Wednesday, 28 January 2015 03:42

Big Brothers Program needs help in rural area in order to expand

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Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) mentoring programs come in numerous forms — the traditional Big Brothers or Big Sisters, the In-School where adults meet with the children (or littles) right in the schools, Game On Group Mentoring and Couples for Kids.
However, caseworker Jill Forsythe who specializes in teen and in-school mentoring, says it’s difficult to expand further into the rural areas.

“I do not have new programs coming up for any rural areas for 2015. As it stands right now, we only serve Medicine Hat, Redcliff and EBHS in Dunmore,” explains Forsythe. “We are a small staff with only two permanent full-time case workers, and one contract part-time caseworker.  I am the only caseworker for teen mentoring and in-school mentoring (ISM) and I am beyond my workload capacity right now with 20 ISM matches in Medicine Hat and Redcliff and the teen mentoring program at EBHS and Hat High. I would love to expand and offer more teen mentoring programs, but
I am unable to take any more on at this point.
“The one area we are really struggling with, is finding adult in-school mentors, and especially for Redcliff.  Many of my in-school mentors are either college students or work full-time and are fitting their volunteering in around their school schedule and
their work schedule and find it difficult enough to fit mentoring into their week, let alone having to drive the extra distance to Redcliff.”
The agency is working more closely with the DREAMS staff to create a stronger presence in Redcliff and BBBS officials would love to begin recruiting volunteers there. 
Forsythe currently has three students being mentored in the in-school program in Redcliff, but each of those mentors is coming from Medicine Hat. 
Through DREAMS, BBBS is starting to try to gain new contacts in Redcliff, but Forsythe admits they “have a very long way to go.
“I feel our best opportunity for growth is to engage businesses in supporting our programming through employer-supported volunteerism. This would be where employers offer their employees incentives to volunteer at BBBS Medicine Hat, such as allowing paid (or unpaid) time away from the workplace during the school day to mentor a mentee in a school for one hour, once a week,” explains Forsythe. “If we could get entire companies on board to support the in-school mentoring program, our numbers would explode. I currently have 20 in-school matches in Medicine Hat and Redcliff combined. 
I began the 2014-2015 school year with only eight matches, so while the numbers have more than doubled, in reality, each elementary school in Medicine Hat and Redcliff could have well over 20 in-school matches.”
Generally, when Forsythe approaches a school to offer a mentor, they have a child in mind and ask when BBBS will be able to provide more. 
“With divorce rates continuing to grow, there are just so many children out there missing either that mother or father figure in their life,” explains Forsythe. “When a single parent has to support an entire family alone, they simply don’t have the same amount of time to devote to each child at home that dual parent families have. This in turn greatly impacts a child’s self-esteem, confidence and overall ability to truly believe in themselves and achieve their true potential in the classroom and in their life beyond school.”
Besides the mentorship groups, BBBS is heading towards its biggest event of the year.
On March 27 the 2015 Bowl For Kids Sake takes place. It should be a fun time as the bowling party will have a Hawaiian theme. Currently, they are looking for event sponsorship and prize donations. Those wishing to help out can phone 403-527-6640.
Anyone looking for information can contact Medicine Hat BBBS’s office at the above number but can also contact Forsythe by e-mailing:  jill.forsythe@bigbrothers

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor