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, December 15, 2014

Giving Returns More Than Expected

My name is Jennifer and I was lucky enough to join the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada Live Different trip to the Dominican Republic where we built a home and a Kids Club. It was truly a life changing experience and one I would recommend everyone do at least once in their life.

There were 22 individuals from across Canada (staff, volunteers and Littles) and we truly embraced the values and true spirit of mentoring on this trip. I have never been more proud to work for Big Brothers Big Sisters. One of the Littles in our group stated "Big Brothers Big Sisters has had a huge impact on my life; and I wanted to come on this trip to give back and make a difference in someone else’s life". Little did we know what an amazing difference the people we met would have on our lives.

The community we worked in was amazing. They live in very poor conditions and they don’t have much but what they do have is an amazing spirit, a sense of community and a sense of genuine happiness and what is really important in life. I believe they taught us more then we taught them. They were so welcoming, caring, gracious and just so appreciative of us being there and giving of our time. They came out in droves and worked alongside us and despite the language barrier amazing connections were made.

Your heart swells while being there as you are touched by what you see, the people you meet and the drastic difference in lifestyles. You truly get a sense of what is important in life and what truly matters. They live in a community where they have 6 hours of electricity a day, no running water and the majority have no indoor washrooms, fridges or stoves. What they do have is an incredible view on life, community and taking care of one another. They are appreciative of what they have and their lives and family. It was truly an eye opening experience and one that will stay with me forever.

I have been forever changed by this experience and I don’t see life through the same set of eyes I did before I went. I am more humbled, grateful, more appreciative and just forever changed. I am truly grateful to Big Brothers Big Sisters, West Jet and Live Different for this opportunity of a lifetime!

Jennifer Dalziel
One to One Caseworker
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel

We would love to hear how your family has chosen to give back to your community. It may even inspire others to do the same. While you are at it, why not share with us your #GreatestGift of the Holiday Season? What was your favourite holiday moment? What is your family’s greatest Holiday tradition? Tweet us pics, stories, videos of your #GreatestGift to @BBBSC or post them to our facebook page. It can be something simple. Just don’t make it about “stuff”.

Monday, December 8, 2014

What's the Greatest Gift? Friendship!

I have been lucky enough to know Omer Jerry Foisy for over forty years, and for that I would like to thank the Big Brothers organization.

Jerry and I have had many adventures over the years that I would not have experienced without him in my life. Over time, our families have intertwined to the point where my mother always considered Jerry her fifth child and his family was our family. We have shared births, deaths, first communions, graduations, marriages, and milestone anniversaries, among many other events in both of our lives. I have such respect and admiration for Jerry that I chose him to be the godfather of my son, Steve.

From the beginning, Jerry has always shown me the importance of faith, friendship, and family and the value of volunteering, all of which are very important to me today.

If I had not met Jerry Foisy, I don’t know how my life would be different, but I know it is better as a result of him always being there for me. We can go long periods of time without talking or seeing one another, but when we get together, it’s like we have never been apart.

I didn’t have a choice when Jerry showed up on our doorstep in 1969, but I know there was no better Big Brother for me.

Although I have never said it out loud, Jerry, I want to say I love you, and I thank you for being such a positive influence in my life.

by Jim Clendenning

Monday, December 1, 2014

All I want for Christmas is…SOCKS!

Seriously, I really like socks. I will wear a nice pair of socks until all the elastic is gone or until my toes start sticking out the end. Last year, my kids got me a few of the coolest pairs of socks for Christmas. This year, I’m hoping for more of the same. Nothing else under the tree for me, please. #Greatestgift

Everyone loves giving and getting gifts over the Holidays. Opening presents makes us feel special and reminds us of the excitement of being a kid. And who doesn’t love spoiling their kids with loads of presents? It is only once a year after all, if you exclude Birthdays, Graduations, Easter, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Canada Day, and all the random gift occasions in-between.

You don’t need to be reminded that gift giving, especially around the Holidays, is out of control. I’m not suggesting that we all stop giving gifts, but here is something to think about...

Countless numbers of kids we mentor across Canada will get next to nothing this Holiday season. They will go to school in January and feel alienated from their friends who will all be talking about their gift haul. You know these kids; they live in your communities. To be honest, gifts (or lack of) are the least of the worries these kids will face. They are being exposed to things no child should have to see. They are at risk of being ignored or forgotten. They are at risk of taking a negative path in life. They are good kids who deserve to have the opportunity to succeed.

Here is where the socks come in. For the past couple of years, our family has tried to put less emphasis on presents, while trying to encourage a conversation around meaningful things we can do for others. My two boys are three and six, and for them, there is no such thing as “too many presents”. They are at a naturally egocentric age, but it is also a great age to talk about kindness and compassion for others and to involve them in family decisions.

If your family hasn’t had a conversation around doing something meaningful for others this Holiday season, I hope you will consider it. Consider putting a little less money into the presents this year and instead discuss, as a family, where some of that extra money might go. The average Canadian holiday budget is just about $1,000 per person. The median charitable giving per person, on the other hand, was around $270 in 20121, and that was for the whole year! It doesn’t even have to be money. You can donate clothes or household items; you can get the kids to go through and pick out some of their old toys to donate; or donate time. By starting a new holiday tradition you can show your children (rather than tell them) that the Holidays are not just about presents.

Tell us about it. We would love to hear how your family has chosen to give back to your community. It may even inspire others to do the same. While you are at it, why not share with us your #GreatestGift of the Holiday Season? What was your favourite holiday moment? What is your family’s greatest Holiday tradition? Tweet us pics, stories, videos of your #GreatestGift to @BBBSC or post them to our facebook page. It can be something simple. Just don’t make it about “stuff”.

Finally, if your family does decide to donate, this is why we believe an investment in Big Brothers Big Sisters is the Greatest Gift you will make all year...

Big Brothers Big Sisters is equipping children in your community with the tools they need to overcome the challenges they will face. In doing so, we are helping young people reach their full potential. Our paid, professional caseworkers, across the country, are supporting important relationships between at-risk young people and volunteer mentors each and every day. Our mentors are not superheroes. They show up and they listen, and, in many cases, this alone can make all the difference in the world to a child who needs extra guidance and support. Donate.

Garner Beckett
Director, Development
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

1Statistics Canada - Charitable Donors

Monday, October 27, 2014

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 [two years] 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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Selfish Life as a Big Brother

I’ve spent well over thirty years as a Big Brother, with no end in sight. I’ve been the best man at a Little’s wedding, had a Little’s baby named after me, helped a Little through the death of his mother and the death of his best friend, done a cross-country motorcycle trip with a grown-up Little, and even done several four-day/night-long flagpole sits in grotesque weather to raise awareness for our local Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.

I remember applying for my first Little and having long conversations with my caseworker to explain that, even though I was a very young man, a long-haired motorcycle rider, and didn’t own a car, I was completely responsible and safe on my bike. It took some convincing to get my caseworker and my Little’s mother to finally agree that I could be trusted and that my Little could ride on the only vehicle I owned: a huge touring motorcycle.

My first day as a Big Brother began when I was introduced to my Little and his mother. I gave another big speech to his mother and our caseworker about my safe and responsible riding, and eventually my brand-new little friend and I rode off. I could see his mother’s face in my mirror, a combination of happiness and trepidation. Perhaps I looked too closely, because then . . . I crashed. It was the first and only crash I’ve ever had. In reality it was minor, but it was monumental in my mind! My Little thought it was funny, and his mother turned out to be a saint.

And that’s how I began a thirty-year journey of extreme selfishness. I’ve had plenty of smiling, nodding heads approving of these decades of my dedication to this great program, yet I can’t shake the feeling that, even though I’m proud of the role modelling and time and effort I’ve put into sharing my fortunate life with others, it’s all about my feelings, my satisfaction, and my self-esteem. Because ultimately, by spending my entire adult life as a Big Brother and allowing these important relationships to be part of my life, I have been the truly fortunate one. Simply put, my life has been better as a result of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the bonus is that, by channeling my selfishness in community-minded ways, perhaps I’ve also made a positive contribution here and there!

by Andy Beesley

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Years of Good Friendship

My name is Wanda (Hayek) Coates, and I am a Little Sister. My Big Sister is Elizabeth. I am grown up now, married, and have a child.

Elizabeth and I were the first match here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1970. I was twelve years old at the time. I will always remember that day. Elizabeth has been a big inspiration in my life.
Growing up was tough with just a father, brother, and sister. My father is the greatest man in the world, and he knew that my sister and I needed mentors in our life. When he signed us up to meet Big Sisters, that was exciting.

When the day came and I met Elizabeth, I knew we were a definite match. We did so many exciting things. We often met up with all the other Big and Little Sisters in Winnipeg and, to name a few outings, we went skating as a group, and saw a shrine circus and the Ice Capades. Back then, the group was small, so we were able to go out together.

Over the years, Elizabeth and I stayed very good friends. She was there for me through my marriage, my daughter’s birth and my mother’s passing, and many other times. I could go on forever describing what a special person she truly is. I couldn’t have asked for anyone more wonderful than Elizabeth.

I’m glad to have shared this story and hope other Little Sisters find the rewarding experience I had. I wouldn’t have had a story to share if it wasn’t for Big Brothers Big Sisters, so I thank you from my heart.

by Wanda Coates

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Boy and a Man — Over Forty Years of Lasting Friendship

I have been lucky enough to know Omer Jerry Foisy for over forty years, and for that I would like to thank the Big Brothers organization.

Jerry and I have had many adventures over the years that I would not have experienced without him in my life. Over time, our families have intertwined to the point where my mother always considered Jerry her fifth child and his family was our family. We have shared births, deaths, first communions, graduations, marriages, and milestone anniversaries, among many other events in both of our lives. I have such respect and admiration for Jerry that I chose him to be the godfather of my son, Steve.

From the beginning, Jerry has always shown me the importance of faith, friendship, and family and the value of volunteering, all of which are very important to me today.

If I had not met Jerry Foisy, I don’t know how my life would be different, but I know it is better as a result of him always being there for me. We can go long periods of time without talking or seeing one another, but when we get together, it’s like we have never been apart.

I didn’t have a choice when Jerry showed up on our doorstep in 1969, but I know there was no better Big Brother for me.

Although I have never said it out loud, Jerry, I want to say I love you, and I thank you for being such a positive influence in my life.

by Jim Clendenning

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Special Adventure

For several weeks, while driving to work each day, I would pass a great big sign that read “EDDIE BAUER TENT SALE 70% OFF! Saturday, October 19th” and It just so happened that I did need a new tent (or two!) for camping. What a deal, and perfect timing too!

As a special adventure, my Little Brothers Matthew and Danny and I got up very early that Saturday morning, not wanting to miss getting the best tents. I knew that with prices like that, they would go fast. This was going to be a great lesson to the boys about the power of observation skills, patience, and frugality.

We got to the store before 8 A.M. There was a huge outdoor display being set up with signs and banners… staff were working under a great, big canopy over a large part of the parking lot, moving boxes around… We patiently waited until the appointed opening time, and then bolted into the store. I breathlessly cornered the first salesperson and asked “Which way to your tents?!” There was a strange pause that I attributed to the early hour and a lack of caffeine, but the eventual answer was something like “…Um, it’s out in the parking lot…”

Great! We ran over to the big canopy (some may refer to these things as “tents” by the way), and I asked the salesperson, excitedly, where the tents were. I had to repeat my question, and after a semi-glazed look and a “pardon?”, I repeated my question again. I mentioned the sign about the tents advertised on the road-side sign for the past few weeks. With some cautious trepidation, the salesperson indicated upward and said “Um, sir, we don’t have any tents. We only have clothes for sale… …in this tent…” There was a long and awkward pause as I processed this.

“Um, oh… I ah see. It’s a sale in a tent… Right. Um. Thank you…”

Back at the car, the boys were beside themselves laughing at me and making fun of this whole scene. They saw it all play out.
“But Eddie Bauer really does make tents! I saw them online!” I insisted.
Apparently, those tents were only sold in the USA.

We went and had enormous consolation breakfast instead, and I sulked in my maple syrop.

The “boys”, who are now 20 and 24 years old respectively, still like to ask me if I know of any good upcoming tent sales.

Joel Porter
Big Brother

Monday, July 21, 2014

Big Data

Two bags of carrots. That’s what I have in my crisper right now, and now need to figure out what to do with them. It’s not because I have a love of carrot cake. Nor is it related to a craving or even an effort to curb critically low beta-carotene levels. Nope, none of the above. This one is unequivocally a shopping blunder. The result of a poorly planned grocery list and, more importantly, an assumption on the part of our family’s head grocery scout (ahem, me). A preventable error had I simply taken time to check if we had any - to check the “data”, so to speak.

What relevance does the contents of my refrigerator have on…well, anything that concerns you? Believe it or not, it’s representative of my topic today: “Big Data”. The term refers to the notion that we are surrounded by vast amounts of data that can be translated into actionable information.

Big data is all about understanding the plethora of information around us to inform our decisions. For profit companies do it regularly – a great example is an e-reader account I have. I recently had a look through some various e-book options that I thought might be a good read but I couldn’t decide and had to run. Several days later I received an email… “Have another look at ___” it suggested. Furthermore it listed a few other books I might be interested in based on my recent purchases/reviews. And you know what? I bought one of them, right then, on the spot. Remarkable. “This company knows me” I thought. They understand what I like and make it readily available. This knowledge translated into a great read for me, and profit for them. Win-win.

I see the term several times a week in my LinkedIn feed, and even belong to a few groups that are specifically focused on the topic. But despite all this chatter I’ve noticed an interesting gap – it seems, in my experience to date, that the not-for-profit sector has data blinders on. During a speaking engagement earlier this year I asked the audience of around 60 not-for-profit employees if they’d heard the term. The response? Not. One. Hand. I was dumbfounded, and it took my session for an unexpected, albeit extremely interesting, conversation.

Interestingly enough I don’t think this is a case of organizations not knowing how they could benefit, rather I suspect the issue is they don’t have the time. While that may be true, one could easily argue that they must find the time. What could we learn about our program participants, supporters, donors, surrounding agencies, etc. if we took time to really look at the information we have about them? I’ve often heard conversations about how we “think” the participants need this or that, and then develop programs around that perceived need. Sometimes it works great - there are many skilled people who are trained to identify such service gaps and address them, and they do an incredible job doing so. But in this day and age, with information at every turn and tools to at our fingers tips to truly dissect it, there is no reason to ‘guess’. If taking time to understand the information means better serving the participants, raising more money, or building better partnerships, then don’t we owe it to everyone around us to do just that? I know time the most precious (and rarest!) element in the not-for-profit world, but just like spending money on a valuable product, spending time to understand can be well worth the investment.

I didn’t, and ended up with a LOT of carrots – all because I didn’t check the data. By the way, do you know any good carrot cake recipes?

Malcolm McAuley
Manager, Dynamics System
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Over Four Decades of Friendship

by Omer J. Foisy

The year: 1971. The place: my barber shop in the little town of Thamesford, Ontario, about 20 kilometres east of London. One sunny afternoon, I am just sitting and reading the newspaper. A man pulls up in front of my shop. He comes in and I greet him. He sits and I cut his hair. He asks a few questions and the next twenty minutes pass. He pays me and leaves. About two weeks go by and this man comes in again. This time he has a purpose. He asks me if I have ever considered becoming a Big Brother. I tell him I’ll think about it, and leave it at that. He leaves.

My Little Brother, Jimmy, and I were matched on March 8, 1971. I can’t begin to tell you how much that relationship meant to me. You see, my wife and I had five girls during our life together. At that time we had two girls. Jimmy became part of our family, and so did his family. Jimmy had two sisters and an older brother.

In 1972, I was really involved; I was now on the board of directors. Jimmy and I enjoyed many hours together at his home, playing chess, which he taught me. I never beat him in over forty years. He spent many hours with our family, even camping in the northern parks of Ontario. We attended numerous hockey games at our favourite arena, Maple Leaf Gardens. We’ve been to a Tiger-Cats football game and on many fishing trips. We have been a very close-knit family and will always remain so. We have had sad experiences, such as the passing of Jimmy’s mother and my father, but we have had many —and I mean many — good times! Visits at his oldest sister’s cottage in Port Stanley with his family. We have always enjoyed golfing together and also with his brother and his son, Steven. Steven is also our godchild. They call me “the Godfather.” What an honour it has been to have known such a great family for such a long time.

We can be proud to say we’ve never had a bad word among us. My life as a Big Brother has kept our family close together, and today we still enjoy our everlasting friendship.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Ever wonder what makes Canada so unique? From foods to sports, Canada is home to many amazing entities! Check out the awesome list of Canadianisms that we’ve combined and be proud to be Canadian.

You know you’re Canadian when…

Timbits are considered breakfast (we will not tell you what they are, if you don't know!).

We consider Poutine a food group.

You eat chocolate bars instead of candy bars.

You drink pop, not soda.

You have Canadian Tire money in your kitchen drawers.

You know that Mounties "don't always look like that".

You are excited whenever an American television show mentions Canada.

You can eat more than one maple sugar candy without feeling nauseous.

You know Toronto is NOT a province.

Back bacon and Kraft Dinner are two of your favorite food groups.

You design your Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.

You attend a formal event in your best clothes, your finest jewellery and your Sorels.

You can play road hockey on skates.

You know 4 seasons: Winter, Still Winter, almost Winter and Construction.

You pronounce the last letter of the alphabet "zed" instead of "zee."

and ... You end some sentences with "eh," ... eh?

You’ll only find these in Canada...

The Beavertail


Montreal smoked meat and real Montreal bagels

Maple syrup pie

Nanaimo bars (we made 'em first)

Butter tarts

of course, Poutine!

Ketchup chips

Vinegar on fries


Did you know…

Lacrosse is Canadian.

Hockey is Canadian.

Yes, Basketball is Canadian.

The biggest flags ever seen at the Olympic closing ceremonies were Canadian (twice...and the second one was smuggled in against a rule that was made because of the first one).

The Hudson Bay company once owned 1/11th of the Earth's surface.

The light bulb was actually invented by a Canadian. (Henry Woodward patented it in 1874). The patent was bought by an American named Edison who improved upon the design and took credit for inventing it.

Other Canadian inventions include: the jolly jumper, duct tape, insulin, walkie talkies, roller skates, Superman, air-conditioned vehicles, acrylics, standard time (and daylight saving time), the paint-roller, the radio compass, snowmobiles, jet skis, improved zippers etc.,etc., etc. (there are thousands more!)

Happy Canada Day from our BIG family to yours!

Monday, June 23, 2014

At a Glance, the CIBC Youthvision Scholarship

By: Camilo Sanchez Galindo, Hamilton Ontario

In 2011, I was one of thirty grade 10 students from across the country to receive the CIBC Youthvision scholarship, a unique partnership between CIBC, the YMCA, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Currently valued at $38 000, the CIBC Youthvision scholarship has for sixteen years, changed the lives of almost 500 individuals by addressing the academic and financial needs of students, while encouraging them to pursue a post-secondary education. What sets this scholarship apart from others is the idea of early intervention which also makes the program unique in Canada. CIBC Youthvision targets high-potential young people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue a university or college education.

I was born in Medellin Colombia during a violent drug war. My family escaped the increasing violence as refugees when I was six years old. With hopes of a better future, we settled in Bridgeport Connecticut. But the timing of our arrival could not have been more unfortunate. With the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurring just two months after arriving in the United States, any hope of legal immigration ended. A year later, my family left for Canada and settled in Hamilton. We struggled to adapt to a new country, a new language and challenging circumstances. Four years later, my parents divorced leaving my mother to care for me and my brother. Eventually, I was matched with a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters. My relationship with my Big Brother lasted for the maximum amount of time permitted by the organization, when I turned 18. But by then, our relationship solidified to the point where I can call my big brother Russ, one of the strongest influences in my life.

It was the never ending hope of my mom for me to have a brighter future that brought us to Canada in the first place. Rising above challenging circumstances, and dreaming of what the future holds, the CIBC Youthvision scholarship has given me the opportunities to accomplish many of my goals at such a young age, and continue to strive for my hopes and dreams of a better future.

And now, as I complete my first year at McMaster University, three years after receiving the scholarship, I have decided and pursue a combined Honours degree in Economics and Political science. I am also glad to announce that I have decided to pursue a career in politics and as a result, I’m currently running for City Council in this year’s municipal election in Hamilton (Ward 9). It is my dream to change the lives of those who need their voices heard. As a result, I don’t think that I would be where I am today, if I hadn’t received the CIBC Youthvision scholarship. It has changed my life, and I am excited to mention that my younger brother Daniel has also been selected to receive the CIBC scholarship this year. While the odds of two brothers receiving the same scholarship barely years apart, it is apparent that the CIBC Youthvision Scholarship will continue to encourage a new set of recipients every year to pursue their dreams, accomplish goals, and gain the experience needed to succeed in life.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Some Questions for Dad

A few days ago I was play wrestling with my three year old son on the floor when he very suddenly shoved his finger into my eye socket. He poked it really hard with a great big smile on his face. I had to leave the room and go and bite a pillow, and give myself a few seconds to cool down. I admit, I was pretty ticked. We were having fun, why did he have to go and stick his finger in my eye? I didn’t realize it at the time, but what he was really doing was looking for some answers.

What happens when I stick my finger in dad’s eye?
Does he get angry?
Do I get in trouble?
What exactly does an eyeball feel like anyway?

These are all great questions and I’m sure my son learned exactly what happens when you stick your finger in your dad’s eye that day. I’m glad I could teach you that valuable lesson son.

I’m a newish dad. I have two boys; my youngest is three and my eldest is almost six. They are exploring their world and learning more and more each day, and so am I.

About a week after being poked in the eye, it was my eldest son’s turn to blindside me. He wasn’t nearly as physical though. On the 7-minute drive from karate class, he hit me with a series of questions that left me scrambling. I tried to respond to each question with an honest and informative response, but each response led to a subsequent question, more complicated than the one before it. The questions went something like this:

“Dad, why do things explode?”
“What is the biggest bomb ever invented?”
“Why was it invented?”
“Why is there war?”
“What is religion?”
“Do you believe in heaven?”

I quickly found myself in a situation that I really should have studied for. In a matter of 7 minutes we covered physics and chemistry, history, politics, geography, cultural differences, war, philosophy, death, and finally faith and religion. I did my best to answer, but give me a break, these are some difficult questions! Regardless, I suppose I passed the little quiz. He seemed content with my weak physics, spotty history, questionable geography, and utterly confusing attempts to generalize philosophy and religion.

I knew well before my boys were born that I wanted to be a dad, but I really wanted to be good dad, a dad that doesn’t yell or get angry, a dad that is supportive and patient, a dad that is caring and loving, a dad that is a good role model and has answers to all kinds of questions. What surprised me, is how difficult this was…how difficult this is. I love my boys more than anything and I want them to grow up to be strong, confident, and caring men. I want to give them everything, but I worry that if I do that they are going to grow up to be selfish and greedy. I want to inform them, without scaring them. I want to nurture their imagination and creativity, but be well grounded and astute. I want to show them love and teach them respect.

In the end, I’m left with so many questions. How do you do all of this? How do be a great dad? I really have no idea. If you have it all figured out, please tell me. In the meantime, I’ll just do my best to answer their questions.

Thankfully I’m not doing it alone. I’m lucky to have a smart and caring partner in all of this to help keep me calm, sane and reassured. I’m also lucky to have a Dad of my own to ask. He doesn’t have all the answers either, and that is okay.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there that are trying to figure this out, to those that have already been through it, and to those soon-to-be dads that have no idea what they are getting into.

Garner Beckett
Director of Development
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ottawa Was a Life Changing Experience!

I can’t believe that it’s already been over a year since the 2013 Youth Summit! Time just flies.

I feel that I’ve changed so much from last year to now. Being given the opportunity to go to Ottawa last year, where I was able to discover new skills about myself was amazing.

When people ask me “what has been your biggest achievement to date”, I would say filling out those forms and being selected to go to the Youth Summit in Ottawa. Spending a week in Ottawa was an eye opener for me and I learned so much in such a short time frame; from meeting new friends, connecting with people across Canada and learning what kind of background they come from was an amazing experience, one I will never forget.

Recently, I have been really busy with school and I have also been doing a lot of volunteer. I am currently the manager of the basketball team at my school where we recently made it to Provincials here in BC. Right now, I am participating in a Leadership Program with Port Metro Vancouver and taking all the skills I learned at the Youth Summit and applying it in this Leadership Program. Because of the Youth Summit I feel more and more comfortable standing up and taking to others, I feel that I am stepping outside my comfort zone and also trying new things out.

Some of my favorite memories are with my group playing games and going out to different place and viewing so many different attractions. Meeting new people from across Canada and all the little things you do creates memories with other people, I am now able to call them friends.

I am so glad that I got this opportunity. I do not know what kind of person I will be today without the experience of going to the Youth Summit.

A Big Thank You to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada for the awesome week in Ottawa!

Social Innovator

Friday, May 23, 2014

Rest + Recovery = A Winning Performance

We all do our best to eat healthy foods and feel the best we can while incorporating workouts into our daily routines. Here are some tips from a high level athlete.

By Tania Archer
Health&Fitness Enthusiast . Speaker . Idea Catalyst

An essential component of any workout is ensuring your body gains the benefit of a proper Rest & Recovery routine.

Your after exercise recovery plan has a huge impact on your athletic performance and your training endurance. A proper exercise recovery plan is critical to muscle and tissue repair as well as strength building. Muscles need at least 1 to 2 days to repair and rebuild, which is why weight lifting or resistance training right after an intense workout session or intense sports practice is not ideal, as it will simply breakdown tissue instead of building muscle.

It is strongly recommended to alternate workout days with a staggered weight or resistance training routine, always making sure not to work the same muscle groups 2 days in a row.

So what do you do after your workout to speed exercise recovery?

The TOP 10 commonly recommended methods to get your recovery routine on track are-

1.) Replace Fluids: You should be replacing fluids during exercise in addition to filling up after exercise as water supports every metabolic function of the body including transferring nutrients to where we need it the most.

2.) Eat Healthy: You need to refuel if you expect your body to recover, repair tissue, get stronger and be in tip top shape for your next challenge. It is encouraged to eat within 60 minutes of a workout including proteins and complex carbohydrates in to your meal to aid tissue restore and strengthening. A great after workout beverage is CHOCOLATE MILK because it tastes great and it is high in protein in addition to containing 16 essential nutrients.

3.) Cool Down: After any exercise session, continue to move around at a very low speed and intensity for 5 to 10 minutes to help with the purging of lactic acid from your muscles; this can aid with reducing muscle stiffness. A good warm up and cool down is helpful for multiple workouts or competitions in one day.

4.) Active Recovery: To help muscle repair and refuel faster, easy and gentle movements helps nutrient transportation in the body, in addition to waste purging.

5.) Over-training: Excessive exercise, lack of rest and maximized daily training will drastically harm your workout gains and limit your natural recovery efforts. Having a well balanced practice schedule that incorporates a consistent nutrition plan are two simple ways to ensure faster recovery.

6.) Rest: Your body speaks in volumes. There will be periods that your body just won't respond to the simplest of workouts. Pushing a body in this state usually results in injury. In this case, injured or not, take 2-3 days of low to no activity to allow your body to repair itself at a natural pace.

7.) Quality Sleep: When we sleep our body produces Growth Hormone GH, which is responsible for our tissue growth and repair. GH is fuelled by nutrients produced by our balanced daily meals and snacks, which is why a balanced daily diet consisting of the 5 basic food groups is necessary for consistent athletic performance, improvement and fitness results.

8.) Massages: Massages are great for improving circulation and can aid with recovery by encouraging lactic acid removal from tissue and blood movement through injury points.

9.) Ice Bath: The warming and rapid cooling of muscles repeatedly is said to constrict and dilate blood vessels helping to flush waste products of athletic performance, like lactic acid, from the tissue.

10.) Stretching: After your warm-up, during your workout and after exercise gentle stretch your muscles to improve flexibility and aid your body's recovery.

By building a proper Rest & Recovery Routine in to your regular workout or exercise plan you are giving your body the advantage of performance improvement.

In order to ensure your consistent growth as an athlete or fitness enthusiast it is essential you listen to your body when it is tired (plateau) and just do nothing. Always proceed with caution when starting a new workout regime by seeking the advice of a certified coach or physician before strenuous activity.

Tania Archer
Twitter @taniaarcher

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Mysteries of Male Bonding

By Elizabeth Brekelmans

When my husband died suddenly, I was left with the sole task of raising our daughter and four sons. It took some time for me to realize I wasn’t as well prepared for the task as I thought. Boys’ needs are so different from girls’, and I just wasn’t equipped to handle all the issues I faced. I had heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters and decided to give them a call. In retrospect, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

When the boys were first matched with their Big Brother, Brad, I wasn’t certain what to expect or what my role would be in this unique relationship. I came to realize that, if I ever had a problem with any of my sons, I could count on their Big Brother to back my decision.

The boys now have someone who thinks like . . . well, like guys do — the kind of things that women will probably never be able to understand. When they talk of the exaggerated expulsion of body gasses, for example, they make it sound like an Olympic competition. (I’m not really sure why it is an indoor event. Maybe to get the full effect?) After going ice fishing, one of their treasured outings, they come back with stories of how they had to escape the confines of their fishing hut to keep from being gassed to death. I have yet to figure out how this constitutes male bonding. Maybe it is the fact that they have shared something so intimate, however repulsive.

I simply can’t imagine doing this with my boys, but it is important to them. They need someone they can relate to, someone who understands the male species, and it has made a difference in their attitude towards life. The boys have a closer relationship with each other because they realize they haven’t been abandoned to the complexities of growing up.

They have found someone they can confide in, and they know that, as long as it isn’t a life-threatening issue, whatever they discuss with their Big Brother will remain between them. Brad sees potential in them that I, being so close to them, might overlook. He emphasizes that they have a responsibility both to themselves and to society, and encourages each of them to be everything he can be.

Being an only parent gives new meaning to the word “challenge.” Trying to meet everyone’s needs can really wear you down. So when the boys are off on an adventure with Brad, I get a chance to regroup, prioritize, and gain a fresh perspective on things. And I know they need to escape from me as much as I need a break from them.

So far I have spoken only of the needs of my sons, but I also have an incredible eighteen-year-old daughter. You know how most people have an idol, a role model, someone they have the highest regard for? My daughter is such a person for me. She has her life all mapped out. She knows what she wants, and has the drive and determination to go for it. She lives life to the fullest. She is everything I want to be when I grow up. And the boys’ having a Big Brother gives us a chance to run away and do things we both enjoy.

Our involvement in Big Brothers Big Sisters has been a positive force in our family. The boys have grown in maturity and strength of character. They have confidence in who they are and what they are all about.

This is an excerpt from a speech written fifteen years ago. My children have since grown up and moved out. They are happy, healthy individuals in loving relationships and are the best of friends. Each is working in a field he or she enjoys and, best of all, they have blessed me with gorgeous little ones to love and spoil. The boys’ Big Brother is still a part of their lives. My middle child actually works with Brad in the insurance industry. I believe life might have been very different had it not been for the influence of this wonderful man on all our lives.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Beyond the Classroom

“We make a living by what we get,
but we make a life by what we give”
- Winston Churchill

It’s a proven fact that mentoring helps kids stay in school, avoid risky behavior such as bullying, and that they grow up having more respect for family, peers and their community.

While children spend countless hours learning in the classroom, it’s important to recognize that having a role model and a friend, beyond the classroom, that they can talk to and share their experiences of growing up with, all within school grounds, can be a positive and life changing experience.

All over the country, for one hour a week during the school year, mentors from the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ In-School Mentoring Program, meet with their mentee and engage in activities such as board games, crafts or simply just hang out in the playground.

Being an In-School Mentor is about giving an hour of your time, once a week, to a child who is need of a little guidance and someone they can talk to about what’s going on in their day to day life. It’s about making that child feel special and that they truly matter while making a difference and most importantly -while having fun!

We know that In-School Mentoring makes a BIG difference because-

• 90% of mentors saw a positive change in the child they were mentoring
• 88% of students showed improved literacy skills
• 64% had developed higher levels of self-esteem

The proof is in the pudding! Check out our In- School Mentoring Program video to see how one simple hour can make a BIG change in a child’s life:

Looking to become an In-School Mentor or want more information on the program? Visit our website page...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mentoring: Canada's Changing Face

It was a late night in June 1987, when my family and I landed at Halifax Stanfield International Airport. Arriving late at night meant that the first glimpse of our new home was nothing more than the silhouettes of the never ending pine trees that lined the highway. The next morning, jet-lagged and disoriented, we set out to discover Halifax. After living in the desert and tropical climates, the spring chill of the Atlantic hit us as if it were the middle of winter. The biting breeze was the first of many reminders of the differences between our old home and what would become our new one. Luckily, I had the summer to let the unfamiliar become familiar before starting school and having to contend with the uneasiness of, not only being the new kid, but being the new kid from a different country.

In 1987, over 157,000 (1) people immigrated to Canada, just as my family did. According to the National Household Survey, close to 1.2 million (2) people immigrated to Canada between 2006 and 2011. One third, or approximately 400,000 (2), of which were children and youth. The rate of immigration is not projected to decline either. In fact, in urban centres such as Toronto, it is anticipated that by 2031, more than three-quarters (78%) (3) of the population could either be immigrants or children born in Canada of immigrant parents.

The face of our cities and towns are changing rapidly, as is the make-up of our schools and the needs of children and youth. Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies are also experiencing the shift in demographics within their communities and mentoring matches. The need to ensure that our mentoring programs are responsive to the needs of newly immigrated (newcomer) children and youth has never been greater.

In 2013, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC) received funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to provide mentoring programming to newcomer children and youth between the ages of 6-17. The three-year CIC funded project, called Connections, aims to provide mentoring relationships that assist with English language skills, social integration, self-esteem and support transitioning into a new country, community and school. The project is currently being piloted in Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies in Toronto, Hamilton/Burlington, Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon. To date, we have provided mentoring relationships to 300 newcomer children and youth. By the end of the three year project, we hope to have a total of 1400 successful mentoring relationships.

Sitting in my new school in Halifax in the Fall of 1987, I could have only dreamed of having a mentor to support me in those early days as a new kid in a new land. Today, I am delighted to be working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada and CIC on the Connections Project to make it a little bit easier for newcomer children and youth to change the unfamiliar to the familiar.

Nooreen Pirbhai
National Inclusion Advisor
Big Brother Big Sisters of Canada



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mentoring Respect and Humanity — Mirroring Images

by Larry Beyak

Growing up was a lonely, confusing journey. I was the lone male in my dysfunctional family. School was a very intimidating place; fear, severe asthma, and poverty taught me the wrong lessons of life. Growing up was truly a struggle, and being alone offered no guidance, nor the opportunity to share my interests. My mother contacted Big Brothers, and I was partnered up with my Big Brother, Gus.

On the day Gus entered my life, it changed. First impressions are lasting impressions. That initial meeting proved pivotal. Gus was an extremely patient, caring, and gentle giant. He reached out to shake my hand, a firm, warm handshake that immediately forged a bond of trust and friendship. Nobody before or since has been able to establish such an instant bond.

Over the initial few months, Gus taught me about reliability. Every week, he would call without fail on Thursday night, to plan our time together. Whether going to his house or a Ti-Cats game, or helping him do something, I was never alone again.

Our interests were very similar, right down to our choice of vocation. Since the age of nine, my dream had been to become a paramedic. I didn’t know it at the time, but learned later that Gus worked for the local ambulance corps. Although we are decades apart in what has become a deeply respected and educated profession, my career path has coincidentally mirrored his — something that gives me great pride.

Gus also instilled three gifts that I never would have received without him. He taught me respect, for myself and others; humanity, and how to recognize it and live within its shadow; and finally, how paying it forward, in the form of mentorship, allows us to have patience and be tolerant of each other.

Gus didn’t make a difference, he made the difference in my life. This, I think, is the true goal of Big Brothers Big Sisters and should never be taken for granted.

Thank you, Gus.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Year Later- A Social Innovators Update

Where has the year led me? I feel as though the youth summit was 10 years ago mostly because so much has changed in my life this past year, more than ever before.

Since last year’s Youth Summit I graduated high school where I was valedictorian and I also won a few award; Excelling Student Award as well as an Involved Community Citizen Award. This was such an amazing accomplishment for me, and there is no doubt that it was definitely influenced by the Youth Summit!

This year I started Cegep (College) in the Honors Social Science Program where I finished my first semester with academic honours, in the top 10% of my program. Currently in my second semester, I’ve embarked on a wonderful opportunity; I’m studying this semester in Gaspé about a 14 hour drive from where I live! The way of life here is so different from what I am used to, and I am learning new things every day. Thinking about all of this now, I have come to realize how much I have evolved in this past year, and since the summit… it feels wonderful to look back on.

When I think back on my year since the Youth Summit, I truly believe that the Summit thought me many things, and helped me make many decisions but more than anything, during the summit I felt inspired. I still feel so grateful for the days that I spend in Ottawa as it helped shaped the future that I am currently living.

While at the Youth Summit, I started writing my valedictorian speech, I had so many ideas that were filled with so much inspiration that I wrote it down right there and then and I truly believe that the summit added a great element to my speech. When I came back from the Youth Summit, I was super inspired to not only be the absolute best mentor that I could possibly be but to also take being a mentor seriously; that I’ve committed to something for life and if you ask me, that’s pretty amazing.

Every day I still feel the impact of my experience at the Summit and I’m so grateful to have had the experience. After leaving, I remember feeling tired, but so energized; I felt ready to conquer anything that came my way. The best memories I have come from feeling so close to all the people I met, in such a short period of time.

Me to We did a fantastic job of ensuring a concrete group dynamic and allowing us to feel comfortable and enjoy each other's company no matter what. I am grateful that there was a mixture of Littles and Bigs (teen mentors), because I believe we all learned from each other and there was a diversity of ideas and opinions.

I can't express enough how wonderful my experience was. Whatever you did last year, I say do it all again for years to come! Thank you to Big Brothers Big Sisters and Me to We for such incredible memories.

Teneille A.
Social Innovator
Youth Summit 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

An Award Winning Speech by Little Sister Savannah

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week we would like to say Thank You to our more than over 25,200 volunteers across Canada!

Please note that the following blog was posted last year but as we are celebrating volunteers, Little Sister Savannah's blog describes perfectly the impact that our volunteers have in the lives of the children and youth we serve every day.

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

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Talking About Charities, yes - but are WE listening?

In late 2013 the Muttart Foundation and Imagine Canada released the findings from the most recent ‘Talking About Charities’ report, a research study involving interviews with almost 4,000 Canadians. This is the fifth edition of the report with the most recent version coming in 2008.

The study examined areas such as Familiarity with Charities, Perceived Importance and Attitudes about Charities, Trust in Charities and their Leaders, Fundraising, Information Provision, Business Activities of Charities, Advocacy of Charities and Monitoring Charities.

The report is jam packed with interesting findings. There are a couple of stand-out areas that require our collective attention.

Canadians clearly value hearing from charitable organizations about how the money being contributed is being used. ‘Talking About Charities’ probed these attitudes, relating both to importance in receiving information and how charities are ‘stacking up’ when it comes to reporting back.

There is a startling disconnect.

When asked about the importance of ‘information about the programs and services charities deliver’, 81% of Canadians rated this as Very Important (this skyrockets to 98% when Somewhat Important is included). When asked about ‘the effectiveness of charities providing information related about programs and services charities deliver’ only 7% of Canadians scored the sector as Excellent. There is a 74% gap between the value of this information and how organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters are doing in effectively reporting!

Similar gaps appear when asked about importance and delivery of information on ‘impact of charities’ work on Canadians’, ‘how charities use donations’ and ‘fundraising costs’. The results are layered and vary when geography, age, trust levels etc. are factored in.

There is a clear message in this one series of questions. Big Brothers Big Sisters has an opportunity to provide timely, relevant information and close the gap between expectations and current delivery.

A second telling finding from the report is that “the percentage of Canadians who believe that charities are generally honest about how they use donations is still high at 70% but this has decreased from 84% who felt that way in 2000. Similarly, only about one-third of Canadians (34%) believe charities only ask for money when they really need it, compared to 47% of Canadians who felt that way in 2000.”

The sector is now believed to be in a state of almost permanent fundraising. Many of us will attest to the fact that it certainly feels that way! This significant change in perception, however, could be affecting our donor and sponsor bases in a long-term way.

Organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters will need to digest and discuss the information from this report to better understand the subtle, but potentially significant, shifts in public attitudes towards the charitable sector.

Fortunately the future remains optimistic as children’s charities continue to score high with trust levels holding at 82%.

So…are we listening and responding to what Canadians had to say?

Bruce MacDonald
President & CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Canadians give but don’t take [advantage of the tax] credit

By Bill Schaper

Canadians are generous people. The latest available statistics show that in 2010 some 84% of Canadians donated a total of $10.6 billion to charities, an average of $446 each. Their main motivations for giving are to help those in need, to support causes they believe in, and to contribute to their communities.

Governments across Canada provide generous support for people who claim donations against their income tax. The federal tax credit is 15% for donations below $200, and 29% for donations above $200. Combined with provincial tax credits, this significantly reduces the cost of making a donation.

But proportionately, not very many Canadians take advantage of the tax credit. In 2010, only 23.4% claimed the charitable tax credit, down significantly from the almost 30% who did so in 1990.

Most people aren’t motivated to give by the tax credit, so why should it matter whether they claim it, as long as they keep on giving?

Here’s what the tax credit means for someone making that average donation of $446. Depending on where you live, the after-tax cost of that $446 donation ranges from $262 for Quebec residents, to $308 for someone living in Nunavut. If someone is already generous, but wants to do even more, claiming the tax credit means more money in their pocket that they can donate to their favourite cause.

And for people that haven’t been donating, maybe because they think they can’t afford to, or who haven’t been claiming tax credits – the system is even more generous for the next few years. In 2013 the federal government announced the First-Time Donor’s Super Credit, which adds an extra 25% to the charitable tax credit for eligible donors. If someone qualifies, that $446 average donation will actually only cost them anywhere from $151 to $197.

Fewer than one-quarter of Canadians cite the tax credit as a reason for donating, and fewer than one-quarter claim the tax credit. Perhaps they believe that it isn’t appropriate to be “rewarded” for doing good. But seen in a different light, the tax credit is actually a very effective tool to help people who are already supporting their communities, to direct tax dollars that they would have paid into organizations and causes that they believe are having a real impact. To calculate your own charitable tax credit, use this CanadaHelps tax calculator.

The baby boom generation – statistically the most generous donors – is retiring, which means less disposable income for many of them. This, combined with the challenges of engaging younger Canadians who have different ways of expressing their commitment to their communities – not to mention, different financial pressures than previous generations have faced – creates new challenges in ensuring that donations stay at a level that allows charities to make the enormous contributions they do to our communities and quality of life. Thinking more strategically about our giving, and about the impact that tax credits can have on our giving, is a vital piece of the puzzle.
Photo Credit: mariacasa via Compfight cc

This post originally appeared on CanadaHelps’ givinglife and Imagine Canada's blog.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ten Years of a Sister’s Love

by Catherine Ward

The year 2013 marks ten years that I have been matched with my Big Sister. In April 2003, Shannon came to my house and met me for the very first time. She has had a huge impact on the person I am today. Growing up, I never thought I would have the chance to do the things other kids got to do with their families. I did not have my mother in my life, and I only got to see my dad every second week. My grandparents had raised me, but they were unable to do the things parents would normally do with their kids because of health issues.

Shannon became my match when I was eleven years old. From the day I met her, I knew it was fate. She became someone I could look up to, and someone I wanted to be like someday. She took time out of her life and gave it to a little girl who just wanted to be a kid. We did numerous activities together, from as little as a movie at her house to as adventurous as a camping trip.

Now that I am an adult, our relationship has grown tremendously. Just over a year ago, I had the honour of being the emcee at her wedding to a man who is now like a brother to me, and only a month ago I became an aunt to her first child. Today, I do not consider her just my sister through a mentoring program; I consider her my sister.

Shannon has been one of the biggest influences in my life. She has motivated me to strive for the best and always offered her hand when I needed it. She was there for every moment in my life and will continue to be there for every moment to come.

I would just like to say thank you to Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada for giving me a mentor, a motivator, a caring hand, a listening ear, a best friend, and a sister. This program has been a hugely life-changing experience, and I would not change it for the world. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, March 10, 2014

How Far Have We Come, Really?

“Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity; the female sex.” – Mahatma Ghandi

When I tell my two children, boys aged 9 and 7, that there was a time when women couldn’t vote – they look at me like I have grown a second head. Some people would say that is a good thing – but I disagree.

Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that my kids think women should be able to vote; however, there are many key injustices that women still face today that are just as incredulous and yet are not at the forefront of public discussions.
I hope I get to see the day when the following statements will seem just as incredulous.

There was a time when:

1. Only 4.6% of the CEOs of the top companies were women and they were paid far less than their male counterparts.
2. Only 4 female directors were nominated for an academy award.
3. The movie industry would not make movies with female leads for female audiences because they didn’t think anybody would watch them.
4. Half of all murder victims in Canada were killed by a former or current intimate partner.
5. A women who was elected President of a University Student Union was subjected to jokes about rape on social media – just because she won.
6. Women earned 77 cents for every dollar a man earned.
7. Eighty percent of eighth-grade girls said they are on diets.
8. Women made up 70% of the workforce but there was no National Daycare or Flextime provided for women to manage both child-rearing and work obligations.
9. Women from dual-income households spent twice as many hours on childcare as their male partners
10. Women from dual-income households spent 1.5 times as many hours doing domestic chores than their male counterparts.

“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”
― Mary Wollstonecraft

Please share with us which statement you would like to see changed.

Jennifer Thomas
Marketing Director
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

“Taking action is the biggest step to being a good leader”

By Sourabh Pande, participant in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto and Thinking Forward Workshop

My dad has always told me that in the “real world” your education isn’t the only thing that matters, a person’s leadership skills and ability to communicate is what sets them apart from “the rest”. I have always kept this in mind when I tried to build and sharpen my abilities to lead a group of people. When I was presented with the opportunity to participate in the leadership work shop offered by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto and Thinking Forward, I jumped for it and I’m really glad that I did.

The seminar introduced the different types of leadership - inward, outward and forward. Inward leadership is motivating yourself to take action and living with integrity even when no when is watching. I learned that to be a good leader it is important to know who you are yourself before being able to be a good leader. Outward leadership is when you think of others before yourself and to express compassion. A lot of the times we feel empathetic towards other but don’t take action, “compassion is empathy in action”. Forward leadership focuses on making a change in the future, to be a good leader it is extremely important to take action. People who take action against injustices are the changers of society.

The presenter then asked us to reflect on certain celebrities, and consider the role success has played in their happiness. Many of the celebrities we talked about were extremely successful but it seemed like they lacked happiness. This suggested that success doesn’t always lead to happiness. Materialistic people tend to be happy for short periods of time, but are unhappy in the long run. I believe success is a journey and totally agree that success does not lead to happiness, but in fact it’s the other way around. This small reflection set the tone and theme for the whole seminar.

Many people today will see something wrong taking place but don’t take any action to stop it, those who do take action are looked up to as leaders. By going the extra mile and asking someone, “how are you doing?” or “how was your day?” can really change a person’s perspective of you. It shows that you care/consider everyone. Taking action is the biggest step to being a good leader. Examples/quotes of great leaders like Nelson Mandela and Gandhi were brought up in the seminar as examples of great leaders.

Gandhi has been an inspiration to me ever since I was little, so the presentation really resonated with me. Gandhi saw an injustice taking place and did something to stop it and more remarkably he did it without violence. He used his words and actions to better the world, instead of violence. These examples were great motivators as they encouraged me to also take action against injustices. Topics such as, how to show compassion and thinking of others before yourself were discussed too. By putting others before you, not only do you become a better person but also become a better leader.

The workshop overall has made me more aware of my behaviour when in a leadership role. I’m more conscious of my actions and the effects it has on those who look up to me. These lessons I have learned will help me become a better mentor, as they’ve given me more information on the characteristics of a leader. By adapting these characteristics in the Youth School in Mentoring, I believe I can better myself and address my little in a better manner.

A point that really resonated with me was that “success doesn’t lead to happiness; happiness leads to success. That quote has really stuck with me since the workshop and I hope to apply and spread that message. Often we as humans we get so involved/focus in our goals that we spend less time with those who are important to us, which can lead to unhappiness. This has to change, and I believe Thinking Forward is doing a great job of spreading this true message and building better communities.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Confessions from the parent of a potential bully

In a recent Ipsos survey commissioned by Big Brothers Big Sisters and Invesco Canada, 59% of Canadians have revealed that they were bullied, when younger. That’s more than half the population. It got me thinking… who were all these people bullied by?

So here’s my confession... I have a child who is willful and has been known to use manipulative tactics to gain an advantage over his friends, and while I am being completely honest, over his brother and even myself at times.

Does that make him a potential bully? I think he could be.

Does that make him a bad kid. No. I don’t think so.

In the survey mentioned above - many Canadians also admitted they felt they suffered long-term harm as a result of bullying.

  • 69% suffered lack of confidence
  • 53% low self esteem
  • 29% depression
These potential long-term effects were confirmed by a study published in the Journal of JAMA Psychiatry last week. Researchers found that victims of bullying in childhood were 4.3 times more likely to have an anxiety disorder as adults, compared to those with no history of bullying or being bullied.

I think the hardest part is admitting that your child, who you may feel is a reflection of you as a parent, may not always make the choices you would like them to make, despite how much you teach them. I am sure many parents jump into action when they suspect their child may be the victim of bullying but how many are just as active when they suspect their child may be the bully.

If you look at the stats it only makes sense… in some cases the bullied are also sometimes the bullies and vice versa. It is not as clear cut as good or bad and disciplined or undisciplined. It’s a complex problem.

Our research shows that having a mentor to speak to for either the bully or the bullied is a step in the right direction in building self-confidence and improving relationships.

Tell us – have you ever bullied? Been bullied? Share your thoughts and possible solutions.

* Pink Shirt Day is this Wednesday February 26, 2014. Show your support, wear a pink shirt.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

If Video Killed the Radio Star What is Social Media Doing to our Children

Some of you may have heard or even remember a song from The Buggles, released in 1979, called Video Killed the Radio Star. The song was about the promotion of technology but also its potential worrying effects. The song was made famous when it was the first video played by MTV when it launched in the early 80s.

Why should we continue to worry about technology and its effect, especially on our children.

A recent report by Media Smarts entitled Young Canadians in a Wired World shows that Canadian students are more connected, more mobile and more social than ever and yet adults are less strict about monitoring and educating their children about online behaviors.

Here are some sobering stats from the survey:

- 24% of Grade 4 students own a cell phone;
- 30% have a Facebook account despite the fact that Facebook is supposed to be restricted to anyone under the age of 14.

Even more troubling, the survey asked the children if there were rules about their online use

- 44% of the respondents said they had rules about getting together with someone they meet online;
- 48% said they have restrictions regarding sites they visit;
- 52% said they had rules regarding talking with strangers online.

In 2005, 74% of respondents of a similar survey said they had rules about getting together with someone they met online; 70% had restrictions regarding visiting certain websites and 69% had rules about talking to strangers online.

Interestingly, another piece or research caught our attention this week: Teens are reporting high levels of stress and are having trouble managing it. In fact 43% of the teens surveyed said they are turning to online activities to manage their stress instead of more healthy alternatives such as exercise.

Clearly, we cannot stop children from using technology, nor perhaps should we; however, we should start thinking about how we educate them about its use and provide then with some guidelines on healthy online habits or we may see some unhealthy side effects.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Energy Rich Foods

If you keep good food in your fridge, you will eat good food- Errick McAdams

By Tania Archer
Health&Fitness Enthusiast . Speaker . Idea Catalyst

Optimize your athletic performance by fueling your body with energy rich foods ...

Enhance your athletic performance with foods that give you ENERGY, help you BURN stored carbohydrates, FUEL your muscles and even BOOST your cardiovascular health.

The right foods, such as leafy green vegetables, can significantly increase the absorption of protein which help your muscles to repair faster; but to experience dramatic results you would have to eat almost 2-pounds of iron packed leafy green veggies a day.

By incorporating foods from the 5 basic food groups into your daily meals you can enjoy the perks of healthy and balanced nutrition "on and off the field". Power-pack every meal by selecting foods and snacks rich in proteins, iron and "good carbs".

12 Energy Rich Foods

Pineapple. Peanut Butter & Jelly. Asparagus. Chocolate Milk. Pasta & Meat Sauce. Papaya. Grilled Salmon. Avocado. Spinach. Whole Grain Bread. Quinoa. Sweet Potato. Natural Almonds.

Easy Eats

An easy to prepare nutritious meal is an Avocado&Turkey Club Sandwich on Whole Grain Bread with a chilled Glass of H2O.


5 (five) slices of Avocado from a halved avocado
2 (two) Tomato slices from a large tomato
3 (three) slices of deli roasted Turkey
1/2 (half) cup of raw Spinach leaves or mixed Greens (rinse lightly and pat dried)
1 (one) tablespoon of light calorie Mayonnaise
1/2 (half) teaspoon of Dijon Mustard (optional)
2 (two) slices of Whole Grain Bread (toasted optional)

Layer slices of Avocado, Turkey, Tomato, Spinach Leaves on Whole Grain Bread dressed with Light Mayonnaise and Dijon Mustard. Slice the layered sandwich diagonally and enjoy it with a glass of cool ice-water garnished with a twist of natural lemon juice. A perfect side to this great dish is a mixed green salad.

* Turkey slices can be substituted for an appropriate vegan option. A healthy alternative to light mayonnaise is plain, no fat, Greek yogurt. For those with a nut allergy, please use nut free products that are suitable for your dietary needs. Please use vegetable wash on all whole vegetables prior to preparation.

Chow down to power-up before and after your workouts by seeking nutrient rich foods.


Tania Archer

Monday, February 3, 2014

Twenty-Nine Years of Friendship and Counting

By Trish Quan

I met my Big Sister, Joyanne, when I was twelve years old. I lived with my mom, my younger sister, and my brother. Although there was little money to pay for out-of-school activities, my mom was very resourceful. In the spring of 1983, she approached me with the idea of becoming a Little Sister. At first I didn’t like the idea. I was confident that I didn’t need any special attention. I was the big sister, after all.

Despite my misgivings, I decided to give it a try. I liked Joyanne right away. Our first outing was a trip to buy the ingredients to make pizza. Joyanne always let me take the lead and decide the flow of our day. She made a point of asking me what I liked to do. We have had many excellent adventures, such as kayaking, hiking, sailing, seeing plays, watching movies, shopping, and trips to Seattle and Victoria. I am often reminded of a quote from Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Joyanne made me feel special.

As a Big Sister, Joyanne embodied qualities that are so important for young women. I was the first one in my family to graduate high school and continue on to post-secondary education. Joyanne helped me see the possibilities if I stayed in school.

In October 1991, at the age of forty, my mom was killed in a car accident. Joyanne, just days away from delivering her second child, stood by me in those darkest days. My mom kept me grounded. When she died, I lost my compass and began to flounder. Joyanne’s care and mentorship got me through it. My mother’s death has changed me indescribably, but I’m a big believer in resilience. I was able to continue my life in the face of so much pain, but without Joyanne’s support, it would have been a much more difficult task.

The foundation of friendship Joyanne and I built through Big Sisters is the foundation I stand upon as a grown woman. My Big Sister is a key person in my life. I look up to her, want to learn from her, and continue to hope and dream with her.

Ours is a tale of twenty-nine years of friendship and counting.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Supporting Newcomer Youth with Conversation

By a newcomer youth in the Conversation Club Program at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel

As a youth and student, I have been able to learn a variety of different things from many different people. The fact that we live in a very diverse society today, it is important that we learn a little form every culture. Being new to Canada, it may be a little difficult to cope with the style of living and, in most cases, the education system; however, when clubs like ‘The Conversation Club” are created to support the youth, it becomes much easier.

As a member of this club, I have grown to appreciate many different people from many different cultures. The Conversation Club, which is held Monday afternoons, allows youths to become more open-minded about different situations and teaches them to react accordingly. It has been a very exciting experience for me, simply because I get to be the person I am. It feels less awkward to step into a room of ten people, whom you are familiar with, rather than stepping into a building of thirteen thousand total strangers.

At the Conversation Club, I am allowed to express myself and feel comfortable amongst my colleagues and get help on any issue of which I am unsure. I have learned a lot from the mentors who are always willingly to assist in any possible way. It has been great fun being a member of this club and I have been able to address the public with more confidence. I have been able to develop the common love for my fellow club members and the necessary respect for the mentors and volunteers.

I can safely say, “The Conversation Club” has done a great job in making me feel comfortable in my own skin."