Big Brothers & Big Sisters Gabriola information night April 22

Tobi Elliot

Submitted Article

Tuesday, April 12 2016

It’s not uncommon for Paulyne Robinson to hear the Big Brothers and Big Sisters she coordinates called “best friends,” “mentors” and “heroes.” And for the first time, the successful program matching volunteers with children and youth who could use help from an adult role model is coming to Gabriola with a pilot In-School Mentoring program. 

“The In-School program is where volunteers go into the school for one hour per week and spend time with a child,” said Robinson. “They just play and hang out and develop a relationship. It’s very, very powerful for the children.”

In-School is being organized by the Gabriola Elementary School with the local action team for the Children and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative. CYMHSU Project Lead Angela Pounds said they plan to start small but “hopefully the program will grow over the next few years.” 

Robinson has been organizing Big Brothers, Big Sisters for Central Vancouver Island for over 12 years. “We’ve been approached for years about starting a program [on Gabriola] from quite a few of the school counselors who say ‘lots of kids could really use this on Gabriola.’” 

Adult volunteers would need to commit to one hour per week for a full year and spend time with the child on school grounds, doing non-academic activities. “It depends on what the child wants to do; they get to direct the time spent with the volunteer,” said Pounds. 

Robinson is hoping to get at least ten volunteers – who don’t need any previous experience – to start. She will screen, train and match them with a child. “At the beginning the kids won’t say much, but I see the progression of how the kids light up when their mentor comes in. Or the kids end up staying in school for the whole day because they know their mentor is coming, and it helps them hold on. We hear feedback like ‘you’re my best friend.’”

An information event for anyone interested in volunteering will be held at the Elementary School in the multipurpose room April 22 at 10:00 a.m. with Paulyne Robinson from Big Brothers, Big Sisters. More info: www.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/en/home/mentoringprograms/inschoolmentoring