The need for more Big Brothers in Langley has reached the desperation stage.
Roslyn Henderson, executive director with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley (BBBSL), said for boys needing adult mentors “it’s getting to the point where we are starting to have a conversation about whether or not we can continue to accept more boys on our wait list.”
There are 28 boys waiting to get matched up with a ‘Big’ on BBBSL’s wait list, with only eight ‘Bigs’ volunteering over the past year.
“When you think about how long it’s going to take to get all of those 28 boys matched, you’re looking at some potential wait times to three to three years,” Henderson said.
BBBSL is always looking for ways of helping the unmatched ‘Littles’ in other ways while they’re waiting.
“But they want that mentor; they want that one-to-one match, and if we can’t provide that, it’s hard to say that we are achieving what we want to be achieving,” Henderson said.
So what’s the payoff of being a ‘Big’?
“It’s an amazing, fun time,” Henderson said. “We know so many volunteers who say they weren’t prepared for how much they got out of it. Not only is it fulfilling to know you are give back and helping someone else, but it also gives a chance for mentors to understand more about themselves and their own abilities and their compassion.”
In a nutshell, it’s a fun experience for both sides, Henderson said. “It’s really the same as going out with your friends and giving a chance to do so many of the activities that you might never have a chance to do.”
As well, BBBSL has about 14 girls on its wait list.
“We always receive more Big Sisters who come in so we don’t anticipate as long of a wait list,” Henderson said.
Ideally, Henderson said, there would be no wait list or wait times for matches.
“We’d love to be one of those agencies that can meet a need right away or as quickly as possible,” Henderson said.
‘It’s so rewarding’
Matt van den Boogaard said being a Big Brother has been an incredibly rewarding experience.
When he signed up to become a ‘Big,’ the 23-year-old realtor was studying business in university full time, but was happy to sacrifice some a few hours a week to give back to the community.
“I was looking at all the different options that I could have chosen and I just wanted something that was going to be long-term,” van den Boogaard said.
Being a ‘Big’ provided van den Boogaard with the opportunity to escape the grind of studying and the book and to become a kid again.
He continues to mentor the same ‘Little’ who is now 11 years old.
“At the time when we first met he was the only male in his family so I came in as a male role model,” van den Boogaard said.
The two continue to meet once a week and their friendship has strengthened.
“I have the same bond with him as I do with my other (biological) little brother,” van den Boogaard said. “It’s really neat how over the years he has become my little brother.”
Van den Boogaard is there to answer any questions from his ‘Little’ because he has been through many of the same scenarios himself, growing up.
To other potential ‘Bigs’ van den Boogaard says it’s more than worth the sacrifice. “It’s so rewarding,” he said. “I feel happier when I finish hanging out with him. At first it sounds like a lot – two-to-four hours a week but if you just schedule it within your calendar it’s really not a lot of time. When you think about it, a lot of people watch TV for longer than that each night, or do other things that aren’t as rewarding.”
Van den Boogaard hopes to continue to serve as the boy’s mentor until his ‘Little’ reaches 18 (the maximum age for the program). After that, he hopes to continue their friendship outside the program.