Pictured left, mentee Yasin connecting with mentor Levi © Courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters
Connecting with a community agency could be the difference between youth achieving their full potential versus navigating a lifetime of adversity alone. Big Brothers Big Sisters across Canada serves as a lifeline, pairing children and youth with trained, caring adult volunteers through mentorship.
When Karine Pomilia Gauthier’s family moved to Cornwall, her mother enrolled her in a local Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) core mentoring program to have a beneficial influence from outside the family. At the time, they were living in an abusive household.
That single decision has shaped her life tremendously. It was then that she was matched with Pamela, her Big Sister. Thanks to Pamela, and the program, Karine learned much about herself and changed a lot. Though she graduated from the formal program, their relationship continues.
The long-term consistency of their eight-year supportive relationship helped shape Karine to become the strong, confident woman she is today. In contrast, she often thinks of peers who did not have the catalyst of a BBBS mentor to ignite that same confidence. Karine credits Big Brothers Big Sisters with playing an immense role in her life professionally, academically, and personally.
Karine became a founding member of the BBBSC National Youth Mentoring Advisory Council, a consortium of youth who provide leadership and representation on youth issues. She testified before the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector in 2019, sharing her experience and expertise. Her advocacy and passion for mentoring led her to join the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada Board in 2020.
“Each of these experiences has given me a new lens through which to view the value of this organization. Our board is dedicated to seeing diversity at every level of the network and learning from these different perspectives. That’s the only way we can truly represent and benefit the youth we serve,” says Karine. “The BBBS community—volunteers, agencies and partners—fosters individual relationships from which we all benefit,” she adds.
Like Karine, the path for Marcus, a former Little, was equally rewarding. Today, Marcus is a podcaster and an Under Armour employee. He joined the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto (BBBST) program in his early teens, with the encouragement of his mother. A single parent, she understood the value of a healthy developmental relationship and having a role model to guide her son.
“From my own experience, I can say that the program saved my life. Especially speaking as a young Black individual—if I hadn’t joined BBBST and if I hadn’t had a Big Brother who helped me find the passion and purpose that I have today, I don’t know where I would be.
“I believe that there will always be a place for mentors in the world. In today’s times, coming out of COVID and the quite charged social climate, this is the perfect outlet. In terms of steering young individuals in the right direction and helping them continue that way, there will always be a need for BBBS and this type of mentorship support,” says Marcus.
“Volunteering with BBBS, in any capacity, is an opportunity for you to become the person you needed growing up,” Karine proclaims.
Connect today at bigbrothersbigsisters.ca to ignite the potential in children like Karine and Marcus.
About Big Brothers Big Sisters
For over 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been championing the health and wellbeing of youth. We step in before it’s too late, to help prevent the physical and mental effects of adverse childhood experiences. We ensure children as young as 7 are supported by caring adults as they overcome these adversities, helping them to do better in life – physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and academically