Mentorship program on central Vancouver Island needs more big brother volunteers

Mentorship program on central Vancouver Island needs more big brother volunteers

A mentorship program for young people is having trouble meeting demand. Big Brothers Big Sisters Central Vancouver Island says it’s struggling to find big ‘brothers’ in particular.

They are among numerous non-profits that say they haven’t seen a return of volunteers since the pandemic.

“That’s just been the struggle and the challenge we’ve had, is finding male volunteers that are willing to step up and fill that void,” said Jennifer Kemp, executive director of Big Boys, Big Girls Central Vancouver Island.

The organization aims to give kids a stable, reliable mentor outside of their families and says even before the pandemic finding men to be mentors was a challenge.

Sam Herwi is a rare exception. He became a big brother to a 10-year-old six months ago and says it’s been rewarding.

“He’s really happy. I’m happy and we have lots of fun every week,” said Herwi.

He says he’s not surprised by the big brother shortfall.

“I think a lot of people aren’t even aware of it, to be honest. I’ve told a lot of people that I’m doing it and they’re like, what’s that?” he said.

There is an extensive vetting process and participation is at least a year long commitment.

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The organization says the lack of men volunteering has limited its ability to find all the needed big brothers.

“The need is high, so much so to a point that we don’t advertise our programs because if we get a flood-load of children we don’t want them waiting on a waitlist for two to three years, which can be the case sometimes,” said Kemp.

And theirs isn’t the only organization in need of volunteers.

Volunteer Nanaimo, which supports non-profits, says its phones haven’t been ringing as much since the pandemic as many of the Central Island’s volunteers seem to have moved on.

“There has been people who have discovered their other interests, hobbies, family, with the shut down of travel, which terrified a lot of people. They find if it can change that quickly, I’m going to travel more. I’m not going to tie myself down,” said Rita Innamorati, executive director of Volunteer Nanaimo.

But Volunteer Nanaimo says there are hundreds of rewarding positions waiting to be filled to suit a variety of interests.

“It’s definitely something more people should consider,” said Herwi.

Herwi says it’s satisfying being able to help society while making a friend at the same time.

The Comox Valley Exhibition and Alberni District Fall Fair are two recent Vancouver Island events that struggled to get enough volunteers.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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