By Leah Vandenberg
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hastings and Prince Edward Counties are recruiting volunteers this holiday season.
Over 129 kids are on the waitlist for a mentor from the program. Areas like Deseronto, Tweed, Picton, Trenton, Frankford, Stirling and Madoc are all searching.
Caseworker Caitlin Dougherty says a big brother or big sister is there to be a friend to the child.
“We have a lot of children who could definitely benefit from having a mentor in their life. Basically, we have more kids than volunteers,” Dougherty said.
Volunteers are required to spend one hour a week with the children, but often times it’s between one and four. They positively support the child, spend time with the child and go out to do recreational activities with them.
Children and volunteers are paired through a matching criteria process. Caseworkers meet with the volunteer, child, and parents separately to find out interests, hobbies or things the child would like to learn. If the volunteer can teach them or has the same interests, they will be matched.
“You see positive changes in their attitudes,” said Dougherty of the benefits of having a big sibling.
“You see tiny improvements throughout their years that they’re matched together. Whether it is they’ve improved their social skills, their manners, anything.”
Children are referred by a parent.
“We take children who live in a single-parent home, with grandparents, so it’s often a little bit of a struggle for the one-to-one. That’s where our volunteers come in and spend time with them,” Dougherty said.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hastings and Prince Edward Counties was established 1974. In the beginning it was matching big brothers and little brothers but over the years has developed a number of programs that serve boys and girls.