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, September 14, 2015

Three Brothers and a Car

When Callum was matched with Big Brother Dennis Deeley earlier this year, he got several things he didn’t expect -- like three Big Brothers passionately interested in cars and car racing.

“No, I didn’t expect three,” says Callum, 10, who counts Dennis, Dennis’s first Little Brother Simon, now 22, and his second Little, Matt, now 17, as his Bigs, though only Deeley is officially a Big.
The foursome’s passion, based in part on Deeley’s own love of cars and racing, has lead them to collectively build and/or restore three cars -- two Lotus Sevens replicas for Dennis and Simon, and a 1990 Toyota Corolla for Matt.

“I grew up very close to Mosport Raceway,” says Deeley, a tool and die maker who has worked for General Motors for 33 years. “I’ve always been very hooked on car racing.”

He’s also been very hooked on children, and since 1993 with Big Brothers and Sisters of Clarington.
“I was in my mid-30s and my partner and I didn’t have any children,” says Deeley, who also didn’t have any nieces or nephews to spoil. “I felt I was missing something. We kind of figured Big Brothers was the way to go.”

From the start of the match with Simon, who was just about to turn 9, Big gradually but quickly drew his Little into the world of cars and auto racing – slot cars, radio-controlled cars and go karts.
"He just sort of put me right into it," says Simon, now a student at the University of Guelph. “The progression just got bigger and bigger.”

Photo cutline: Dennis Deeley and his Littles, Simon, Callum and Matt, show off one of the Lotus Seven replica sportscar they have build. Fromt left to right, standing Deeley and Matt, seated Callum and Simon. 

So big that in 1997 the two started to build a replica Lotus Seven, a classic open two-seater sportscar, from scratch for Deeley.

“I saw a review in The Star about a book, ‘Built Your Own Sportscar.’ I showed that to Simon and I said we could do that and we did,” says Deeley.

"I didn't know the difference between a transmission and a rear axel," says Simon. “As we continued to progress in our car racing and building, I learned a lot.”

It took them about five years working once a week for three to five hours at a time to complete the car. When they were done, about 2002, they started a second one for Simon, who is now confident that with his mechanical skills he could hold his own in any garage.

"All the mistakes were made on Dennis's, so with mine we were perfect,” says the ex-Little, whose car is expected to completed this fall.

Along the way, Simon hit 18 and the official Big Brother relationship ended, but not the friendship. They continued to work on the car.

“When Simon and I closed, I never intended to walk away from Big Brothers because I got so much out of it, watching Simon grow into this incredible man,” says Deeley, who asked for and got a second Little Brother, Matt.

“He was so much like me when I was kid,” he says. “At 12 years old he already knew how to weld” and was just as passionately into auto racing.

“I was pretty happy to have a Big Brother,” says Matt, and that Deeley was into cars and racing was almost a bonus.

“I jumped in and helped finished the car they were working on,” says Matt, who recalls welding the car frame on his first outing with Deeley.

As with Simon, Matt and Deeley raced remote control cars, went to Mosport, watched F1 and “we did other things too, it wasn’t just cars,” he says.

The trio continued to work on Simon’s Lotus and also rebuilt a Corolla, “a nice sporty car,” for Matt. “We found it, she (Matt’s mom) bought it,” Deeley says.

A friendship developed between Matt and Simon, who worked on the cars when he wasn’t away at university. They agree that between them and now with Callum, they never felt that they were sharing Deeley.

"We all just work together to get the same thing," says Matt, who doesn’t see his rela-tionship with Deeley ending. Like Simon, “I’ll probably just keep doing the same thing.”

“When Matt came into the group it pretty much felt like I was the middle brother like Matt is for Callum now,” says Simon, who describes himself as the “seasonal Big Brother,” who will only see Callum during university breaks.

As Matt approaches 18, Deeley decided “that instead of waiting until Matt closed, we would match with Callum first.”

“I’m really intuitive. The first couple of times I was out with Callum we clicked like we had been going out for a long time,” says Deeley. “He seems to enjoy spending time with all of us...Unfortunately he likes NASCAR.”

Callum, who has been matched with Deeley and Matt since the spring, says he was ex-cited to be matched with a Big Brother who is interested in cars. He shrugs off the gentle teasing he receives for liking National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing, which hold most of its races on oval tracks instead of the road courses of Formula One and CART.

And Callum says he hasn’t given much thought to the type of car, he and his Bigs might work on for him, though he is partial to a Corvette.

“Callum’s only 10, so I’m not going to worry about Callum for a while,” says Deeley, who has already lined up a new project for his pit crew, another Lotus Seven replica, this time from a kit and for a friend.

Story authored by Young People’s Press

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Inspiration - What Does it Mean to You?

Inspiration means something different to everyone. Find out what these Big and Little Brothers and Sisters think.

Monday, August 31, 2015

How has Your Big Inspired You?

We asked some Little Brothers and Sisters "How has your mentor inspired you? This is what they told us.

Friday, July 24, 2015

It Often Begins Quietly

In 2001, Cheryl and her Little Sister Melissa met for the first time and went skating together at Bower Ponds in Red Deer. Six year old Melissa was quiet during their first meeting, but Cheryl was excited at the opportunity to be her Big Sister. During the first year of their match, Melissa barely spoke a word. Once a week, Cheryl would pick her up and they would go do an activity together. Cheryl would make efforts to begin a conversation, but Melissa would not respond or would make brief, one word answers while avoiding eye contact.

The lack of communication was concerning and, at times, frustrating for Cheryl, who was unsure if Melissa was even enjoying herself. At the end of their outings, Cheryl began to ask Melissa to rate how much fun she had one a scale from one to ten. Melissa would quickly say “ten!” then hurry inside her house.

It took time, but with a lot of patience and persistence by Cheryl, eventually Melissa began to open up. When this story was originally written in 2007, the pair has been matched for nearly 7 years -  the longest existing match in Red Deer at the time.

Where are you now Melissa and Cheryl? We'd love to hear from you!


Monday, July 20, 2015

The Most Precious Gift

This amazing Little Sister presented her speech about the influence of her Big Sister through the Big Sister Program at Big Brothers Big Sisters Georgian Triangle.

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?

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, July 8, 2015

A Bond That Endures

When 12-year-old Colin’s mom re-married, it marked the official end of his time with Big Brother Mark Bergen, a Swift Current, Sask. veterinarian. But because of the friendship that has grown between them over their two years together, Mark and Colin still get together a couple of times a month.

“I decided to volunteer because I enjoy working with kids and I knew Big Brothers was a good organization and there were a lot of needy kids out there,” explains Mark, 30. “I wanted to get involved and have some fun.”

Since Mark was married last August and also has a busy veterinary practise, time is at a premium, but he never found it difficult to schedule his weekly outings with Colin because they both enjoyed the time so much.

“When I first got involved I was single and yes, getting married means there are a lot of time demands, but Colin and I still get together fairly frequently,” says Mark. “I have a lot of fun too and we get along well. I look forward to it.”

Their time is spent talking about guy things while playing road hockey, baseball, or a game of pool. A movie or a trip to a mini-golf course also tops the list. And when they want to just hang out, Colin and Mark whip up their favourite feast — homemade pizza.

“We always say we make the best pizza,” says Mark. “We joke that one day we’ll open a pizza place.”

Although he’s not sure which career path Colin will take (it changes almost hourly, Mark jokes) he knows that being involved in his Little Brother’s life has made a difference. That means a great deal to him. He was especially proud to hear Colin had told Big Brothers through a questionnaire that “life is not boring anymore” with Mark around.

“That makes me feel pretty good to know that he enjoys spending time with me,” Mark says. “We do a lot of talking, just hanging out and that kind of thing. His mom has told me that I have made a big difference in his life and that she’s seen a big change in him since we started getting together.”

Although he expects to always be pals with Colin, Mark says he’d like to be matched with a new Little Brother, recognizing that he truly enjoys giving his time to the organization and there is a huge need for volunteers like him. It’s something he’d advise anyone to consider, not only for the great personal rewards, but for the pure fun Big Brothers have with their Little Brothers.

Adds Mark, “I think I’ve gotten as much out of this as Colin has.”

Monday, June 29, 2015


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 22, 2015

Mentoring in Aboriginal Communities - Amy Joe's Story

In School Mentoring provides girls and boys with a role model and a friend to talk to and share the experiences of growing up with, within school grounds. For one hour a week, mentors meet with their mentee and engage in fun recreation activities. In 2014, Boston Pizza Future Prospects provided a multi-year grant of to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kamloops & Region to expand the mentoring program to better support Rural and Aboriginal students in Merritt, BC. This is just one of many stories of how mentoring is making a difference for aboriginal youth in their community.

As a teenager, I always enjoyed spending time with children. My first job was a babysitter for my younger siblings, cousins and family friends. During my post-secondary studies in business, I worked at the Conayt Friendship Centre in my hometown of Merritt. The term Conayt originated from Nlaka:pamux or Ntlakyapamuk, the Thompson language. Conayt means "helping others". One day at work, I came across a Big Brothers Big Sisters poster for In School Mentoring. The program looked amazing, so I applied to be a volunteer mentor.

I was matched with Savanah, who attended the same elementary school I went to as a child. Savanah was full of funny stories and had an amazing talent for drawing. We instantly bonded over our love for animals and art. As an only child, Savanah did not have a great deal of socialization outside school hours and struggled to make solid friendships. We loved learning about each other’s families and culture, and both looked forward to our weekly visits. I was so happy to have the opportunity to become a friend and role model to Savanah.

As the weeks passed, I met other students and teachers who really cared for Savanah’s well-being. Throughout the program, I made several friendships that I still treasure today. During my time working and volunteering in my community, I realized my dream was to become a teacher. I believe all young people need encouraging role models and a supportive network to reach their full potential. Many students lack positive role models in their life, and as a result, struggle with their academics and self-esteem.

Thank you Big Brothers Big Sisters for giving me the opportunity to meet my little buddy Savanah. The experience was truly life changing as I will soon complete my Education degree and look forward to a day where I can work with In School Mentoring as a teacher.

by Amy Joe, In-School Mentor Volunteer

Monday, June 15, 2015

What Has Big Brothers Meant to Me?

by Brian Weller

Big Brothers was introduced into my life at age thirteen, one year after I lost my Toronto ex-policeman father. That was when I met my Big Brother, Wayne. Some of our more memorable times together would include going to the stock car races at Pinecrest and other tracks, with some time spent in the pits afterwards with drivers he knew. We also had visits with his close family, who always made me feel at home.

Having a Big Brother was such a positive experience for me that, at twenty-one, I became a Big Brother myself, to two fatherless boys in Toronto, and played on the Big Brothers Toronto hockey team.

For a time, Wayne and I were asked to assist together at the orientation meetings, where we would introduce the agency to prospective Big Brothers. In the early 1970s, I moved my young family and became a volunteer with Big Brothers Oshawa/Whitby. Jean ran the agency at the time when we set up the Big Brothers hockey team to play in the local Durham Men’s League. Our team, with the addition of former NHL stars like Ron Ellis and Dick Duff, would also play a benefit game once a year at the Civic Auditorium against Dave Duval and the CFTO Bassett Hounds, with the crowd supporting an equipment fund for our needy Little Brothers.

I have now known Wayne for forty-nine years, and our friendship continues to this day, although things have changed. Now it’s me who picks him up, taking him to events he enjoys, like seeing LeAnn Rimes at Massey Hall or Merle Haggard in Rama. Wayne and his wife, Marie, are good friends with my wife’s family and are included in family functions. You reap what you sow! Wayne was my best man at my wedding forty years ago, and we still maintain regular contact. To paraphrase, “A heart is not known for how much you love but how much you are loved by others.”

Today, I am semi-retired from a successful York Region manufacturing business that my son now operates. My wife and I have four children and four grandchildren. Wayne and Marie took a hurting thirteen-year-old child into their hearts many years ago, and for that I will always be grateful.

Magic happens when a caring adult stoops to help a youngster in need! Every fatherless boy needs a Big Brother, and every motherless girl deserves a Big Sister to share time with, talk to, or confide in. From the Soap Box Derby to the annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake, the focus is always on the child! Volunteering makes a big difference in everyone’s life.

Monday, May 25, 2015

My experience with Live Different Builds

Last Year, several volunteers and staff from Big Brothers Big Sisters joined with the Live Different group on a trip to the Dominican Republic to build a home for a family. This is Zuhal's story of her experience.

I like many others on this trip did not think of the impact this trip would have on me and how I view life. I went on this trip thinking that it will be purely physical labour but underestimated the emotional roller coaster that it puts one on. Growing up as a refugee in India I had seen slums and people living in extreme poverty and it always hurt me to see people in those situations but just like any other child soon I was distracted by my own life yet the images stayed in my head till this day. Yes I have seen poverty but I have never experienced it like I did on this trip as an adult and all what I remembered as a kid came rushing back to me and reminded me of those kids in India living in slums and the stigma they endured on day to day basis.

When introduced to Sandra (Nuevo Renacer Community Leader, Live Diffferent) and learning about her story I realized how important the role of a mentor is in the lives of children, youth and even adults. She truly revives the word mentor and is a living example of what a mentor should be like. Sandra has so selflessly sacrificed so much for the well-being of her community and the healthy ways of developing her community Nuevo Renacer. She is a true inspiration and a role model not only to her community members but also to many of us taking part in this build. When people ask me what my highlight during this trip was my answer remains the same “meeting Sandra” because not only has she devoted her life to serving her community but she also reassured me of why I do what I do at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel. Being in the field sometimes we forget the impact we have on others but it’s only during certain moments do we realize the true beauty of mentorship and why we are doing this.

I had the privilege of working on the Kids Club knowing that it would be a space that will be used not only by the kids we interacted with but also those in the future generations. It brought out many emotions in me – I was happy, excited, inspired, touched, humbled and most of all I knew I was a part of a big movement which at the moment may seem small but the impact this club will have on this community is larger beyond words.

This partnership between Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, Live Different and West Jet is one to be proud of as it brought out many of us across Canada together to work on the same goal. The teamwork was beyond amazing and our Littles are truly an inspiration and I am so proud to be a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters. As Sandra says “nothing is impossible” and this trip proved it to me and many more that “if we all stand up together we can move mountains and one day end poverty”. The Live Different staff are great motivators and made us see things from a perspective that when living in North America we sometimes forget to switch on. Their devotion of this project and the community is not just building new homes from families but creating employment, increasing sense of community and showing them the importance of volunteering. We witnessed these values and came to understand their commitment in creating a better world for all.

I am so grateful for being a part of this great journey and also more confident after this trip that yes one person can make a difference.

by Zuhal Khoja
Conversation Club Caseworker
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel

Join Us For a Life-Changing Experience!

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada has once again teamed up with WestJet and Live Different to assemble a group of brave and generous souls to travel to the Dominican Republic in November 2015. We will build houses in an impoverished community that is gradually being transformed, house by house (and person by person) into its namesake, Nuevo Renacer (“New Life”). Read all about it here...

Monday, May 18, 2015

Did you know that May 21st marks World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development?

by: Nooreen Pirbhai
National Inclusion Advisor
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada
You may be wondering what it is. In 2001, UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and in December 2002, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 21 to be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, or World Day for Cultural Diversity for short. The day is meant to provide all of us an opportunity to expand our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to learn to live harmoniously with one another.

As Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO states, “our cultural diversity is a stimulator of creativity. Investing in this creativity can transform societies. It is our responsibility to develop education and intercultural skills in young people to sustain diversity of our world and to learn to live together in the diversity of our languages, cultures and religions, to bring about change.”

As the National Inclusion Advisor at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, I have the privilege to hear about the ways in which Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies are developing and/or adapting mentoring programs and processes to ensure the inclusion of the rich cultural diversity in their regions. More importantly, I get to be a part of conversations that relate to how Big Brothers Big Sisters can meaningfully engage and mentor culturally diverse children and youth, some of whom are newcomers to Canada.

Throughout all of these conversations, there is one common understanding: the process of being truly inclusive needs to be a multi-pronged approach that does not just look at programming, but an intentional process that requires agencies to ensure diversity and inclusion is fully embedded within an agency’s day-to-day and long-term work. This includes an agency’s strategic priorities, governance, human resources, community engagement, partnership development, and other internal and external activities. It is a process that recognizes that it has no end date, rather it is a journey that we must consciously stay on, meaning that we all still have a lot of work to do. In honour of this, and World Day for Cultural Diversity, I challenge all of us to reflect on our programs and practices to see how we can become more culturally inclusive.

Lastly, to continually celebrate and reflect on our personal and organizational achievements on World Day for Cultural Diversity, and throughout the year, join the grassroots campaign, Do One Thing For Diversity and Inclusion. The campaign encourages people and organizations from around the world to take action in supporting diversity. You can join the campaign via their Facebook page, which serves as a platform for people around the world to share their experiences through posts and videos. Be sure to check it out!

Happy World Day for Cultural Diversity!

For more information on World Day for Cultural Diversity, go to:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Here's to Canadian Mom's

“You are not perfect, but you are perfect for me!”

These are words of wisdom from my 8 year-old son that inspire me whenever self-doubt sets in – which I hate to admit happens more often than not.

At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we are fortunate to meet and work with thousands of beautiful, courageous and incredible women across the country, also known as moms. These women want the best for their children. They worry and they fight to provide their children with as many skills and opportunities as possible to encourage them to reach their full potential.

It’s no wonder that they worry.

According to the Save the Children 2012 State of the World’s Mothers Annual Index, that helps document conditions for mothers and children in 165 countries and shows where mothers fare best and where they face the greatest hardships, Canada ranks 19th, behind countries like Estonia, Slovenia and Portugal.

The most recent data from Statistics Canada’s Women in Canada report states that working mothers still earn 25% less, on average, and still do approximately double on average, of the child and household related chores than dads. The same report also demonstrates that women account for more college and university graduates than men.

Why should we be concerned about the condition for mothers?

Providing mothers with access to education, economic opportunities and maternal and child health care, gives them and their children the best chance to survive, thrive and reach their full potential. By supporting mothers and improving their conditions, we can improve the lives and well-being of our children and, in turn, our communities.

Despite the worry and self-doubt, brave moms across the country reach out for support and with the help of over 27,000 volunteer mentors, they are providing new opportunities for their children. We, at Big Brothers Big Sisters are honored to know and work with these moms each and every day.

To all the Moms – we hope you put aside the self-doubt and worry this Mother’s Day. To everyone else, please take a moment to recognize and encourage all the mothers you know that work so hard.

If your mom was your mentor, please let her know!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Healthy Children Lead to Healthy Communities

Moksha/Modo connects strongly with the values held by Big Brothers Big Sisters and feels the work they are doing is vital to the present and future health of our global communities.

Moksha/Modo Yoga is an international community of yoga studios rooted in these 7 Pillars: Be Healthy, Be Accessible, Live Green, Community Support, Reach Out, Live to Learn, and Be Peace.

To say that “growing up in the world today is not exactly easy” would be a true understatement! Society is in such a rush all the time, and more often than not we see people competing against each other, rather than working together. There is too much pressure to “be this” or “ be that” and not enough encouragement to just “be you!”

Within our ecosystems, our economies, our cities, our communities, our families, and ourselves, suffering exists. One could see this as a total burden, or one could see the world’s problems as a number of incredible opportunities to create positive change.


Today’s youth are the future leaders of our communities so it is crucial that they learn how to value themselves first and foremost. This way they can live up to their fullest potential as individuals and become empowered members of their families, their communities, and therefore the world. Making the world a better place starts with the individual. This is why Moksha/Modo supports Big Brothers Big Sisters in what they are doing to mentor today’s children and youth.

Developing a regular yoga practice is a great way to be healthy and feel good in your body. Yoga has endless health benefits and science is always discovering new ones as time goes on. Physical benefits include helping with: back and knee pain, arthritis, poor digestion and constipation, pregnancy, poor posture, and scoliosis.

Mental/emotional benefits include helping with: stress, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and self esteem.Yoga helps us to take time for and take care of ourselves, so that in our lives we can be our very best! And the awesome part is that anyone can do yoga.

So, if creating positive change to make the world a better place begins with the individual, then why not encourage our children and our youth to develop healthy lifestyle choices early on!

This year marks Moksha/Modo’s 6th annual Grow Your Yoga Campaign. In each of our local communities participants will practice yoga everyday for 30 days. In a community supported challenge like this there is a lot more encouragement to show up everyday. Not only that, it is really inspiring to see lots of other people doing something good for themselves! This inspiration spills out into the individual’s relationships, families, and community, making the world a bit better, one yoga class at a time.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is bettering our global communities by creating positive change one Big and Little at a time, so this year we’ve decided to donate 100% of our collective funds raised through Grow Your Yoga to them.

By the end of May our goal is to raise $200,000 with individual donations of just $5.

You can sign up for or donate to Grow Your Yoga at your local studio or here.

Martha Deeks, Student, Teacher, Owner
Moksha Yoga Kingston

Monday, April 27, 2015

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...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Our BIGGEST Thank You!

April 12-18 marks National Volunteer Week across Canada! We are especially grateful to the thousands of volunteers who generously donate their time to make a BIG difference in the lives of so many Little Brothers and Little Sisters across the country.

To all of our Big Brothers, Big Sisters, In-School Mentors, Go Girls! Mentors, Study Buddies, and Game On Mentors, etc. who wear so many hats through your tireless volunteerism – thank you for recognizing and championing the potential in each and every Little Brother and Sister supported by our programs. Thank you for ensuring that each of these young boys and girls will grow up believing in their self-worth and their abilities; for reinforcing the truth that each child we work with is not defined by the challenges they face in their lives, but the love, caring, and compassion that makes each one of them, them.

Thank you for your dedication, your consistency, and your belief in a world when every child who needs a mentor, has a mentor.

Thank you for your gift of time, for your passion, for your compassion, and your tireless commitment to the empowerment of our nation’s youth.

Your work positively impacts each Little Brother or Sister as well as all of our communities on the whole. You are inspiring the next generation of mentors! Every young person who goes out into the world believing in their own self-worth will in turn teach this to every single person they meet along the way.

This is the power of mentoring.

This is the power you empower as a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor.

We cannot thank you enough.

Vanessa Woznow
Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Healthy Youth Leads to Healthy Economy

This week we are recognizing World Health Day (April 7th) and the theme this year is #foodsafety. Although that is a concern for everyone, it got us thinking about the importance of health in general.

Many countries are now recording a Wellness Index in addition to GDP to keep track of the prosperity and growth of their nation. Measures regarding Mental Health, Obesity, and even Bullying and Cyberbullying are being added to more traditional economic measures to get a much deeper, richer measure of national progress and welfare.

Fortunately for us, Canada ranks fifth on the OECD's Better Life Index (BLI), behind Australia, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, when it comes to scores in 11 areas including health, income, jobs and life satisfaction are weighed equally.

But we still have some improvements to make.

Unfortunately, we are seeing dangerous downward trends in important health determinants such as obesity, physical activity levels, bullying and cyberbullying and mental health.
  • one in five people in Canada experiences a mental health problem or illness,
  • less than 20% of the estimated 1.2 million Canadian children and youth affected by mental illness will receive appropriate treatment.
  • 1 in 4 Canadian children is obese
  • 7% of Canadian (5-11) year-olds and 4% of Canadian (12- 17) year-olds meet recommended guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily.
  • Canada has the 9th highest rate of bullying in the 13-years-olds category on a scale of 35 countries

How Mentoring Can Reverse the Trend

Mentoring has a huge impact on wellbeing and yet it is still grossly underfunded and undervalued in our society. Several studies have demonstrated that kids who have a Big Brother or a Big Sister are less likely to be depressed and less likely to bully or be bullied. Girls in our Go Girls! program improved their eating habits and increased their leisure activity levels. Boys in our Game On! program showed improvement in their academic attendance and achievements.

It is critical to establish the foundation for healthy emotional and social development through prevention and early intervention services to support the health and mental well-being of every Canadian as they progress from childhood to adulthood.

If you would like to support the wellbeing of Canada’s youth – you can donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters today!

Friday, March 20, 2015

It is the Very Pursuit of Happiness That Thwarts Happiness

According to this new study, you are at your happiest at 34.

The reasons for being happy at this age are listed as:

  • I met someone I fell in love with
  • I got married
  • I had children
  • I got a great new job/made a career change
  • Bought my first home
Perhaps it is just me… but I think that if some thing, person, or event is the reason you are happy, that happiness might be fleeting.

I googled “happiness” and found this quote from Viktor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor:

"It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness."

Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning that those who found meaning even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing," he wrote, "the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

There may be something to this...

A survey our organization did in June 2009 showed that people who were Big Brothers or Big Sisters lived longer and were happier than those who were not.

More specifically… half of the youth mentors polled (51%) described their lives as “very happy”, compared to 29 per cent of Canadian adults from the general population.

I don’t know if happy people volunteer or volunteering makes you happy but if you are still looking for happiness  - it is worth a shot to become a mentor!

Jennifer-Lee Thomas
Director of Marketing
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

Monday, March 9, 2015

Celebrate Your Sister!

March 8th is International Women’s Day. In celebration, we asked our Bigs and Littles what makes their Big and/or Little sister an awesome role model. Here is what a few of them had to say:

"My little sister, Shania, is such an awesome role model. For the 8 years we have been matched, I’ve seen Shania blossom from a shy and timid young girl, into an out-going, friendly, confident young woman. Shania has played basketball at a competitive level for the last 5 or 6 years, and she is now in her second year on her High School Varsity team. She is a leader and strong team player, who always jumps at the opportunity to introduce younger children to the sport. For years she attended the local Boys and Girls Club, and it was well known that she could always be found on the court. I heard from more than one youngster that Shania helped them learn a new skill, or invited them into a game at the club. It makes me so proud to hear people in the basketball community talk about how easy she is to coach, how hard she works, and how great her positive attitude is. I couldn’t have asked for a more awesome Little Sister."

- Clara Tarjan on her Little sister Shania (Saint John)

"Pauline is a daring 9 year old, who is very active, imaginative, and a constantly on the go kind of girl. I, of course, have the pleasure of trying to keep up with her every time we hang out!

Each Thursday or Saturday we embark on a new adventure that will challenge us physically, and that we can check off our event “bucket list”. As of late, I have taught Pauline how to ice skate and play ice hockey. She is a very fast learner, and doesn’t mind falling down, as she is quick to get back up and try again.

She even made me face my fear of heights by rock climbing at the Romper Room in Nanaimo last month! She inspires me to be a better person, and to test myself on a weekly basis.

This little girl packs her own schedule with being a participate in such groups as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girl Guides, Girls to Women, and Youth Group. She is one motivated individual!"

- Lindsay McGuire on her Little Sister Pauline (Nanaimo)

"My little, Jamie, has been with me for five years. During that time, I have seen her grow from an uncertain and shy young girl into a confident and ambitious young woman. She has overcome many challenges, and she never gives up, no matter the situation. I am regularly left in awe of her maturity, grit, and kindness. I am Jamie's big, her mentor, but she has taught me a great deal about staying strong in the face of challenges, giving the best of ourselves to others, and making the best of every situation"

- Caryn Swark on her Little Sister Jaimie (Lethbridge)

My little sister is a prize
She is tall, wavy and athletic
At her young age, she is oh so wise
The day we met felt magnetic

We have played, laughed and ate
Seen films, bounced around and even watched a play
We love our coffee dates
I hope we never stray !

My little is charming and keen
At times a bit boy struck
but I have to remember she is only still a teen
Whoever she meets will sure be in luck

I have enjoyed my little
Many fond memories to share
Our friendship will never become brittle
We are a great pair!

-Danielle Porodo on her Little Sister (Edmonton)

"I am supposedly a role model for my little sister, but how is she a role model for a 66 year old grandmother? Kayla keeps me young! She keeps me in touch with a changing world! She teaches me what is hip, what is new in education and what is evolving in technology! She gets me out to activities, to movies, to theatre and to the art gallery! She is a friend and it is a special gift to spend one's time with a young girl who is finding her way in her family , her school and her community!!"

- Joan Avis on her Little Sister Kayla

Thanks to everyone who entered this Jill Yoga sponsored contest. Watch our facebook page for prize announcements.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Part of the Family

I almost can’t believe it, but this year marks the five year anniversary of my match with my little sister. We were matched only a few months before I moved out of the town where we both grew up, to a new city for work. But we were ready and excited to take on the exciting challenges of being long distance (only one hour away).

The time has passed so quickly, and we have created so many wonderful memories. We’ve been to each other’s graduations, holidays, birthdays and family gatherings. It’s been an honour to watch her grow, navigate high school, study hard, and offer some advice and an ear along the way.

People I know who have been part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters family in the past had told me that this would be a life-changing undertaking. I still can’t believe just how right they were. I feel honoured to have someone want to share their struggles with me, their happy moments, and their thoughts.

Our match ended almost two years ago because my sister turned 16, but we have continued our relationship without blinking an eye. We will be friends forever, family for life, and have a network to proudly call ourselves alumni of: Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Happy Family Day, from our family to yours!

Katie, Former Big Sister and Alumni

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Power of Music

Everyone can think of a song or artist that has moved them. Music can be powerful, it can speak to us, calm us when stressed and lift us up when we’re having a tough day. We often take it for granted, having it play in the background without even realizing the impact it is having, but no one can deny that when we really listen, it can be transformative.

Little Sister Amaiyah shares the impact music has had in her life:

Music builds my confidence. Music is a part of my everyday life, it inspires me to be better.

  1. Off stage I am shy and often lack confidence. However when I am on stage singing I feel joyful and confident. The stage feels like home.
  2. I listen to music every day. Music helps me start and end my day with a smile. It helps me to focus, be more energized and positive. That is why I decided to learn how to play the piano. My music lessons have taught me how to concentrate and express myself through my music.
  3. Music has helped me to do things I didn't think I could do. I've danced in front of 440 people and I was able to do that because of the music. We danced to my favorite song and I felt energized and good about myself. I've sang at various functions such as concerts and family gatherings. This would not have been possible without the joy of music giving me a voice.
Those are just a few ways that music builds my confidence and inspires me to be a better, person. Music plays a big part in my life and it will always today tomorrow and forever.

Sincerely: Amaiyah, 12 you a music fan? Do you love to sing? If so, be sure to check out our Make a Note of Mentoring Contest for a chance at some great prizes while supporting a great cause!

Monday, January 26, 2015

It’s time we do more than TALK about Mental Health

If you are a parent - you have had a sick child. And you have gone through the angst of when to call the doctor or go to the clinic…

But what if you suspect there is something wrong but it is not physical? What if they are just not themselves or they seem to have trouble coping with things or they are not getting along with other kids? Sometimes a mental health issue can look like misbehaviour or a “phase”.

When do you seek help and how do you seek help?

My heart goes out to any parent facing this dilemma today. Yes it is important we continue to raise awareness about mental health issues and take them as seriously as physical health, but it is also time we stop TALKING and start DOING!

The WHO states: Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

Imagine the impact on the economy and society as a whole if we do not address mental health issues and make it a priority.

Promoting mental health depends largely on a variety of strategies that intersect all sectors of our communities from early childhood intervention; to support to children and youth; to empowerment of women and programs targeting vulnerable groups to name a few.

Let’s continue to TALK but also TAKE ACTION with more than a tweet but also by supporting and investing in programs such as Mentoring which research has proven to promote positive mental health in children and youth which continues into adulthood.

To find our more how you can support and invest in mentoring:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bowling 101

Have you heard? BBBS’s Bowl for Kid’s Sake is in full spin across Canada and we want to make sure that you’re all ready and in tip top shape to bowl your best game!

Here are some tips & tricks to help you bowl like a pro-
  1. Choose your ball
    When it comes to picking a ball, it can be a little tricky- if it's too light it'll be hard to control, and a heavy ball will lack the momentum it needs to knock the pins down. So, make sure your grip is comfortable and you can release the ball easily so you can get that strike!
  2. Bowling Shoes
    Most bowling shoes have 'special slides' -Make sure that you slide on the opposite foot to the hand you're bowling with. Sliding helps the momentum of the ball and gives it extra power to really knock those pins down.
  3. Tamed Twinkle toes
    Keep your steps smooth and small as you go for that all-important swing. Point your swing where you want your ball to go and you're on target for that strike!
  4. Feet on the floor
    Extend the arm you don't bowl with to help keep your balance. You don't want to fall over at a crucial moment!
  5. Paying attention
    Try not to get distracted and look straight ahead and keep those pins in your sight. Remember to keep your eyes open!
  6. Think you're ready?
    We do too! Get out there and have fun!
Don’t forget to celebrate when you get a great score or when you knock those pins down! Here’s a quick video on how to ‘celebrate’ your bowling success!

Share with us your bowling secrets and tips.