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.

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.”