Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Lethbridge important in rural areas too
The Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Lethbridge and District organization not only serves Lethbridge, but also serves rural communities throughout the region.
“We are making a positive difference in the lives of youth by developing and implementing a wide range of mentoring programs,” explains Jen Visser, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lethbridge and District. “I am a strong advocate for mentoring programs. I strongly believe that every child could use an extra support in their life.”
Visser says that the organization’s rural area includes over to the B.C. border, the U.S. border, to Nanton, and over to Taber. The organization also offers school-based programs in Brocket, Coaldale, and Coalhurst.
All programs are managed through the Lethbridge office.
“We try and offer our traditional, community-based mentoring program in all communities, but it’s always dependent of finding a mentor,” Visser says. “Opportunities for rural-based clients are funded through general donations and we also receive some funding from the Peigan school board. By supporting such a worthy cause, you are helping children in our community reach their full potential, resulting in positive outcomes such as a reduction in poverty and unemployment.”
Visser says that the organization offers five different mentoring programs: Traditional Program; In-School Mentoring; Teen Mentoring; Game On! and Go Girls. Each program, Visser explains, has its own history, but the community-based program has been around for the 45 years that Big Brothers, Big Sisters has been serving Lethbridge and surrounding areas.
“Serving as role models, our mentors teach by example the importance of giving and giving back, of staying in school, and of having respect for family, peers, and community,” Visser adds.
She explains the Traditional Program is where a volunteer is matched with a child and they spend time out in the community for 2-3 hours a week for one year.
“The children in this program range from ages 616,” Visser said. “Often, the children come from single parent families that are looking for a positive influence in their lives.”
Visser says that the In-School Mentoring is a situation where a mentor and a child spend time together focusing on non-academic activities in the child’s school including talking, playing games, or just hanging out on a playground.
Teen Mentoring, Visser explains includes a teenager from a high school being matched with a child at a corresponding elementary school with the intent of learning and teaching leadership qualities.
“The goal of this program is to provide leadership in understanding healthy living choices through example,” Visser says. “The program also offers opportunity to create a quality, once in a lifetime friendships and experiences.”
Visser describes Game On! as an all-boys group mentoring program providing boys and young men with information and support to make informed choices about a range of healthy lifestyle practices.
“Through non-traditional physical activities complimented with healthy eating, support, participants are engaged in life skills, communication and emotional health discussions designed to engage participants in the pursuit of life long healthy lifestyles,” Visser says.
Go Girls, on the other hand, is an all-girls group mentoring program that incorporates fun, educational games and activities designed to stimulate selfreflection and group discussion.
“The goal of Go Girls is to provide the girls and young women with information and support to make informed choices about healthy, active living while maintaining sensitivity toward emotional, social and cultural issues they may face,” Visser says.
“By supporting and donating to the organization, people can truly make a difference by providing funding needed for our professional, trained staff to carefully screen volunteers and match them in longterm, safe mentoring relationships, while providing necessary ongoing management and support for the volunteers, children, and families.”