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Big Brothers Big Sisters month

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 10:30 PDT, Thu September 14, 2023

September is Big Brothers Big Sisters Month and Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver (BBGV) is on a mission to prove the benefits of mentorship for youth.

The local agency is launching a new campaign, called “Mentorship Equals,” to highlight the research that measurably demonstrates how children benefit from the mentorship equation their free programs offer.

“The data clearly demonstrates what we’ve seen in practice over decades of intentional relationship-building. Mentorship creates connection, inclusion and belonging for children and carries positive and reciprocal benefits in the lives of mentees and their mentors well into the future,” Rose Higgins, program director at BBGV, said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Month is a provincially-recognized celebration of the volunteer-mentors serving youth throughout our communities. It’s also a time when the organization shines a light on the large shortage of volunteers needed to meet the demand of families looking for a mentor.

In this science-based initiative, Big Brothers and Big Sisters Canada (BBBSC) has taken proactive action.

During the summer 2020, BBBSC partnered with researchers from York University, Drs. Craig and Pepler, and the University of Victoria, Dr. Ames, on a collaborative research project, Building Bigger Connections. 

The findings were clear: Big Brothers Big Sisters mentees reported feeling more supported and less isolated, worried or anxious than youth outside of the program. Children enrolled in the program also reported better mental health while facing equal or greater adversities than their non-mentored peers. 

Additional research from Search Institute suggest that by volunteering as a mentor, one person can have significant and profound impact on the life of a child facing adversities.

“After decades of forming hypotheses, conducting surveys, crafting and rewriting definitions, analyzing data and writing journal articles, Search Institute researchers and practitioners have arrived at a surprisingly simple conclusion: nothing—nothing—has more impact in the life of a child than positive relationships,” Peter Benson, former Search Institute president and chief executive officer, said.

Through their free volunteer-led programs, BBGV’s mission is to empower children and youth to reach their full potential though impactful mentoring relationships in collaboration with local communities.

“Mentorship happens when we express care, provide support, challenge growth and expand possibilities for children and youth,” Higgins explained.

Before the pandemic, the organization served more than 1,000 young people in Greater Vancouver per year. In 2021 to 2022, the non-profit served 723 children due in large part to a nation-wide volunteer shortage. However, since then, there have been signs that the tide may be turning.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in volunteer applications over the last year, but even with that bump in numbers we still have a long way to go to meet the needs of our community and serve as many children as we did before the pandemic began,” Higgins said.

“While this a positive trend in the right direction, we cannot ignore the current picture. We have the largest need for volunteers in our communities ever with over 80 children ready and waiting to be matched with a mentor. In Surrey, the demand has passed a critical point. Since April of 2021, we’ve paused accepting new family applications for our Community Program until we’re able to find enough volunteers for the children already in our waitpool.”

Currently there are more than 30 youths in the Surrey waitpool with many more families on the waitlist.

The term “waitpool” is used by BBGV to describe children approved for their programs and are in the process of finding and being matched with a volunteer while “waitlist” refers to the number of families who have inquired about enrolling their child into the mentorship program, but cannot be accommodated due to the shortage of volunteers.

“We’ve experienced a huge drop in total volunteers since the pandemic, but continue to see a consistent rise in demand from families in our communities wanting to enroll in our programs. There are hundreds of children who could greatly benefit from a mentor, if they had one,” Higgins said.

“We are all capable of building connections and community if we work together. At BBGV, we are here to support youth mentorship every step of the way.”

BBGV runs mentorship programs in Vancouver, Surrey, the Tri-Cities, Richmond, Burnaby, New Westminster, the North Shore, Delta and White Rock.

For those interested in volunteer and becoming a volunteer, visit

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