By Tiannah Prud’Homme

Growing up, I lived in a single parent household with three other siblings. With my mom being the only caregiver for us, I needed an extra role model. It was hard enough for her to care for four kids, let alone spent quality time with one of us. My mom reached out to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Halifax, and I was so fortunate to be matched with Sheila when I was seven.

We were matched for 11 years, until I turned 18 and graduated from the program. Over the years, we did many activities together. We spent Saturdays playing board games, mini-golfing, and going to movies. Sheila even hosted an art gallery to show off my drawings! She just encouraged me to pursue all of my interests, which is such an important influence for any child. We even made a scrapbook together of all our activities, and it’s something that I’ll always treasure.

Beyond the everyday activities, the match had a profound impact on my life. She taught me a lot about her own experiences growing up and how to handle the situations life can throw at you. She always had advice on a topic, and I never felt like I was alone.

My relationship with Sheila helped develop my overall life skills and knowledge, and I attribute a lot of my success in school and work to her mentorship and guidance. Sheila pushed me to get involved in soccer, and now I play with the varsity team at St. Mary’s University. When it was time to apply for university, she gave advice on how to apply for loans, and helped me figure out what courses to choose.

This past summer, I worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Halifax during the summer while I finish my undergrad at St. Mary’s. When I saw the job posting I immediately knew that I wanted to apply. I loved that I could help Big Brothers Big Sisters provide the services that were absolutely central to my life as a kid.

One of my favourite parts of working with the agency was getting to know how programs were run from behind the scenes. I also worked on a post-secondary and career readiness program for Littles, and I’m thrilled because I was able to draw on my own experiences to help Big Brothers Big Sisters improve their programs. I also helped recruit volunteers for their Big Outdoors program, which exposes Littles to wilderness and environmental stewardship through day hikes and facilitated discussion.

Before working with Big Brothers Big Sisters, I didn’t realize how dependent programs were on donations, and how crucial successful fundraising is in order to keep the programs running. Knowing more about how matches are made, I wish more people understood that any kid can benefit from a mentor. I know for Sheila and I, the mentorship became a real friendship, and I still see her as my big sister.