Big Brothers, Big Sis­ters of Lethbridge im­por­tant in ru­ral ar­eas too

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Alberta - BY HEATHER CAMERON

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.”

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