Big Brothers Big Sisters West Island, who currently pair together 132 volunteers with kids in need, is in dire need of additional help said executive director Francesca Corso on Feb. 14 during a fundraising breakfast event at Jack Astor’s in Dollard des Ormeaux.
“At the moment, we have at least 40 children waiting, 35 of them are boys. We need at least 35 big brothers for the kids we have in our program and then we have another 20 kids waiting for in-school mentoring so we have a huge need for volunteers and in particular for big brothers. We always have new kids approaching us with the need, calling us for a big brother or big sister for their children, so throughout the year, we're always looking,” she said.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2013. The West Island branch has existed for the last 38 years. Whether it’s through the traditional pairing program or with the in-school mentoring system, the organization has certainly given back to the West Island community in the last four decades.
There are currently 93 matches in the traditional program and 39 in the in-school mentoring one. The program helps kids in need and forms bonds that often last for life. Forty-three-year-old Pierrefonds resident David Poirier decided to get involved as a big brother 14 years ago, taking then 10-year-old Daniel Vanson under his wing.
Vanson is now 23 years old and although they do not meet as often as they did back in the day, Poirier says they still text and have breakfast every now and then. Through a CIBC scholarship program offered to members of the Big Brothers program, Vanson was able to pursue his education and is now in his first year of being a high school teacher. As for Poirier, the experience was a true introduction to parenthood.
“I have young children now and it was really an introduction to being with a child when I was younger. I think it helped me as a parent. It helped me to understand what children are facing growing up: their challenges and their successes you get to see that. With my own children now, I'm sort of seeing that in a different light. And I think it's healthy,” he said.
Pointe Claire resident Lise Lacroix has been a big sister for three years now. Her desire to help a kid in need in the community led her to be paired with nine-year-old Kristal Osmond who oddly enough, mirrors both her energy and her physical appearance.
“Whenever I see Kristal, we have so much fun together. She’s full of life and so am I. Her mother says we have the same energy level. I have lots of energy and Kristal is the same. Her mother tells me all the time: ‘thank you so much, I do not know how you do it.’ I always leave with a big smile and Kristal too. It's good for everyone,” she said.