A good friend listens to your adventures. A best friend makes them with you. ~ unknown

“What I would want people to know about the Big Brother, Little Brother relationship is that it is truly unique. In some ways it’s like being family and in other ways, it’s like having a good friend,” says Big Brother Mark.

Mark remembers when he first met Little Brother Ed, at age 11, in 1976. “He was high-energy, bright, athletic, outgoing, enjoyed the outdoors, and interested in many things.” Ed recalls his mom signing him up about a year after his father passed away. Mark was in his mid-twenties, married with no children, and had a surplus of energy and dreams to share with a Little Brother.

“My Big Brother Mark taught me how to play chess, we went on many hikes, and ran every Sunday,” recalls Ed. “He treated my opinions as if I was an adult. Mark and I always got along easily, so it was lots of fun. He even taught me how to drive! My wife thinks I am a lousy driver, so she would question Mark’s mentorship on this,” laughs Ed.

Mark was a good listener and they discussed all kinds of topics, especially news and world events. Ed truly believes the influence of his Big Brother Mark helped to shape the course of his life.

They say you can pack for every occasion, but a good friend will always be the best thing you can bring, something this duo can attest to. Travel was a passion for both, and Ed says he owes some of that wanderlust to his Big Brother. As the years passed, and Ed grew up, their travel paths began to criss-cross. Ed was taking some leisure time to backpack around Indonesia and Mark was working on a local finance development project in Jakarta, Indonesia, so they were able meet up and make new memories as adults. Eventually, Ed landed in South Africa as a foreign correspondent and his Big Brother and wife came to visit, fell in love with the country, and eventually moved there. “In 2003, my wife and I relocated to South Africa to work on a two-year project, and we wouldn’t have done it if we hadn’t already visited with my Little Brother Ed in Johannesburg a few years before. We experienced a bit of a role reversal in South Africa as Ed and his wife, Christa, helped us to adjust and acclimatize to the country,” recalls Mark.

They had magnificent trips there together, including a five-day coastal hike in South Africa, an action-packed Namibian trip that included wild sea lions jumping on their boat, and a tropical scuba diving trip in Mozambique. Their wives have become great friends as well, and that has had a positive influence on their lives. As couples, they have done many things together including adventure travels to Texas, Costa Rica, and the Magdalen Islands. Mark continues to share his knowledge with Ed and has shown him the ropes when it comes to sea kayaking.

Ed has not retained his early passion for chess, but because of their shared intellectual curiosities and influence on each other, Ed attended Dalhousie and obtained an MA in History. Meanwhile, Mark completed his PhD and earned a faculty position at Dal.

Ed would like people to know that a Big Brother/Little Brother match can be a learning experience for both sides and that it can lead to a lifelong friendship of adventure. “Our caseworker matched us based on similar interests, but different, yet complimentary personalities,” recalls Mark, reflecting on his experience as a Big Brother.

Although they live in different countries, when Ed makes his regular visits to Dartmouth to see his mother, sisters and their families; he of course makes time for his Big Brother, Mark. Mark and Ed always get together for a hike and enjoy meals and social time together. They’ve never been out of touch in the 46 years since they met. They’re already thinking about the next time they can travel together, no doubt searching for their next BIG adventure.


By Michelle Boylan