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Big Brothers program connecting seniors and school-aged children

Island Savings Cowichan Commons account manager Nichole Hedstrom, branch manager Colleen Williams, Big Brothers Big Sisters Erin Generous and Cowichan Seniors Community Foundation’s Carol Hunt, and of course, a Big Brothers Big Sisters buddy show how much fun mentoring programs can be.  - Ashley Degraaf
Island Savings Cowichan Commons account manager Nichole Hedstrom, branch manager Colleen Williams, Big Brothers Big Sisters Erin Generous and Cowichan Seniors Community Foundation’s Carol Hunt, and of course, a Big Brothers Big Sisters buddy show how much fun mentoring programs can be.
— image credit: Ashley Degraaf

It’s a win-win for Cowichan’s Big Brothers Big Sisters.

The local chapter’s latest venture, Seniors For Kids, combines mentorship opportunities for both Cowichan’s elderly and young folk.

“There is always a need for mentors,” Big Brothers Big Sisters, Cowichan Valley’s Erin Generous, said. “And we have noticed a strong need for ‘grandchildren’ too.

“Many seniors living in our area have recently moved here and have not had a chance to connect with their community.

“This program fulfills a need in both the child’s life and the senior’s life.”

The pilot project launches in September at Khowhemun Elementary and continues on until the end June and organizers are giving a huge thanks to Island Savings Credit Union’s G.I.F.T. program and the Cowichan Seniors Community Foundation.

Both groups coughed up $5,000 together to see the program take off.

“The success of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is widely recognized, and In-School Mentoring is a modern way of delivering this traditional program,” the Cowichan program’s website reads.

Cowichan’s already-in-place In School Mentoring program is active in four local elementary schools in the valley.

The Seniors For Kids pilot is starting out at Khowhemun but Generous said she’d be open-minded to create matches at other elementary schools.

“In-School Mentoring is a fun and rewarding program. Building a positive, new friendship strengthens a mentee’s self-esteem and school performance, and provides a mentor with the chance to re-experience the adventure of childhood.”

In school BBBS programs are “true cooperative efforts” between the local school board, business community and Big Brother Big Sister agency.

“School boards allow breaks from regular programming for children to take part. Local businesses promote the program to their employees and offer flexible work schedules for adult participants.”

Sign up for seniors to take part in Seniors For Kids is currently taking place, and many volunteers are needed, Generous said.

“The nice part about this program is that with a lot of seniors, there’s kind of gap, and with this program they feel it breaks down that barrier,” Generous said. “They have a lot to give.

And this program is kind of just a twist to our other programs.”

Matches will meet once a week during school hours to play games, participate in arts and crafts, read together and enjoy other activities.

“It’s amazing to see how kids eyes light up when they see their ‘Big Buddy’ coming through the door. Sometimes they are eagerly awaiting at the door for their Big Buddy to arrive.

“One hour a week makes a huge difference to these kids, and the smiles tell us all we need to know,” Generous said.

Cowichan’s In School Mentoring Programs, Seniors for Kids, Teen Mentoring, and Big Buddies Program are in need for volunteers.

“The waitlists in schools are long and we are to show the community how just one her per week can make a big difference in one child’s life.”

Interested volunteers can contact the Cowichan chapter at 250-748-2447 or visit www.bbbscowichan.ca.

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