Volunteer Blog: Andrea and ‘Big Brothers Big Sisters’
A walk in the dog park is all it took to inspire Andrea Racette (recruitment coordinator, Rogers Insurance) to become a “Big Sister” with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary.
“I ran into a Big Sister & Little Sister at the dog park and they told me about the program. It was something I was already interested in, but they inspired me to pursue it,” said Andrea.
The process to become a ‘Big’ (as the ‘Big Sisters’ and ‘Big Brothers’ refer to themselves) is quite lengthy. Three months went by from the moment Andrea filled out the application, to the first activity she and her ‘Little’ attended. A mentor must commit to one year whereby they must be available at least once a week for 2-5 hours to participate in activities. ‘Bigs’ must also go through criminal record screening and provide references.
Once they move on in the selection process, ‘Bigs’ go through training provided by the organization. The training is set up to provide them with hypothetical scenarios and circumstances that they must navigate appropriately. The sessions ensure that the ‘Bigs’ are equipped to cope with different (sometimes troubling) circumstances.
The program is set up to give young children and teenagers ages 6-17 positive role models. “‘Bigs’ and ‘Littles’ are matched based on interviews. So they take your application and then set up interviews based on that. It’s pretty cool!” It also gets everyone out and involved in the community. But in the end, the ultimate goal is for ‘Bigs’ to be a positive impact on youth. Among some activities Andrea and her ‘Little’ participate in are: bowling, visits to the dog park, roller skating and more. “The activities don’t have to be expensive, they just have to be different each week,” said Andrea.
For Andrea, the biggest reward is seeing her ‘Little’ come out of her shell. “When I first met my ‘Little Sister’ she was shy, but now it’s exciting to see how far she’s come with her confidence and willingness participate in activities she otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to do.”
Andreas advice to others interested in becoming a ‘Big Sister’ or ‘Big Brother’: you must be committed and know that you’ve got the time. It’s important to your “Littles” development that they can rely on their ‘Bigs’ to be there and it’s important to finish what you start.
“Kids and teenagers need good mentors. This program is an opportunity that forces you to get out in the community, to try new things and to make a meaningful impact on our youth.”