truly thankful that I had my loving family supported me thick and thin. Sadly, not all people have this benefit. I have watched many friends of mine go in so many directions – and not all of them were savory. Acne isn’t the only blemish in a young person’s life. Bullying is truly a problem we need to address as a people. Why must people be heckled for being gay, for their colour of skin, for their size and weight, for their religion or even their personality?!?!?

It’s almost been a year since my summit with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, and at this summit, we were given a challenge. We must be the change we wish to see in the world. So many like-minded people in a single setting, so many different people, yet, the people I met had made me feel so welcome. This strange experience of feeling like the sister of over one hundred people got me thinking: What If I can show the same amount of love to other people? I had been in an Anti-bullying group for about a year to that point, and had decided to aim my attention at the problem of bullying. I received a budget of 100 dollars and with this money, I am spreading awareness by giving incentive to one lucky grade 12 student. One who shows the same amount of compassion I felt and gave in my high school life. This person has to be a guiding light - a warm blanket to put it in metaphor.

I aim to become a Big Sister once again, and to pass the torch on to our youth, because if no one does, we will be stuck in a limbo of civil war. We are the same species, yet we treat each other in such a disgraceful way.

Life is too short for hatred.
~Willa Julius

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

YOUth in Action

On November 5th Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC) and Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada (BGCC) partnered to host the first annual YOUth in Office: JOB SHADOWING DAY ON PARLIAMENT HILL.

Young people aged 15 to 25 had a chance to learn about career opportunities from MPs and Hill staffers. There were 60 youth and 40 Members of Parliament (MPs) who spent the workday together as part of a joint initiative to inspire young people about the working world and some of the job options associated with politics and government in Canada.

We had all party leaders involved in the Job Shadowing Day event, some pictures are attached. My personal favourite, we had youth matched with the Prime Ministerand they met at 24 Sussex Drive (Prime Minister's home) to accompany him to work. The Prime Minister also marked the event honoring the 100th anniversary of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

We also had Minister Candice Bergen kick off the breakfast with opening remarks with 120 individuals attending breakfast.

The day was truly inspirational, watching the youth moving around Parliament Hill, gaining access to closed committee meetings on Aboriginal Affairs, meeting a Minister from Honduras and discussing youth engagement, seeing a coke machine from 1958 still being stocked with pop in the sub-basement at Parliament Hill and writing speeches for MP’s and having lunch with Ministers in the Parliamentary restaurant.

The MP’s and staffers were hugging the youth as they dropped them off, indicating it was so refreshing to spend time with these youth and would do it again and telling the youth to stay connected. They had indicated that they could not believe how much that they themselves got out of the experience.

The youth from Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC) and Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada (BGCC)were our best ambassadors!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Remembrance Day Salute

It is not often that the very act of standing in a particular place can give one the sense of unease, peace and pride all at the same time.

This summer, I had the good fortune to be able to journey to France with my wife and three daughters. With the girls in or approaching university, we were thinking this could be our last ‘family vacation’ for a long time.

It was during this vacation that we visited the beaches of Normandy – Dieppe, the site of the ill-fated 1942 raid that was spearheaded by Canadians and the D-Day beaches of Juno, Gold and Omaha. It was remarkable to be driving along the coast with the English Channel on one side and quaint villages on the other and see Canadian flags proudly flying. It was only then that we realized we were in Dieppe the day before the 71st Anniversary of the attack and, even now, the contributions of Canada are honoured and remembered.

There are so many thoughts and observations from those few days:

  • Seeing the Dieppe cemetery, small and away from town yet immaculate. The headstones were full of names of young men who were only 18. We talked about how, instead of going to school, the young men of that time went off to war.
  • Visiting the Juno Beach Centre. It is only in recent years that a group of veterans spearheaded the construction of a permanent reminder of the second-bloodiest beach of the D-Day landings. Canadians fought their way off the beaches and eventually into Holland and Belgium. Seeing the fortifications that awaited them, I cannot imagine having summoned the courage to jump off a landing craft that day.
  • The scale and magnitude of war. From seeing the remnants of the floating harbour constructed by the Allies to the sheer size of the US Memorial Cemetary at Omaha, I shuddered at the complexity, cost of human life and enormity of the task of landing that June 6th.

Today, only historical remnants remain of those battles. Those two days, visiting those sites afforded my family the opportunity to connect with our pride in Canada, instill a sense of gratitude in another generation and give pause for thought to the horrors of war.

My father-in-law fought in Korea. Each year, we attend the Remembrance Day services and give thanks to the courage and dedication of the men and women who have contributed to our freedom. This year, having visited some of the places where Canadians distinguished themselves, I will be especially thankful.

Bruce MacDonald
President & CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada