When I first moved to Quesnel about four months ago, I wanted to find a way to get involved with my new community.
As a teenager and throughout my university career, I spent a lot of time volunteering with kids, whether at a summer camp for disadvantaged youth or an after-school exercise and literacy program in downtown Halifax. So when one of my co-workers expressed an interest in volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, it sounded like the perfect fit.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Quesnel currently has many more “Littles” – children – signed up for their traditional Big Brother/Big Sister program than they do “Bigs”. Currently, they have eight Littles matched with Bigs, and have another 27 kids on a waitlist for their own match.
For anyone who wants to join the program as a Big, there are a few hoops to jump through before you can be assigned a Little, the child who you are paired with and who you go on outings with each week.
The first step for me was reaching out to the local branch, and then reading through a handbook they emailed me about the program and my potential role as a big sister. The next steps had me completing a criminal background and vulnerable sector check, as well as sending some of my friends (and a family member) a form to fill out about me, to act as my personal references. This also required a work reference, and I chose one from a time when I worked with children.
Once the executive director of the Quesnel branch, Lorene Pulles, verified my references, she invited me in for an interview. The interview is usually spread out over two separate visits and lasts a total of about two hours. The questions revolve around who you are — your family, friends, how you respond to certain situations, as well as your likes and dislikes. They use the interview to get a feel for you and make sure you’re a good fit with the program, but they also do it so they can match you with someone you’ll get along with, and who will get along with you in return.
From there, Lorene determined who I would be matched with and hosted a meeting with myself, the girl who would become my little sister, and her mother. We went over the rules and expectations of the program, introduced ourselves to each other and exchanged contact information.
Then Lorene and the girl’s mother stepped out of the room and let us get to know each other.
And it was, quite immediately, awkward. I rambled, trying to fill the silence, and we set up our first outing. Shortly after, we both headed out.
By the time our first outing came around, I was nervous. I wanted to do something we would both enjoy and was worried my Little might be too shy to voice her own suggestions. So I spoke with my friends and co-workers and came up with a tentative list of activities we could choose from if she didn’t already have something in mind.
Our first outing went more smoothly than I expected. We’re both quiet people, and I worried we might struggle to fill the silences in an unfamiliar situation. But conversation came easy, and so did picking our first activity — a hike through Pinnacles Provincial Park.
As someone both new to the community and with a busy job, participating in the program has been surprisingly easy. You get to spend about an hour a week with a pretty cool kid, and, if you’re new like me, it’s a great way to learn more about the community as well. It’s a year-long commitment and requires a bit of legwork before you can get going, but it’s also a blast.
Our first few outings have gone swimmingly so far (aside from the somewhat alarming sound of a large animal in the bushes at Pinnacles, but that’s another story), and it’s safe to say I’m looking forward to many more.