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, 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