Published March 15, 2017
At the very least, you’ve heard of Big Brothers. The organization, which matches boys with positive male role models, has a history dating back to 1903. Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver was established in 1978, and Richmond is one of many communities the organization serves. To serve it better, however, Big Brothers needs more volunteers. Which is why we asked Amanda Oye, our volunteer writer, to highlight some of Big Brothers’ volunteer opportunities, and the rewards they offer. Clearly, there’s much to gain by getting involved!
Volunteers are the heart and soul of communities. They perform any number of tasks that help make sure non-profit organizations run smoothly and that community members have access to the services they need.
As a bonus at Big Brothers, volunteers get to run the show too. “The volunteers are actually the heart of the program so that’s tremendously rewarding. You feel like you are making a very direct contribution,” says Valerie Lambert, the Executive Director of Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver. “They are the ones who are with the kids, who are interacting with them, who are experiencing the fun of being in a friendship with a young person.”
Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver
runs a number of programs, but their core program is their Big Brother program
. Volunteers spend 2-4 hours each week with a boy they have been matched with, doing anything from kicking a soccer ball around, to hiking, or just hanging out and talking. They can to spend a lot of time out in nature and can even get very creative, with some matches having decided to go sailing, rock-climbing, or repelling.
The emphasis is never on the types of activities the Big and Little Brothers do together, but on bonding and relationship-building. “It’s not about spending a lot of money or doing stuff that is super adventuresome. It’s about the quality of the relationship,” Lambert says.
This emphasis is important because the Little Brothers in the program come from homes where they don’t have access to a positive male role model. “They have great moms and guardians, but no guys in their lives. This is an effort to address that need,” Lambert says.
All of the volunteers who participate in the core Big Brothers program are 18 or older and have gone through a comprehensive application process. There is a criminal record check - the highest level of screening through the police department – followed by an interview to gauge suitability. Big Brothers also talks to close friends and, a couple other references.
It is important for the success of the program that applicants are at the right stage of their lives – they need to have stability and no job changes or plans to move coming up. This is because volunteers are asked for a minimum of one year commitment. “Our research shows that if a friendship is interrupted, or if it doesn’t last a year, there is very little benefit to the child and probably very little benefit to the volunteers,” Lambert says.
While the process of being approved to be a Big Brother is rigorous out of necessity, it is all worth it when the volunteers are finally matched up with a Little Brother. “Our volunteers always say that they started out thinking they were giving back and they were motivated to do something for their communities, but what they didn’t anticipate is that they feel like they get more back than they actually give,” Lambert says.
For those who want to volunteer with the organization, but are unable to commit to a full year or are under 18, Big Brothers runs a Game On program and a Teen Mentoring program. The Game On program
is run by two volunteers who mentor 8-10 boys for an hour and a half each week for 7-8 weeks, while the Teen Mentoring program
“matches a high school student with an elementary school student and they spend an hour per week together,” Lambert says.
To find out more information about how to get involved, or just to see if volunteering for Big Brothers might be a good fit for you, you can check the organization’s website
, or visit them in person