By Jenn Watt
When a young person “ages out” of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program before ever being matched with an adult it breaks Alyssa Wilson’s heart.
Wilson is a case manager with Big Brothers Big Sisters for City of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County. She says she sees it happen too often and is concerned about the number of kids and teenagers waiting in Haliburton County – especially boys.
“I noticed a lot of our kids have been waiting for several years to meet somebody” Wilson says.
There are currently 18 kids waiting to be matched.
“I need males to start stepping forward because most of my waiting list children are boys.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters asks that the “Bigs” or adults be willing to give about three hours a week and commit for a year to the “Littles” however that is flexible.
“If you can commit every other week three to four hours that’s fine too. Give us a call and say this is what I can offer” she says.
Snow birds who go to hot climes each winter will sometimes send postcards to their Littles or find other ways to connect during the two or three months they are away.
It’s more important to make the connection and have to miss a few months than to not participate at all. Bigs can be any adult over the age of 18. The oldest Big in the region right now is 89 years old and participates in the in-school program.
In Haliburton County there aren’t any volunteers working with kids in the schools through Big Brothers Big Sisters but Wilson would like that to change.
It is a one-hour commitment once a week on school property. The adult meets with his or her youth connection and does something fun. It could be playing a board game or reading a book or going outside and blowing bubbles.
The children on the waiting list are usually referred to the program by an educator at the school or through family. The hope is that through Big Brothers Big Sisters the youth makes a connection with a caring adult creating a trusting relationship that can also provide new experiences. Wilson gives the example of a kid going for a snowmobile ride or trying a new sport.
Circumstances vary between children as to why they are in the program with the commonality that they could use extra time with a role model.
Wilson says that those children who go through the program benefit in tangible ways. They’re more likely to get involved in community service as adults and are more likely to stay in school longer achieving higher levels of education.
The screening for adults includes a police check reference check and interview but Big Brothers Big Sisters will come to Haliburton to do the interview process even though the office is in Lindsay.
To inquire or sign up give them a call at 705-324-6800.