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, 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