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- March 2, 2012
Article by Bonnie Evans from Big Brothers Big Sisters - as SeniorsCircle.ca partner
Moving to a new community in a new province at the age of sixty-one, even with the lure of living close to my grandchildren, was a daunting experience. A year after I moved to Calgary, an acquaintance suggested that I check out a volunteer program offered through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area. The Between Generations program matches adults 50 years and older with elementary school children at a school in their community. The volunteers act as mentors to these children by listening to their stories, supporting them and being their friend and guide. As an added bonus, the volunteers meet together as a group and socialize before or after their mentoring time.
Children played a big role in my professional career and I enjoy being around them, so I applied. I was interviewed, my background was checked and I attended a training session with other volunteers. There I learned that I would go to a school in my neighbourhood once a week during the school year and mentor one or two students. At the training it was stressed that we were not tutors but friends to the children involved. We would play games and build a friendship.
A few Mondays later I was on my way to Cambrian Heights School to meet my potential matches. My initial nervousness about this new situation quickly disappeared. The school staff welcomed me and the Mentoring Coordinator from Big Brothers Big Sisters was there to introduce me and guide me through the initial stages. The other Between Generations mentors, ranging in age from the mid-50s to the mid-70s, were friendly and full of lively conversation, and I immediately fell in love with the two children I was there to meet. Conner, in grade one, was a charmer with a great sense of humour. Tatiana, in grade three, was a small girl with an imagination and artistic flair that made every Monday an adventure in wonderland.
That was six years ago, and I’m still at Cambrian and still a mentor in the program. Tatiana graduated from elementary school two years ago, and Conner will graduate this spring. We’ve had a great time together baking, making up stories, doing crafts and even playing the odd floor hockey game in the school hallways. I’ve watched these young people grow into confident, enthusiastic and kind kids. While my formal relationship with Tatiana has ended, we remain friends and share the occasional meal or movie. You can imagine my thrill last year when she won a bronze medal at the city wide science fair. This year I’ve acquired a new grade one mentee through the program named Hunter.
Many of the other Between Generations mentors have been there as long as I have, and over the years we have become a close knit group. There is always a lot to talk about – a recent cruise, a move, a new deck being built, and of course there are pictures of grandchildren to be passed around and admired.
Between Generations is a great program. It makes me feel useful, challenges my creativity and is just plain fun. It has given me a host of new friends, young and old. Apply to become a mentor in the program and start a timeless connection at http://www.bbbscalgary.com/ or by phone at 403-777-3535.