September is Big Brothers Big Sisters month, celebrating the work being done in communities across Canada to ensure youth have the skills and support they need to fulfill their potential. In Greater Halifax, the agency is pleased to announce the September launch of a special campaign to help attract new mentors from the population of recently retired and older adults.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program, the campaign endeavours to engage seniors as volunteers through outreach activities and specific marketing initiatives.

Consistently, there are about 100 children on the Big Brothers Big Sisters waiting list, and usually 80-90% of those waiting are boys. The list is ever-changing, as one child is matched with an adult mentor, another family reaches out for help, and another child is added to the list. For this reason, volunteer recruitment is an ongoing need of the agency.

The organization has identified, that while recently retired, active seniors have the time, wisdom and capacity to be significant mentors to youth, there is a belief among this demographic that being a Big Brother or Big Sister is only for younger people. Ensuring recently retired, active seniors understand their value as mentors to youth and encouraging volunteerism among this demographic is key to helping Big Brothers Big Sisters serve the needs of youth.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Halifax has been delivering youth mentoring programs for over 50 years. Their programs result in life-changing outcomes for youth who are at risk of not fulfilling their potential due to circumstances beyond their control.

Many youth served by the organization are marginalized and live in circumstances (such as financial insecurity, violence in their homes or neighbourhoods, absent parent(s) or family illness) leaving them at risk for toxic stress. This adversely affects the developing brain, emotional regulation, and day-to-day things like school behaviour, peer relationships and overall mental health.

Mentoring has been proven as an intervention that re-maps brain architecture and builds resilience in at-risk youth. Something as simple as a consistent, positive relationship with a mentor, promotes healthy development, creating a foundation for school achievement, economic productivity, and responsible citizenship. Donors and volunteers are key stakeholders in the delivery of these important outcomes.