Volume 91, Issue 29

Tuesday, October 21, 1997

Something fishy


Boys paired with Big Sisters

By Sharon Navarro
Gazette Staff

For the first time in its 23-year history, the London chapter of Big Sisters is proposing a new project matching Big Sisters with Little Brothers.

Set to begin in January, the details of matching 10 boys with female volunteers are still being ironed-out but it looks like a-go, said Kate Wiggins, executive director of the London chapter of Big Sisters.

Though new to London, pairing Big Sisters with Little Brothers has been an on-going project in both Sarnia and Kitchener-Waterloo. "The Big Sister-Little Brother match has been done for 15 years," said Carol Chamberlain, executive director for Big Sisters of Sarnia. "It's not as large as the Big Sister-Little Sister mentorship, but it does provide a chance for female mentorship, particularly for boys from mother absent homes."

In both Sarnia and Kitchener-Waterloo, the project has been met with success. "A program like this demonstrates our inclusive nature in programming and our response to the needs of our community," said LaFern Clarke, executive director of the Kitchener-Waterloo chapter.

At both Big Sisters and Big Brothers, new programs are based on a detailed assessment of community needs as well as willing volunteers, said Glen Mitchell, executive director of Big Brothers of London.

"Due to cultural factors, there have always been more female volunteers than male volunteers, so the Big Sister-Little Brother pairing is more likely to occur," Mitchell explained.

Chamberlain, however, said this mentorship program would meet greater adversity and controversy within society due to the higher incidence of male involvement in paedophilia cases.

This fact has made the screening process for Big Brothers more difficult than for their female counterparts. During a two-part in-depth interview, potential Big Brothers are questioned on their past relationships with family and friends, Mitchell said.

"We try to get an understanding of how he works in his realm of relationships because that is what he will be forming with his Little Brother," he said.

While there is a surplus of female volunteers, there has always been a disproportionately less number of males. "We have changed our marketing program to dispel the myths of a time-consuming, father-like commitment and instead have tried to market a message of being a friend to a young boy," Mitchell said.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997